Finally got some of the spin and trap gear rigged up on the 420’s and started to get some kids out on the wire. I have been pushing this across the region as I think it is the best way to expand a sailors knowledge and make them better all around sailors. The plan is to focus on sail shape and controls the next few practice sessions and see if I can break a few bad habits the sailors have. I have found it pretty common on boats rigged with a 3:1 collegiate style vang for the vangs to slip “on” while the boat is derigged, making it difficult to raise the sail and the sailors will often just muscle the main all the way up resulting in a super tight leech. This drives me crazy, seeing sailors doing everything in their power to roll the boat and put as much power into the boat as possible only to sail with a hooked leech and wonder why they are getting passed!.
The leech telltale is arguably the most important informational tool on a dinghy. It instantly lets you know if your main is stalled or to far blown open. Finding this balance and knowing which “gear” you are in based on how your leech tell tale is reacting is crucial to making the boat sail fast. I like to explain sailboat racing in terms of percentages, After a roll tack you should be at 110 percent of your upwind speed due to a nice roll and flatten, your job is to stay above 100 percent for as long as possible! Inducing a bunch of drag because of a hooked leech will drop you to 100 or below faster than being in 4th gear. Hammering home the mantra of leech, jib, wind, for the skippers this week in the order of where they should be moving their gaze.
Another race this upcoming weekend, going to be a bit emotional as I will probably see one of my old sailors again for the last time before they head off to start their college sailing career. Will have to wait and see how it goes!
Forgot how long it’s been since I have updated this. I originally wanted to blog every day which I am sure is a goal many bloggers have starting out but is ultimately unrealistic. Although I still think more than 7 days between posts is a bit long. Last time I wrote a bit about the first regatta with the team I am coaching this summer. It was successful in that the sailors had fun and did better than they expected which is always a bonus. This was a newer experience for me as it was the first time in a long time – 5 years or more – that I have worked with kids who were not going to be in any real contention to win the regatta, and I found it very rewarding.
I’ve spent a lot of time the past few years working with sailors at the intermediate level and above. Trying to take them to the advanced levels of the sport so they are ready for college. Usually there is a lot of disappointment in failing to reach a predetermined goal so going into this event with the focus of just doing the best we could so there is a baseline to start from took quite a bit of pressure off. I have high hopes for the sailors as they all enjoy the process of getting better and putting in work at practice.
I had a conversation with someone several years ago about having fun and human motivation and why we even bother to do things. My position was that if you stripped away all the medals and competitions, awards, and scholarships, people would still do things they enjoy because of the simple act of mastery. Or in the more blunt terms that my room mate later put it as I was venting to him “no one likes to do anything that they suck at”. My argument was that people want to feel like they are getting better at something regardless of it being a sport or activity or what not. Whether it is learning new recipes or lifting more weight than last time or knitting some crazy pattern (I think that is the proper knitting jargon). There is a high level of personal satisfaction in being able to do something that you originally couldn’t at some point in time and it could have zero relation to competition.
I try to instill that mentality in everyone I work with, be happy in the improvement. When you go to to compete and you do your best you’ll end up happy no matter how it goes.
/ turn to a savage, pockets got fatter /
I run to what most people would consider awful music. I like to feed the part of me that hasn’t matured past teenage jock while exercising. It provides a good release for arrogance and ego and keeps the rest of the day in check. 21 savage would characterize it as being in savage mode. I think there is a perfect balance of self confidence that needs to be reached in all people, especially athletes. I struggle sometimes to find this in myself and to instill it in the athletes I coach.
Working with kids that are already athletes is easier since most of them have already developed decent self confidence and a set of expectations for themselves. The harder part is mostly keeping their ego in check and making sure they stay proper sportsmen. Treat every transgression against an opponent as a learning opportunity for some personal growth in the area of humility. The harder but more rewarding is seeing some nerdy kid find their self confidence through sport. It can’t always be done but if they are willing to put in the work some huge transformations can happen between freshman and senior year.
There’s a lot of over politeness in the PNW that I think seeps into competition. I have always been a fan of being a humble winner and a gracious loser but I don’t think there is anything wrong with letting people know you have every intention to show up to an event and win. Good natured banter is going to happen in healthy competition, as Chad Ocho-Cinco said “If I don’t prepare myself I can’t talk no trash”. Seeing the transformation in a kid who is too afraid to call out “Starboard” or assert that they have mark room is one of the greatest things in coaching. At my first serious coaching job it took a few years but it eventually got to the point where I had 12 serious athletes I could count on the show up and get the job done. I think a lot of other programs saw us as sort of cocky, especially the less competitively focused ones but at the same time I received one of the biggest complements in my career when a peer from another program refered to us as “dominating” during our time as the top program in the region. I’d like to get back to building a dominating program out here. Put in the work, be a savage at practice, make competition easy.
