Getting Juniors into Windsurfing
Every instructor will probably be able to agree that getting kids into windsurfing and keeping them in the sport is not only key for the future of the sport but also incredibly rewarding
A re-print from an article in RYA Wavelength magazine taking an instructor centres look at getting Junior windsurfers in and creating windsurfing habits.
Getting Kids into Windsurfing.
Every instructor will probably be able to agree that getting kids into windsurfing and keeping them in the sport is not only key for the future of the sport but also incredibly rewarding. There may also be quite a few Windsurfing parents reading this thinking what’s the best way to introduce their children to Windsurfing, so they can get as much fun out of it as they have.
In this article I’m going to look at retention. So once we have someone through the door and interested, what can we do as instructors to make sure they become a windsurfer for life and not just the day.
Three areas I’ll look at are kit, sessions and then what’s next.
Your centre will have kit recongnised to teach the junior stages but how this setup is vital for successful outcomes. When selecting kit for your first timers, try and think about what kit combination will make windsurfing ‘work ’for them rather than what you think will make it easiest. For adults one of the biggest challenges is balance, however with Juniors it will more than likely be understanding wind, so setting up kit is key so more can be learnt through feel. Too big a board won’t make it easier it will make it harder to achieve the feel for the sport.
To make boards more responsive there are also a number of things you can do. For your smaller windsurfers move the U.J to the back of the track. If you have the option put in smaller fins or even cut down fins. You could also look at doing this to the daggerboard. However the key is the rear fin should be a good deal shorter than the daggerboard, for the best turning potential and also upwind performance.
Rigs are the area to begin with where you may scale more dramatically to make it easier. Think about rigging the sail for ‘feel’ rather than just ease. We want the pull in the rig to be low, but we also want there to still be pull in the rig. Having a good amount of downhaul, if it’s a rotational sail ,will help but then not too much outhaul so the feel for the rig powering and depowering is still there. Sometimes the area that can become the most off putting for juniors is uphauling. So make sure that the uphaul is long enough. Simple things like making sure the uphaul isn’t doubled round at the bottom of the mast foot, or it’s attached to the boom clamp and not one side of the boom can make a massive difference towards a Junior windsurfer gaining early non-dependence.
We know are sessions need to be Safe, enjoyable and we want our young windsurfers to learn. So how can we make sure they are all doing this all of the time. For those that we aren’t keeping engaged, we may well struggle to keep them. The best way to think about sessions is ‘scaling’. So what are your options to either scale up an exercise or scale down an exercise. For example sailing to a buoy and back might scale down to ‘sail towards a buoy for a few seconds, turn and sail back’ up to sail round that buoy and back. The session still runs with everyone learning at different levels of challenge. You can use quick constraints to achieve this. Changing up sail size for a junior might be one of the best things you can do in a session. Getting a feel for a bit more speed even if they have a few more tumbles shows them what they are working towards. Time is also another great one, how many ‘sail 360s’can you do in a certain tike frame. These always has the ability to be improved and also gives the junior feedback they can work out for themselves. Straight forward racing might not always be the best way to develop technique, and might also give you a quite predetermined result so throwing in some scaled skills challenges on the way round helps keep it technique focused and also challenging for everyone involved.
Whilst Windsurfing is the best sport in the world, we need to recognize that at this age, and arguably any age, sport needs to fulfill more than just fun activity.
There needs to be a social aspect and it also needs to be regular. To turn kids into Windsufers, Windsurfing needs to be a habit.
Performance happens in bubbles and clusters, a group of young Windsurfers will learn just as much off each other, as they do of us. Also we need to show the Juniors coming in as well as the parents what the pathway to being a Windsurfer looks like. T15 clubs are the obvious output. Regular club activity to develop skills with some competition. If you haven’t got one at your centre, it might be worth looking at setting one up as with out an exit plan it might be more difficult to truly get kids into windsurfing.
So in summary, make sure kit will give them the feel for the sport. Scale your sessions so everyone is engaged. Have an exit plan.