GETTING BEHIND THE BROCHURES…
By Airwaves writer Emma White
Over the past few years I attended several talks during clinics and regattas in which college coaches discuss and answer questions on collegiate sailing. Although I appreciate and learn from these informative sessions, I often wondered about the experiences and perspectives of the collegiate freshmen on the coaches’teams. What do they think? Are their experiences consistent with the coaches’comments? So, to learn more, I surveyed a number of rising collegiate sophomores who sail on top 20 teams to ask about their freshmen college experience.
What I found most interesting was the rigor of their weekly schedule. Here are some other findings you may find intriguing:
Most college freshman practiced 3-4 times a week, and studied 4 hours each day. No one studied more than five hours and no one studied less than one hour each day. Most sailed in more than 6 regattas their freshman fall and spring sailing seasons.
My survey also probed some deeper areas to draw out more about the freshman experience. For example, despite the close relationships high school and junior sailors may form with their teammates, most college freshmen sailors found their college team much closer and tightly knit. They reported that college teammates work well together and everyone is collaborative. Teams are often described as a family and within that family, each class is especially close. One sailor mentioned that while practices are competitive, meetings off the water focus on team dynamic and collaboration of the team. An example of team collaboration is upperclassmen reaching out to underclassmen to help them improve. These comments confirm the college coaches’emphasis on team chemistry often mentioned during the college panel discussions. Another interesting difference the sailors suggested is the competitive college team atmosphere on the water helps everyone improve, and while tensions may rise on the water, they immediately disperse off the water. In comparison, in high school sailing tensions that are high on the water tend to loom over the team off the water as well.
Thinking back to the college coaches’panels and different coach styles and presentations, I asked the sailors to share the most important thing learned from their college coach during freshman year. The responses spanned a wide range, but all underscore the important and lasting impact of a college coach:
- “The importance of team over the individual”
- Improve something everyday, you should always have a goal for practice
- One student was sick both semesters, and this individual learned the importance of taking care of one’s health before sailing
- Making the transition from junior sailing, with many boats competing at a time and long courses, to college sailing with 18 boats competing at a time and short courses is difficult. College coaches help sailors smoothly make that transition and adjust tactics and strategy.
- Each practice is precious time on the water and you should be pushing yourself (and other teammates)
- Life is split into three categories: sailing, social, and academics…you can only choose two
I also asked about the transition for high school to college, and the challenges of sailing with a new talented team. Some sailors found it hard to not start in all of the regattas, they had to learn to appreciate the virtue of patience before competing. Acknowledging the bigger picture of the team’s success is more important. As expected, the fleet is much more competitive than at the high school or junior sailing level. Circling back to the ⅔rule on sailor mentioned in the previous question, other sailors offered their similar input by mentioning the difficulties of managing school and a social life around a time demanding sailing schedule. However, some sailors mastered “maintaining a healthy balance of sailing, school, and activities outside of sailing”which led them to feel more satisfied with their college experience because they also enjoyed campus life. Finally, sailors felt pressure of representing their team and college with dignity.
Last, I asked the freshman sailors what tips and advice they would offer this year’s incoming college freshman sailors:
- Learn as much as possible from the upperclassmen (specifically seniors)
- Time management is critical
- Tough days are inevitable, so you have to remain positive and look forward to good days ahead
- Be as open minded as possible and prepared to adjust to a new level of racing
- Some teammates might underestimate you because you’re a freshmen, but remember that you’re still an integral part of the team
- Become as close as possible to your teammates, especially the seniors
- Be a leader and work hard
- In terms of exercise, focus on endurance training for all muscle groups and core workouts that pinpoint hiking muscles
I hope you found the college freshman perspectives as interesting and informative as I. Thank you to all the rising sophomores who completed the survey, good luck next year at school!