How to make the number of sailors at zonal and local regattas in Italy grow again? How to avoid youth dispersion after the Optimist years? And how to manage to win more than one medal in three editions of the Olympic Games? How to broaden the “base” of sailors at every level, from dinghies to cruising boats? Are these topics related or do they have nothing to do with each other? And the Federation, in all of this, what role does it play?
These are the themes of the article we published a few days ago in which Lamberto Cesari, a sailor, sailing instructor and journalist, A careful scholar of the “grassroots,” the sailing school and its dynamics, he explains why in his opinion fun is the key to making sailing more widespread and popular, in all its forms.
The “trial” of the sailing school on the web
The article was among the most widely read, bounced all over the web, and triggered a plethora of reasoned and constructive comments, from which we have selected the following. A real “trial of the sailing school” and its methodologies was created.
If you have not already done so, we suggest you read Cesari’s article (titled “The recipe for multiplying sailors, racing and cruising: fun”) and give us your opinion.
Your comments on the article
“Children must receive a positive experience ” …. I have always respected the first principle of having fun, even in my experience as an instructor, all that, in the very first Optimist, is no more! Starting with parents and clubs, where the most important things are the “showing off” of the equipment and the result… I am almost glad that my son, after a season in Optimist, with a physique suitable for any sport, refused to get back into the boat ! And the Federation follows suit ! Long time.
This of pushing children very early into competition is a characteristic of many sports. Serious mistake, taking away space for fun and a more complex and deeper experience of the sea. I personally have never liked the Optimist and have always found it much healthier to let children experience sailing together with adults. The space of autonomy, even in the relationship with the sea, is created a little later.
Clearly, if a class stands more on commercial and competitive motivations, the interest of those in that sport will be more for the outcome than for the ‘experience. And clearly the promotion will be in that direction. The regattas are beautiful, but the sea is more, much more. And if this, this love and this depth, does not pass, once the “little champion” gratification or the family’s economic availability is over, everything dies there. Pity to think how many children this approach was proposed. I hope a change will come soon.
I have been part of some ASD sailing associations, not taken to racing, but directed to teaching sailing. What I have noticed, both at the membership level and also in the sailing clubs on Lake Garda, is that there has been a huge decrease in the recreational activity of simple enthusiast sailors.
Where before it was a flurry of circles and water with whatever floated with a sail on it, now it is desolation. More or less from the year 2005. I have never wondered why there has been a lack of continuous generational turnover of this type of sailor, but it certainly affects competitive sailing as well, which on average, no longer sees the participation numbers it once did.
Not so! It is not agonism that determines dispersion. First of all, dispersion is normal because the motivations behind initiation are different and not all of them hold up over time. Then we have a problem with competition, but essentially because of the content that is projected to us and because of a substantial ineducation in dealing with error. It is a cultural issue.
The economics of sailing only drives results as an incentive to do more training days and income for the coaches…new sails and boats with induced income…offshore course and regatta with skippers’ income…who on earth would pay that much for fun????
The realities reported in your article have been there for all to see for years, then one would need to understand whether those who should see them really want to see them….
The problem is much broader and does not only affect the young and very young. All over the country, white-sail sailing and regattas, which used to be an excellent opportunity to bring many new enthusiasts to the world of sailing sport, even without the need for membership, or with non-competitive membership, are disappearing. Why it still eludes me, since one of the institutional purposes of the federation is precisely to promote sailing. Evidently, many have forgotten this.
To think of sailing as a sport, even more so as a competition from which we come out winners or losers, is to reduce our lives and the lives of our children to very little. We have the sea in front of us, we inhabit it with our boats, thus honoring the memory of amphibious beings. From the sea we came and to the sea we return, with unspeakable joy and satisfaction. It is not the regattas or the Federation that are wrong: it is our point of view that is wrong. The planet we inhabit is the Ocean and it is a stream of continuity. To reduce it, to break it down to small segments and small human values, is to reduce a three-masted vessel into a lifeboat.
The Federation should support economically and with serious projects the boys who in youth sailing who have shown important aptitudes, also supporting them with accommodation and schools when the boys are away from home by choosing specific locations (e.g., Riva del Garda, Sardinia), in other Nations they do these and that is the reason why they win at the Olympics.
Bravo Lamberto Cesari!
