It’s a problem for most sports in 2009 – how do you secure the future of the sport in the face of endless choices for young people? This is one issue where it’s very easy to sit as a pundit and offer criticisms, it is quite another thing to create long term strategies that work.
We are huge fans of the Connect to Sailing program, but such initiatives if they are to succeed need the support of yacht clubs around the world.
The International Council of Yacht Clubs (ICOYC) has released its second annual Commodore’s Concerns survey. Each year, ICOYC invites its member Commodores to express their major current concerns to help establish the agenda for inter-club discussions at its International Forum, and on its virtual electronic discussion board at www.icoyc.org
The International Council of Yacht Clubs (ICOYC) was formally established in 2006 to extend the reach, influence and enjoyment of senior yacht clubs around the world for the benefit of its membership by integrating the clubs into a network of leading international sailing clubs.
The top clubs’ major concerns this year relate to the economic crisis and its effects on club operations. They are concerned about maintaining sponsorship to continue running major events, and they are also seeking the right financial and management models for these challenging times. This mirrors 2008 concerns about economic and club management issues, although in 2008 membership development was the main issue.
At the same time many of the clubs within the Council are finding that their members are more active than ever. Turnover is up in many cases and the members are flocking into the clubs, possibly to escape from some of the uncertainties outside.
Many clubs are introducing new initiatives, like fleets of match or team racing boats, or starting a new ‘sailing academy’ to make sailing skills more accessible to all including match racing, offshore sailing, and preparing for the 2012 Olympics.
The need to attract and retain youth is a major concern at some yacht clubs. One Commodore outlined his concern as the need to ‘create a sailing vibe and growth path for juniors vs. other sports and computer games, etc.’
The last point is interesting. As a kid growing up in Australia I had access to many sports including sailing, but I also played video games. Video games might actually be one way to create a sailing vibe. Just as kids who are into football play football video games and kids who are into motor-racing play motor-racing video games – the media could be used to teach and inspire.
In 1986 I spent a ton of time honing my match racing skills on a game called ‘Arnies America’s Cup Challenge‘ made for the Commodore 64. These days, Virtual Skipper 5 and online games like the Volvo Ocean Race take this video form of the sport to a completely new level.
Rather than see Video Games as the enemy, perhaps they could be harnessed to engage and inspire a new generation of sailors.