Life Lessons Learned from my Sailors: Listen more
By Meredith Dart, Siebel Coach – Midwest
Listening is a powerful tool and often forgotten about when coaching sailing. Sailing instructors often think that our sole job is to plan the lessons and activities we do every day so that we can pass on our knowledge of the sport. But what if we did more listening? What if we gave sailors a choice and a voice in their learning environment?
This summer Jackson Park Yacht Club (Chicago, Ill.) and the Siebel Sailors Program partnered with a group called Lost Boyz in the South Side of Chicago. Their mission is “to provide sports-based youth development to help boys and girls in Chicago’s under-resourced neighborhoods develop confidence, resilience, and life skills.” Their mission fits well with the Siebel Program who has a similar mission; however, the program participants that JPYC regularly serves encounter more life obstacles than most of our Siebel Sailors nationally. As described on their website, “JPYC is located in South Shore, one of Chicago’s neighborhoods hardest hit by gun and youth violence, the Jackson Park Yacht Club sees on a daily basis the devastation that such violence has had on our community and its youth.”
Normalizing a good foundation of communication was the first step in building trust with this group because they inherently had a “fight or flight” response to authority, as a result of the violence and lack of respect they often experience from adults. We worked on teaching them how to communicate calmly with data and reason, which aided their teamwork and boat communication skills on the water. While the instructors spent time on teaching communication skills, the students taught us to listen to their individual needs.
They challenged us to think outside the box of everyday sailing instruction and gave us clear hints on how to make the program most effective for them.
This group had a lot of water insecurities because they had spent limited time around water; most had never seen Lake Michigan even though they live within a few miles of it. So instead of charging ahead with the planned curriculum, we listened to our sailors and adjusted by giving them the reins to lead their own learning experience.
They had choices of activities they could do every day and helped take on new responsibilities like caring for the new fleet of boats. We spent a great deal of time getting use to the water, wearing lifejackets, and just getting comfortable on boats. We also spent time relearning what it is like to be a part of a group again after not being in school since March! By the end of the two-week session, this group of sailors became SUPER comfortable in the water, loved sailing, and showed tremendous progress in their leadership, communication and teamwork skills. Both the sailors and the instructors came away closer and established a significant bond of respect and trust.
We are forever thankful for this group of ten sailors because they taught us to listen more and speak less. Just because they are youth does not mean they shouldn’t have a voice!
Follow Meredith Dart on Instagram at @siebelcoach_meredith to stay tuned with Siebel programming in the Midwest Region!