I have reached the right age, I think, to be able to say that as society has changed so has the approach to sports. I come from a small beach club that also saw some sailors pass through who are still strong today (Michele and Matteo primarily). In addition to training we would take the girlfriend on the boat , we had the curiosity to try to make sail anything that could float etc.
There were Olympic classes then, too, but at the bologna regatta people went happily sailing. Kids today do not conceive of it, and it is not entirely their fault, going to sea just for the fun of it. They must be supertrained otherwise they won’t even pull the boat off the trolley.
It should be taught that the passion for the sea and sailing is not limited to an Olympic class but is a 360-degree world.
It should be taught that defeat,and only one wins, is not failure. The idea that those who race in non-fancy classes are losers should be removed Society has changed, and competition and results at all costs are destroying the essence of the sport, which is passion. You have to cultivate passion before competitiveness.
This is what I think. Hello everyone.
I am a coach and have coached optimist, U19 and Olympic class in my career. I read this article of yours Lamberto and unfortunately, although in content it does not express just that, it goes to meet the need to say that competitive sport at a young age is somehow wrong or ineffective in creating a large pool with competitive and non-future results. I am honest beyond some interesting insights, I find some simplifications of a much more complex reality. International comparison has so many limitations, because we are dealing with completely different cultures, which affect them in no small way, especially at a young age, here it would be more useful to see if other sports in Italy have strategies from which to find insights to improve. Then in terms of Olympic effectiveness parameterized to the results in U16 and U19, too, the comparison is weak, because then surely the economic availabilities differ greatly, not to mention also the sports strategies and policies for older athletes.
On fun being an essential element, I don’t find the equation little competition = fun to be right, I would say that the not easy goal would be to make competition fun, which cannot be eliminated being a sport, here aspects such as knowing how to win and lose, helping to read the results in competition, teaching to know strengths and weaknesses and really many others are important, in the end the sporting dream is an important engine for every more or less talented athlete.
What worries me is this pretend tutelage, which more and more seems to be promoted and desired for boys, who in optimist are competing at age 11 in reality. You leave out though what sport teaches, more and more isolated in its role, to these kids: respect for figures and roles, for opponents and teammates, a sense of rules, of fairness , of the value of things (having attention to the material) and here too much more, of course then it can result in things completely different from these like if I break I buy back, if I pay I demand, if I steal a little I win more…..but in short in this we go back to general culture. I reverse your thinking and start from the idea that sport even at a young age is a great thing and sailing all like other disciplines must have this claim and mission, competitiveness is a positive factor if pursued in the right way and I would not make differences of sailing classes, which please many, but I would try to change those things, which even in the most practiced boats, can spoil its huge content of principles and values, instead very important and able to form people with an edge in everything, beyond the medal.
Paul Mariotti I disagree with you on many points. I see well to what levels competitive racing is taken in optimists, and I remain convinced that 130-150 sea days/year from 10 to 15 years of age sets the stage for burning out even top-level athletes, regardless of the good intentions and values brought by the coaches.
The fact that several then “survive” does not prove that the system is healthy and works: the base is objectively huge, and this is one of the positives. I am well aware that contesting the “Optimist system” in Italy is a crime of lese majesty, but I remain convinced that the Italian circus-at best-does not help to create sailors who insist precisely in the “hardest” years (15-18), precisely because they gave so much as children.
And no, I don’t think it’s wrong to protect the little ones a little bit, without eliminating the competitiveness. These statements of mine are obviously counterfactual because there is no different system in Italy. However, there are nations that have little presence in optimist at the high levels, but then produce many athletes at other ages, and I don’t think it’s just a cultural thing.
Finally, it must be said ( and one should have the intellectual honesty to admit it) that around the Optimist as it is now a strong business has been structured, made up of many many actors. All of this IMHO.
The fault always lies with the parents, who pay and push for what they are interested in and not for the sake of their child. applies to all sports. and the son at 16 has a broken back and broken something else as well, except 1 in 1,000 who maybe becomes a champion (at what price?). But you make it clear to the steam masters, the “professionals of the competitive course.” Once upon a time, the sailing school for children was done by a young boy from the club with no qualifications but a lot of passion, and everyone went there to have fun.
With boats with a two-person crew there was more fun. And stop this exaggeration of regattas. I see 8-year-olds dressed as if they were going to a fashion show. When I was a boy, in the 1970s we were a good, close-knit group that spent all summer at the club as well as at sea. Great memories.Now the club has lots of lasers and optimists, but the kids go out to sea and leave.