Why Sailing Needs to Learn From Other Sports

I've long thought about how we need to learn lessons from other sports, both their successes and their failures, and I've even attempted a couple of blog posts about it, but I've not yet been able to get one down that I'm happy with.

So I was especially interested when I saw that some brilliant person had brought in Terry Greenwood from British Cycling to talk at the International Sailing Summit about how they had managed to increase participation in cycling 5-fold in a short period of time.

You can watch the video of his presentation below, and it is well worth half an hour of your time if you can spare it:

If you haven't got time, here's a handful of things that I took from the presentation, and I'm going to elaborate on them in a few posts over the next couple of weeks or so:

  1. Sailing needs to be run with a high level of professional organisation

    • It must develop a plan that all its disparate organisations can buy in to, and constantly check that everyone is buying into the plan
    • The leading organisations must provide clubs with help to design and deliver events
    • There should be help providing equipment that can be used to increase participation
    • There should be online resources (i.e. technology and advice) as to how to deliver events that are free to access and proven to work
    • There should be a huge effort in terms of data acquisition and analysis
    • This analysis should help set ambitious but realistic targets that are measurable
    • A unified calendar is a very powerful tool for enabling different parts of the sport to work together
    • Always be driving people towards the key information for extra participation and towards potential revenue streams
  2. There must be a clear plan for the acquisition of new members

    • We need to present a clear, unambiguous and easily understood pathway into the sport, across age, ability and social background:
      a) This is sailing; b) This is how you get involved; c) This is how you progress.
    • It must develop a means of diversifying its participants
    • Organisations must provide help to promote membership to clubs through advocacy
    • we need to promote a common message: It's easy to get involved, and it is safe for children
    • Keep choices simple at the point of entry - don't overwhelm potential new participants
  3. The sport needs to use elite success and media coverage to capture new members at the time at which it is in the wider public eye

    • It must use inspirational success as a means of getting more people into boats
    • Elite success and mass participation need each other
    • We must be ready to capitalise on any extra attention that the sport gets at the time at which it gets it
    • It must have a clear pathway for varying ambitions - "from playground to podium", but also everything in between

He concluded by mentioning four things they've learnt putting all the above into practice:

  1. Marginal Gains - British cycling is known for this phrase. Essentially, it is all the little things, the small, specific details that lead to small gains, that when put together make the difference
  2. Never Lose Sight of the Goal - Always remember why you are doing what you are doing
  3. Seek Insight with a Purpose in Mind - gather lots of data, but only if you intend to actually act upon it
  4. Be True to Original Stated Objectives - Don't get distracted or dissuaded from your objectives by politics, and don't be too proud to learn lessons and change tack if heading in the wrong direction.

So there you go. That's how you do it.

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