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Chris Rast, Olympian, and now the New Mach2 Moth West Coast Distributor gives you some coaching. We know you need it.

Coaching is overrated….How to get the most out of coaching.

"I can’t believe it!  It looks so different form inside the boat!" Both Steve’s and Dave’s amazement was obvious when I asked them to step on board the coach boat and have a look at their mainsail trim during some Etchells practice before the One Design Weekend in San Diego. On various occasions this year I had been coaching Dave Ullman (sailing on board John Fuller’s Etchells team) and I was getting tired of telling them that their main was over-trimmed and the traveller was to low. I had taken plenty of pictures of them and their sparring partners, but nothing had as big as an effect than just having them hop on board and  comparing what they were seeing from on the boat to how it looked like from off the boat.
That was actually a bit of a highlight for those two days of coaching and I wasn’t really impressed with my work otherwise. So I decided to take a closer look at how to maximize the efficiency of having a coach.

Over the years with 4 Olympic Campaigns and some Pro-Sailing I have been exposed to quite a bit of coaching. As pro-sailing has evolved, so has coaching. But unfortunately I’m usually not impressed with what these highly paid individuals actually deliver (and that includes myself when I am coaching, I have to admit). This article is meant to be a bit of a wake-up call for sailors that do employ coaches (either at regattas or in practice) and also for coaches. With some simple tricks the coach’s work can be way more productive. Here are my two cents.

On practice days:

1.Do your homework and know what you want to work on
I like to compare coaches to expensive hard cover books. They all have really nice big letter titles and some fancy picture on the cover and when you open them up there are all sorts of chapters. Way t0o many chapters to read in one weekend! In order to get the most out of your coach you have to know what you want to work on and see which chapters apply.
As a coach I always ask my sailors to give me a precise write-up on what they want to work on. This way I can prepare accordingly and actually add value. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the dock and not knowing what you should be working on.

2. Be organized
This applies both to the coach and the sailors. Don’t lose valuable time, because the coach boat isn’t ready or you don’t have any marks or your sparring partners are late. You’re paying this guy way too much to just wait and hang around! A coach that just shows up on the agreed time is showing up too late in my book. Fire him!

3.Make a plan
Before leaving the dock talk through the day’s schedule (everyone on the team should attend) and go over the list of exercises you wish to practice. Explain what you are trying to achieve and what the main focus points are for the given exercise. Set clear, realistic goals for the day.

4. Have the coach run the show
Especially if you have multiple boats, let the coach run the show. Not everything might make sense immediately,  but just go with the flow and give it 100%. If you need a break, communicate it to the coach and let him set it up for everyone, don’t just sail away and start eating your sandwiches.

5. Use technology
With all the cool gadgets out there, there is no excuse not using them. High on the priority list are: VHF radios or other comms to communicate easily, On and off the boat video for further analysis, GPS units like the Velocitek or similar can be very useful when comparing the performance of two boats. Some good video or pictures tell more than a thousand words.

6. Keep the intensity high
It’s not easy to keep the pressure on for a whole day of practice. Make sure you give your team the necessary break once in a while. They will reward you with more focused work after that. If all else fails, you can consider switching up positions on the boat. At least it will most likely provide material for some good laughs and it’s always insightful to see what is happening in other areas of the boat. With multiple boats I like to end the day with short course racing and define some sort of prize (losing boat has to provide strippers or similar that evening).

7. Debrief quickly
If no tow is required I like to head into shore quickly and analyze pictures and video. Less is more! Find the most telling bits and reduce to what is necessary to make your point. If your video skills are horrible, don’t even think of showing it. You will most likely just cause a massive head ache with all those boats bouncing around the screen.

Tomorrow – racing days.