Small Boat Instructor Programs

US Sailing offers courses for sailing counselors, instructors and coaches at varying levels of expertise. Courses are hosted by boating programs across the nation, year-round. Each level provides a structured progression and offers opportunities for advancement. With the development of two different tracks (management and coaching), it provides opportunities for continuing education and professional development.

An overview of all Small Boat student and Instructor Programs

SAILING COUNSELOR (Click to learn more)

Who Should take this course: Anyone involved with a Camp Counseling, Sailing, or Scouting program.
Prerequisites: Basic Sailing experience. Must turn 14 within the calendar year
Course length: 2 days, 20 hours.
Texts used: Learn Sailing Right! Beginner Sailing, Sailing Smart Program Guide (includes Reach Educator Guide-Module 6) and Little Red Book .

Course Overview: The Sailing Counselor course prepares participants to supervise small boat recreational sailing activities typically conducted on sheltered and protected waters. The emphasis is on safety and hands-on practice to familiarize candidates with proper terminology and boating techniques. Sailing Counselor training will also provide a model for how a counselor might structure actual sailing activities.While this course does not offer a certification, if does offer a detailed training to help Counselors teach sailing. This course is highly recommended for those who intend to seek Level 1 Small Boat Instructor certification. Learn More.

LEVEL 1 INSTRUCTOR (Click to learn more)

LSR-Beg/Who should take this course: Anyone interested in teaching beginner level sailors.
Prerequisites: Must turn 16 in the calendar year, successful completion of Teaching and Coaching Fundamentals Online and NASBLA Approved Boating Certificate.
Course length: 6 hours online, 3 days in-person. You must complete the online section before attending an in-person one.
Resources used: Smallboat Instructor manual,  Learn Sailing Right-Beginner!, Learn Sailing Right-Intermediate! & Basic Powerboat Safety & Rescue (Provided digitally with option to purchase print versions during registration) and the Skill Up App (Download: Apple/Android)

Course overview: Designed to provide sailing instructors with information on how to teach more safely, effectively, and creatively. Topics covered in the course include: classroom and on-the-water teaching techniques, risk management, safety issues, lesson planning, creative activities, ethical concerns, and sports physiology and psychology. Learn More.


  • The in-person session must be completed within 12 months of completing the online session.. Ex: Online section completed on 7/1/2023 would need to complete the in-person section by 6/30/2024
  • US Sailing recommends that the in-person section is attended within three (3) months of the online section for maximum retention and successful completion.
  • The online section must be completed prior to attending the in-person section.

LEVEL 2 INSTRUCTOR (Click to learn more)

LSRWho should take this course: Second year instructors
Prerequisites: Current Level 1 Certification. Must wait 9 months after initial Level 1 certification.
Course Length: 2 days, 16 hours
Texts used: Smallboat Level 2 Instructor Manual, Safety Rescue and Support Boat Handling, both delivered digitally. 

Course overview: Focuses on developing knowledge and skill in teaching sail theory, sail controls, introductory management skills, spinnaker and trapeze use (and instruction) and powerboat operation for emergency situations. Safety awareness is a major component of this course, with instruction on how to address capsize recovery, or prevent entrapment while operating a powerboat. Learn More.

LEVEL 3 COACH (Click to learn more)

LevelWho should take this course: New and Intermediate level coaches
Prerequisites: Small boat Level 2 Instructor Certification
Course Length:
2 days, 16 hours
Texts used: Level 3 Coach Course Workbook and the Racing Rules of Sailing

Course overview: The foundation course of US Sailing’s coach training program, the Level 3 course provides coaches with information on how to effectively develop performance boat handling and racing skills and instill in athletes the importance of ethical behavior and sportsmanship in the sport of sailing. Topics include race management procedures, team management and logistics and drills. Learn More.

LEVEL 3 HEAD INSTRUCTOR (Click to learn more)

LevelWho should take this course: Designed to support sailing instructors and program managers that are either making the transition to a leadership role in their programs or growing their management skills in their current role.This course is also available for parents and volunteers that want to better manage their sailing programs but do not want to receive a certification.
Prerequisite: Smallboat Level 2 Instructor Certification. This course can also be audited by those seeing education but not certification.
Course Length: 10 days online.
Texts used: Sailing Program Management for Head Instructors

Course overview: This course is designed for sailing instructors that are making the transition to a leadership or management role in their programs but is also available for parents and volunteers that want to better manage their sailing programs but do no want to receive a certification. It focuses on the management side of sailing programming. Learn More.


US Sailing Instructor and Coach Trainers represent the highest level of experience in the field of sail training and coaching. Acceptance into a Trainer Level courses is done through a resume and application process only.

Level 1 Instructor Trainer Courses are usually scheduled once per year, while higher level courses may be held more in-frequently, and based on need.

***Candidates must be a minimum of 24 years old and hold a current instructor certification for the level they’re seeking to be a Trainer.***


They  must also hold the corresponding Instructor level certification and, if they are seeking a higher level Instructor/Coach Trainer certification, they much hold the prior level Instructor Trainer certification as well.

Please click on the following links to learn about each program:

Course Frequency held Next course
Level 1 Instructor Trainer Annually Spring 2023
Level 2 Instructor Trainer Approx. every 2-3 years TBD
Level 3 Coach Trainer Approx. every 3-4 years TBD
Level 3 Head Instructor Trainer Approx. every 3-4 years TBD
Master Instructor Trainer N/A Rolling application