Welcome to Sail1Design’s Annual Coach of the Year Page, presented by Gill
Sail1Design annually seeks your nominations for the S1D Coach of the Year, for a coach that embodies the qualities (and more) listed in the article below. Sailors, this is your award! The Sail1Design staff chooses the winner only from our readers nominations! This is a great opportunity to recognize a coach that you feel makes a difference!
Gill generously supplies the winning coach with a clothing award!
All good coaches, regardless of their chosen sport, share some important fundamental qualities that transcend technical knowledge, or specific x’s & o’s. In other words, whether it’s a basketball, tennis, hockey, football, chess, or sailing coach, there are certain key characteristics to good coaching, and none of these really requires technical knowledge of the sport they are in.
Here are some of those characteristics: logistics, organization, energy, leadership, passion, creativity, patience, dedication, motivational skill, humility.
I would bet that you could take a good coach, put him or her in a new sport, and that coach would find some success. Think about the best coach you ever had, and visualize that person in another sport, and you might see just how that person could adapt and still be a difference-maker.
However, we all know that great coaches not only possess these core qualities, but indeed they are also masters of the subtleties, rules, and technical chess moves of the sport they are involved in. Very often, great coaches are former players themselves, and often they are good, but not necessarily great players. In any event, it seems virtually certain that actually having been in the arena at some level, having been a true game player, is a necessary ingredient for a great coach.
So then, what an important advantage sailing coaches have, since the sport allows lifelong top-level competitive opportunities. While it would be impossible for a middle-aged football coach to live, first-hand, what his players go through on the gridiron, middle-aged sailors and coaches can stay current, and can compete right alongside the world’s best sailors, and even win world championships in sailing. Opportunities exist in team racing, match racing, and all types of one-design classes offer regattas, year-round. In this manner, sailing coaches have the ability to get inside the sport, at the highest levels, learn more, and feel the same things that their players go through out on the race course. The empathy gained here is a very powerful tool that great coaches employ when coaching.
Getting into the rhythm of a sailboat race, realizing first-hand the excitement and frustrations of the sport, preparing mentally for each race, “knowing when to tack”, these are all things that coaches must be able to talk to their players about, and talking to them about these things is so much more clear and present when done by someone who is actually good at them, and has done them recently at a high level.
For example, it was always easy for me to say to a team, “make sure when you are in FJ’s at the starting line to allow yourself more leeward room to accelerate since the foils are small and the boats need to go bow down first before they start lifting.” It was really easy to say. It was quite another thing to actually do it, and to go out on the starting line, in FJ’s, and practice what I preached. That was a LOT harder, and I drew a great deal of empathy with my players from that situation and recognized better ways to talk about it and to talk them through it, having been there myself. This is especially true in team racing, where coaches can see plays easily on the coach boat or on the drawing board, but it’s one thing to talk about a mark trap at Mark 1; it’s another thing altogether to go out and be able to execute it. Without being, or having been, in the arena, sailing advice and technical coaching can be somewhat hollow compared to other sailing coaches who know it first-hand and live what they coach.
So, when you look to your coaches for advice or to get to that next level, or if you are a interested in sailing in a college program, take a moment and check out the coaches resumes, just as they will most assuredly be checking yours. The list that makes coaches good coaches should be there for sure, but see if the coaches list how, or if, they stay current in their profession and have the passion to go out on the racecourse themselves. Great coaches usually always have a story, and very recent one, of a lesson learned at a regatta they sailed in themselves. They love to sail and get better, if only to become a better sailor and coach.
While there is a short list of coaches who choose to (and can) do it all, many top collegiate programs now share these coaching qualities by hiring an assistant or co-head coach, who is very often a recent college sailing alumnus and is active in dinghy racing and brings that empathy, right away, to the team. The head coach then ties everything together with experience, maturity, management, and knowledge of the game.
If you’ve ever noticed, baseball coaches actually suit up for games even though they certainly won’t be playing. This historically comes from the old “player-coach” model, and perhaps, this connects them with the game and the player more intimately. Sailing offers the unique ability for all ages to compete at the highest levels of the sport, and great sailing coaches take advantage of this, “suiting up” themselves and making themselves better at coaching by sailing competitively.
Past S1D Coach of the Year Winners
2016- Bill Ward
2015- Frank Pizzo
2014- Chris Dold
2013- Steve Hunt