Head Instructor Workshop Report

On June 16th, head instructors from over twenty JSA programs came to Larchmont Yacht Club for a series of lectures and group discussions on how to navigate the role of head instructor. For some, this was an introduction, while veterans of the position returned for a refresher. The workshop began with a lecture by Kevin Broome, Sailing Director at American YC who spoke about how to effectively challenge sailors, demonstrating how unique learning experiences will be the most rewarding and even the best drills can get old quickly. Kevin also touched on the importance of fun in the sport and that as instructors our primary focus has probably been racing and competing for wins, but to remember that there are other aspects of racing and regattas that might interest students. Instructors were then split into groups based on club location where they discussed topics of Kevin’s lecture and how that related to their own clubs.

Next, JSA welcomed Jeff Engborg, General Manager at Pequot Yacht Club. Jeff gave an engaging talk about the interdependent relationship of a sailing program and its yacht club. Not only did Jeff speak to the relationship the sailing program has to the yacht club itself, he also expressed the importance of safety on the water. Jeff analogized the job as a head instructor to that of an actor. When we are doing our job, we must act the part. Be respectful of those around us, and always put a good foot forward because in reality a lot of responsibility is given to the sailing instructors.

After a short break, Brendan Healy, Sailing Director at Indian Harbor Yacht Club took the floor. Brendan spoke about how to effectively manage your staff into getting their best performance. Lastly, Nicky Souter, the Sailing Director of Riverside Yacht Club explained the transition from instructor to head instructor. Though you are close in age, you are no longer their peer, but their boss. It is not an easy position having to take responsibility for a team of instructors who you will not always have an eye on. Nicky also highlighted various examples of situations with sailors as well as parents that might arise. She then gave tactics that a head instructor could follow in order to create a safe and efficient atmosphere within a program.

All four speakers synthesized the role of a head instructor within a sailing program and beyond, which made of a great day in the classroom! Becca Quirke, returning for her second year as Head Instructor at Pequot Yacht Club said she was happy that she went back and that the information, even if she’d learned before, is good to refresh because it’s ultimately going to make her a more capable manager and give the kids a great experience.