Junior Sailing Program Recruiting Tips

by: Chip Johns, Commodore of the Beverly Yacht Club and former owner of Vanguard Sailboats

The process of recruiting and hiring staff for your junior sailing programs can be quite challenging. There are many factors to consider when trying to build an effective staff who are responsible for teaching fundamental skills to impressionable youth sailors. Chip Johns, Commodore of the Beverly Yacht Club and former owner of Vanguard Sailboats, provided US Sailing with some helpful tips on how to assemble a staff that will help you reach your junior sailing program’s goals.

Set Goals for your Program

•    The skill level, background, and teaching style of your staff must fit the goals of your program. Your instructors also must be familiar with the equipment that you use or plan to use in your program. Is your junior sailing program race oriented or focused more on basic sailing skills? If racing isn’t the objective, you may want to consider that during the recruiting process. If you use C420s, Lasers, and Optis you will need instructors who are familiar with these boats, if you use X Boats you will want instructors familiar with them. 

Recruiting Methods

•    There are a number of websites that advertise job openings for yacht clubs aiming to hire instructors for their junior sailing programs, including US Sailing’s job bank, and Sail One Design.  

•    Older  college kids are becoming more focused on looking for summer jobs that will help them land a job after they graduate, thus your efforts will need to be focused on older high school students and freshman and sophomore college students.

•    Don’t forget about timing, the best instructors are looking for jobs in the fall and many have made commitments by Thanksgiving time, so your recruiting job needs to begin right after the season ends.

Managing your Staff

•    Considering most of your instructors are high school and college age, they’ll need adequate guidance and leadership. However, don’t micromanage your staff. Define the job and let them run with it. Check in with them by observing classes and asking good questions, but let them do their jobs! The best staff will create excitement in your program. The great instructors demonstrate leadership and not only energize the kids, but they will energize the other staff and volunteers. 


•    Think about what you are going to require from your staff in terms of time commitments. Some staff will want to race in certain regattas, and some just like time off occasionally. Will you ask staff to work weekends? Will you encourage them to race on the weekends outside of the club? What will the daily schedule be? Make sure that you match your schedule with the clubs you are competing with for people. 

•    Pay attention to the college sailing season. Don’t start your program until the college season has ended, and wrap it up with enough time to let them prepare for returning for the fall season.

Working Environment for Instructors

•    Make it a fun place to work. What is the atmosphere like for everyone? Use your junior sailing programs as a way to help build the yacht club’s reputation. Do the instructors all hang out together? In general, this breeds familiarity and a level of fun that will be extended to the program. However be careful, too much of a good thing can be trouble.

•    If an instructor or coach does a good job and enjoyed the experience, you’ll want her/him to return next summer, and recommend your program to others looking for summer work. The recruiting process can be time consuming and expensive. Do your best to retain staff.

Pay Scale and Housing

•   Pay scales affect the level of instructors and coaches you hire. Try to get the data on what other programs in your region are paying. Will you supply housing or compensate for rent? Does your club offer an opportunity to teach private lessons? Running a first class junior program for your club is a great way to build your club’s reputation and provide a terrific opportunity for local kids to learn the finer aspects of sailing. It is also a lot of hard work, but like anything that requires hard work, it is worth it in the end.