Thanks to Joe for doing an excellent job of blog-sitting for the last few days and also to all the readers who wrote comments on his posts. I may invite him to write an occasional post as a guest blogger in future if this topic of race management is of interest to some of you.
While Joe was blogging for me, I spent the first three days of this week assisting with some beginner sailing lessons for kids at the lake club where I sail in the summer. It turned out to be an incredibly frustrating experience.
I worked the last three summers as head instructor at another club and was invited to run these lessons too. But as I wasn't sure if I was going to be available I told the club not to rely on me, to find another lead instructor, and gave them a vague promise that I would "help out" if I was still around. The instructor in charge of the classes is a nice guy but has much less experience at teaching sailing than I have and has a very different style and approach to sailing instruction. That was the cause of my frustration.
Almost every thing he did in running the sailing classes was different from how I would have done it. I kept thinking, "No, no no. That's not the way to teach this. There's a better way." Or wanting to tell him, "Look at the wind. We shouldn't be doing this now. We should be doing that." But it was his show so most of the time I kept my mouth shut and made myself useful supporting his program. But I was still frustrated.
I'm not a good follower of a leader with whom I fundamentally disagree. I kept telling myself, "He's not wrong. He just has a different approach. Go with the flow." When I could I made polite suggestions to him on what I thought the class should be doing or on how to teach a particular skill. Some of my suggestions were accepted; a lot were not. I fumed quietly and just concentrated on helping the kids as best as I could.
Every night I came home and ranted to my wife about what had happened at the classes and how I disagreed with it and why it didn't work as well as it would have if they had just done things my way. Strangely I rarely used to do this when I had a job in corporate America and felt much worse annoyance at my occasionally incompetent bosses. But I remember my father used to do this almost every night after work. Am I becoming my father? Probably.
So it was a vexing three days but it did make me realize that through six years of working as a sailing instructor, three in charge of a junior program, I have developed a personal philosophy of how sailing should be taught to kids. It was the contrast with someone else's different approach that brought my own views into focus.
Fundamentally, teaching sailing is all about balancing three aspects - safety, learning, and having fun. Sometime these seem in conflict with each other but in a well designed course they don't have to be. There are tricks of the trade on how to maximize learning while running activities that let the kids have a whale of time, and all the while maintaining a safe environment for them.
I'm going to write at least one post on how I think this should be done. I promise to try not to rant; but I don't guarantee I'll succeed.