Catching them young is fun. . . and wins medals

RYA - All At SeaIf any sport is going to remain in a healthy state, everyone knows that you need to keep youngsters involved.

As part of the RYA’s remit is to promote participation, this is something that we value very highly.

So, what is the RYA doing to get youngsters in to sailing in 2010?

Well, some of you may have heard of the RYA OnBoard Programme. This was set up in 2004 and is a ten year programme with the specific aim of introducing half a million kids in to the sport of sailing by providing more support, equipment and specific training at sailing schools and also employing a team of officers to go into schools and make them see how easy and fun it is to get kids sailing.

We are now at the halfway point, and the programme is really starting to bear fruit, with the programme well on target to reach its aim of getting around ten per cent of the kids introduced in to the sport to take it up on a permanent basis.

Vicky Lenz is the RYA’s Sailing development Officer, and the woman tasked with implementing the OnBoard programme. She is pleased with the progress made, as she explained: “The Programme is all about ensuring that getting in to sailing is as simple and fun as possible.

“In order to do that we have a network of development officers throughout the country that help to organise fun events, implement the best teaching methods for kids and ensure that the right equipment is available to kids. “

Every sport needs its youngsters if it is to flourish, and this programme will leave a legacy to boating for many years to come.”

The Programme received a further boost in January, following an agreement with the National Sailing Schools Association to work together to form a unified ‘voice for youth sailing’.

Jon says: “This basically means that we are able to provide a single voice which will be able to provide a unified approach when it comes to dealing with schools, teachers, parents and students in order to increase participation in the sport.”

Of course, it’s not all about the OnBoard programme and the 2010 also marks the tenth anniversary of the RYA’s Youth and Junior racing programme, a scheme which has become one of the most admired and imitated schemes in the sailing world.

The initial aim of the scheme was to develop sailors of the appropriate age and ability to win medals for RYA Team GBR at major international regattas at Youth and Olympic level.

The scheme has, however, always looked to ensure that there was a balance between what is good for the sport participation wise, and winning medals.

The success of the scheme is illustrated by the fact that every single sailor who attended the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships in 2009 had come through the RYA pathway system, from Zone Squad, through the National Junior Squad programme and into the RYA Volvo National Youth Squad.

At present there are 160 Volvo Champion Clubs countrywide, and the good news is that a funding boost means that even more resources will be available to develop clubs and coaching in 2010.

Beyond this, the RYA has also looked at the way it implements its Youth sailing Scheme in order to ensure that is as accessible to youngsters as possible.

RYA National Sailing Coach John Thorn said: “Everyone knows that one of the best ways of getting kids into the sport is through racing and it was with this in mind that we opted to re-model the youth racing system.

“We wanted to make sure there was a clear pathway of progression for any young sailor and with this in mind we wanted to make the transition between simply learning the basics and starting to race as simple as possible.”

This has been achieved by remodelling the racing modules of the National Sailing Scheme to ensure that they are as simple and accessible as possible. In addition to this steps have been taken to ensure that performance coaching is much more accessible at club level.

So ultimately, the youth sailing scene is very buoyant at the moment and whether you’re a youngster dreaming of being the next Ben Ainslie, or simply want to get out there and enjoy the freedom that sailing affords, there has never been a better time.

For more information about OnBoard, or the RYA in general, go to the RYA website www.rya.org.uk, or contact: 02380 604 195

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