Running has been something I hated for the vast majority of my life but recently found a joy for in the past sixth months. It wasn’t until a few months ago I realized how slow I had gotten and how much my athletic ability had declined from what it had been when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Running was always the boring part of the sport for me. It was what you did in between practice and I referred to it as “the most boring part of any sport” I was much more into the goal scoring and take downs of soccer and wrestling then the endless running in circles. Now I find it reflective and meditative. I like to think my interest in running has been due to some maturing on my part. Gone are the days of directly competing against others. You can’t physically make anyone slower all you can do is make yourself faster and the only time you can effect is yours.
Pacing is what I’m the worst at, in running and most other aspects of life. Every race I try to stay with the leaders instead of focusing on my goal pace. I know this is a huge rookie mistake that I have been working on correcting. Still need to find how certain pace ranges feel besides all out full effort, and training pace. Hopefully a few more weeks and I will be able to comfortably judge a race pace without relying on strava to tell me how I’m doing at the first half mile. I’ve always wanted to be proficient at things quickly. The 1000 hours to mastery seems like forever but the things I am actually good at I have probably devoted tens of thousands of hours to. The slow racking up of miles underfoot and the meditative pace through the outdoors clears my mind. I’ve been focusing on healing the body from my lack of activity over the years but I have unintentionally been healing my mind as well. Healing it from things I didn’t even know I was suffering from.
I want to hit the trails during my break tomorrow. There’s a park on the north east edge of Olympia full of hills and trails, an easy way to get 8-12 in before the weekend. A few weeks from now I hope to get back to my first endurance sport love, biking. While I hated running growing up and learned to love it now. Spending time in the saddle has always been something I have enjoyed and I didn’t realize how much I missed it till I got stuck in a metal coffin for the past two years. Even though I lived in one of the most bike friendly cities in the US (it actually is not nearly as good as less boisterous cities but that’s a post for another time) I think I only rode my bike to work two times. I never got the improvements made that I wanted either.
Here’s to the road, whether by foot or by pedal.
How much do you like it here?
Enough to stay for years? That was the plan originally. Lay roots, build a career, leave a legacy. Life is slow in Olympia but a slow down was much needed. You can only run at a million miles an hour before you burn out and end up chopped and screwed. Life seems like a restart of a restart right now. Building something to be proud of has seemed to be taking a back seat for years, often times I feel like I’m chasing a return to a level I had reached in the past that may be unachievable in the near future. Is it worth the delay to return to something only to grow more? Perhaps. There are only so many options out there after all.
Idle hands are the devils play thing so now I spend my time in coffee shops writing, writing anything. On July 15th we have our first regatta. November 30th was the last event I coached at, it was the Cressy national championship. 228 days between events, the longest break I have had in a long time. New year, new team, new me. I have no expectations for this regatta, I want the kids to simply go and sail how they always have. I will mostly be taking notes and making minor suggestions. You can’t correct anything during a regatta as a coach outside of the mental game of the athlete. You do the mechanics, the tactics, the strategy, the theory, in between the events. The focus has to be on going fast and finding wind, head outside the boat 90 percent of the time. I’m predicting furious note taking by myself but I also predict I will be pleasantly surprised with a few of the sailors. There’s five practices before race day, two of these will probably be club race days so we will have time to analyze and improve.
The growth of the sailors skills will directly impact the growth of the program, which I think also reflects my growth as a coach and on a more abstract level as a person. 1 percent improvement everyday but that’s a post for another time.
How much do I like it here?
Enough for now.
These first blog posts always suck because you have to spend so much time introducing yourself and setting up a general theme. I recently moved to Olympia WA for a job as a sailing coach. This has more of less been my ‘career’ for the past ten years and I have been lucky enough to travel to every part of the country as part of my job and have worked with programs with less than hundred youth sailors to over a thousand. I have to say I had some pretty ambitious career goals that I wanted to hit by my 10th year coaching but they have gotten a bit side tracked in the last year or so and Olympia represents a clean start for me.
The program here is still in it’s early stages but has come quite a way in the past three years thanks to an ambitious director and community support. The vast majority of the race team kids are tenacious underclassmen that are very green when it comes to racing but have had some success on the local high school circuit. Having a chance to work with some sailors who will be in the program for a while was really appealing to me and has made me seriously consider staying here for longer than just the summer season. We still have a lot of work to do though, all the kids are still in the process of getting the mechanics down and racing in a pre-programmed, reactionary mode versus a more fluid adaptive anticipatory mode. The nice thing is they are highly coachable though, mechanically the middle school aged sailors have made a ton of progress on roll tacking the boat and sailing the boat rather than being sailed by the boat. We will have to see what Wednesday practice holds in terms of wind but we should be able to move on to gybes and transitions.
Outside of sailing I’ve been doing a lot of running and weight lifting. It’s been highly rewarding rediscovering the athleticism that I once had. There is a fourth of July 5k I plan on running and am hoping to break 20:00. Just a bit worried about the switchbacks in the last six hundred meters. I’ll update with how it went.