Youth Sailing Today

Five Key Principles for Youth Sailing Today

US Sailing is undertaking a long-term project to incorporate the five key principles outlined in the American Development Model into our strategy for growing participation in both recreational and competitive sailing.

These five key principles include:

  1. Expand access to create opportunity for more youth to start sailing
  2. Developmentally appropriate activities that emphasize foundational skills
  3. Multi-discipline participation
  4. Fun, engaging and progressively challenging atmosphere
  5. Quality coaching at all age levels

Research conducted by the USOC has shown that early sport specialization limits children from acquiring a broad spectrum of athletic skills and may cap their overall athletic performance. For sailing, early specialization limits the development of a well-rounded skill-set and solid seamanship.  Encouraging experimentation with different disciplines and boats keeps it exciting, interesting and builds sailors who can adapt and adjust on the fly.  As a lifetime sport, sailors usually transition to different boats and different disciplines many times, and the principles of seamanship learned as a youth offers the freedom to take on any adventure with confidence and skill.

Message from John Pearce

US Sailing Youth Director

“For kids, sailing should be all about fun. Pushing kids when they’re simply not ready just breeds frustration and undermines confidence. Instruction should be timed to developmental readiness.

 The USOC’s new Development Model is just the catalyst US Sailing needed to begin creating our own Sailing Development Model.  The objective is to define and offer a youth sailing experience that keeps kids engaged and skilled by keeping the focus on fun, adventure and providing the right challenges at the right time. It may seem counterintuitive, but we believe that keeping it light, non-competitive and with more focus on variety will create more highly skilled talent across the board. And for the kids who choose a non-competitive path, they’ll be better prepared for any kind of sailing adventure.

 We’re putting together an amazing team to guide the project. Within US Sailing, our Chief of Olympic Sailing, Education Director, and Youth Director as well as the volunteer National Faculty and the volunteer Board of Directors are collaborating with top coaches, technical experts, and dedicated program directors from around the country. 

 We’re discovering that in creating this new model it isn’t straightforward. It’s a challenge to find the line between simply having fun, and learning fundamental skills while having fun. What does that look like? How can we best use the broad array of equipment and on-the-water experiences to build strong sailors who are enthusiastic, adaptable and prepared to sail a variety of boats in a range of disciplines?”

Well, stay tuned, we’re working on it!  And it’s pretty cool to have the deep well of knowledge and experience available within US Sailing and around the country working on the answer together.