The Great Retention Problem (GRP)

The great retention problem - where do all these sailors go?

The Great Retention Problem - Where do all these sailors go?

There's lots of debate and opinion around at the moment concerning participation in sailing, the 20-35 gap, and the ageing demographic that our sport seems to have. There are lots of ideas around, many of them good, and I'm going to post a few thoughts on this area over the next few weeks. But for now, I want to look at finding out what is happening to cause this problem.

There is a lot of theory as to why kids seem to drop out of sailing around late teens or early twenties, with only a fraction returning in their mid-thirties. Some ideas include:

  • the fact that they often move areas in this time, and establishing a new sailing club isn't a priority in settling in
  • they are burnt out from the over-competitive nature of youth sailing
  • they don't have the disposable income needed to fund sailing on their own (now that their parents no longer pay for them)
  • the time pressures of starting a career, starting a long-term relationship, starting a family, etc, doesn't leave enough time for sailing

To a greater or lesser extent, all of these had an influence in me not sailing from around the age of 18 until I was about 30. But I did come back to sailing, so I'm not really the kind of member that clubs should be thinking about. Essentially I, like most committees, am just guessing as to why people drop out of sailing at this age.

So one simple idea is for a club to generate an exit interview, or an exit survey - something like this. The aim is to get as much information as possible about what the club could do better in order to retain sailors and increase turnout. At the moment, we are working with a very limited amount of information, and the more we can increase this information, and the more willingness we show in acting upon this information, the more likely we are to improve our retention rates and turn out.

Personally, I've never come across a club that does an exit survey. If your club already does an exit survey, I'd love to hear about it - what questions do they ask, what general trends have they discovered in their results, etc.?

Anyway, over the next few posts (and until we get better information) I'm going to guess at a few of the problems, and offer a few suggestions that might boost retention and increase participation.

3 thoughts on “The Great Retention Problem (GRP)

  1. I was wondering in the wilderness w/o boat for only half a dozen years. When I met my future Trophy Wife when I was in my late 20’s. We bought a boat. It’s now countless boats later and 45 years that we have been racing together. No exit interview in sight.

    • That’s great – it’d be really good if everyone was like that.

      I look at the kids I grew up sailing with, and only a fraction of them sail regularly now. I think it would be very illuminating to find out why the vast majority don’t sail anymore, and if there was something simple that could have been done to keep them.

      Maybe it is just that not everyone is lucky enough to find a Trophy Wife…

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