Coach Mike Smith thinks doing a bit of sailing is especially important for kids, even those who definitely won’t go on to become elite sailing athletes.
And that attitude makes him perfect for the Siebel Sailors Program!
Because of your support, Mike is passing his passion for sailing on to a new generation of kids who bring diversity, new energy, and enthusiasm to the sport.
Like many of the kids he teaches, Mike didn’t grow up on the water or come from a sailing family. But when he was 12, the urban youth group he belonged to, The Untouchables, was invited to a sailing summer camp in Annapolis. The boys traveled almost an hour to get there and thought ‘camp’ meant they’d be sleeping in the woods!
“Seeing the big buildings and bridges of Arlington and DC up the river gave me a new perspective on where I lived,” Mike said. “There I was in an early American port city where generations of black men had worked the ports and the boats that served them. And I was part of a community reclaiming that access. It had a profound effect on me.”
Although he stopped sailing for a while during college and graduate school, Mike eventually found his way back to the sport. When he’s on summer break from his teaching job, he coaches kids in the Siebel Sailors Program at the Washington Sailing Marina in Alexandria, VA.
Mike’s face lights up when he talks about how the program can change kids’ lives. “The outreach to diverse communities, the life skills priority, the lifelong participation format, the way it contributes to the professionalization and standardization of the practice of coaching has been great to see,” he says.
“There’s tons of foot traffic in this huge park and people ask questions about what we’re doing here. It’s exciting to tell folks about how sailing is a real, local, fun activity that is right here in their community, for everyone!”