"Soccer" parents in sailing....


Super Anarchist
Charleston, SC
As a long time sailor who started as a Junior sailor, but never had the "privilege" of coming up through any kind of Yacht Club Opti, (or other) program it's taken quite some time for me to become exposed to the "soccer parent".

You see- my jr sailing experiences were more along the lines of being the young kid on a big PHRF boat. My "coaching" would (at times) come from our pre-race, in cabin crew discussions during the motor to the starting line.  On occasion, one of the crew might/or might not be rolling joints on a cutting board prepping for post race relaxation.   Whenever I had the privilege of in boat coaching it would be on a breezy day when one of the old guys had enough beer and on a dare would grab a laser and take it out while I was trying to survive in mine, (no radial rigs back in the day).  I'll never forget my lesson on feathering...

I'm MUCH older now and enjoying watching, (and being involved with) the great participation success of our growing ILCA NA district.  This success is largely driven by awesome Jr sailors, their YC program coaches and their parents who are writing a lot of checks to help their kids enjoy great sailing experiences.  With growth comes growing pains.  For the first time I'm having first hand experiences with "programs" and their driving factors.

I get the coaches and program directors.  They build their careers on success and growth and their work grows sailing.  They are just doing their jobs and as such I give these folks a LOT of leeway as they have families to feed and career based numbers to hit.  99% of the time they are hearding cats and I just have a lot of respect there.  Just don't run me over with your coach boat.

However, I'm also getting to experience the "soccer" parent.  Having never been a soccer parent myself this fabled phenomena is quite interesting to experience.  

To those who are either "soccer" parents or feeling the "urge" to succumb please remember that many people supporting your kids are VOLUNTEERS.  This means they take simple enjoyment out of what they are doing and often use their own cash in the process.  It's a passion and without the many volunteers in organized sailing there would be a lot less of it.  So, If you're disappointed with something it's fine to express your feelings but remember who your audience is when delivering your message.  Volunteers are not on your payroll and they can tell you to "shove it" without fear of being fired.  



Super Anarchist
The problem I have with "soccer" parents, hopefully I wasn't one of the bad ones, is that they forget that the elite stars of any sport are very rare and truly special. 99.9% of children that start a sports program will never make it to the top of a sport. Coaches to as much as they can. In the end, it is up to the participant to perform at their best. If they have given it their best, there isn't much you can say other than they at least stepped up instead of sitting in front of the TV turning their brain to mush. Parents need to stop living their dreams through their children. I love the signs that are beginning to show up on playing fields around the country, 'Your child will never be a professional. Let the coaches coach, the referees referee, and the children play.' 



Super Anarchist
When I was a USYRU coach, the party line which I also agreedcwith, was parents were to stay out of sight---except at specific events where they were encoiraged to attend.

The thinking was parents areva distraction. The kids have a lot of learning to do and developong infependence is a core value of sailing

In fact thiscwas also true for me in my own jr fleet days. But I aleays loved the event whencwe raced against our mums

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European Bloke

Super Anarchist
I'm not sure what the question is, or is this a thread where we just agree with ourselves again?

I'm in, bloody Oppie parents.



Super Anarchist
Opti’s are the crack of sailing, and the coaches are the dealers.

i fucking hate everything about Opti’s. It’s a piece of shit boat that probably turns off the majority who sail it. 

about 10 years ago there was a parent at NHYC paying his kids private coach $700 a day. 

I’m sure that kid is going to need an equally expensive therapist. 



Super Anarchist
East Coast OZ
Soccer parents are the bane of anyone trying to build a club where you can just get a decent fleet of boats together and let the kids have fun while racing; trying to win, but never forgetting you're not racing for sheep stations.

Everything gets taken so seriously and clubs are torn apart as, they through whatever programs or because the parents chase the club with the best coach, kids are divided into those with higher prospects and aims and mere club sailors.

No regard to friendships or community.

As is said above, few of the chosen will make it anyway. Most will be treated as cannon fodder, burnt out, discourage and lost to sailing.

Personally I try and direct kids into classes without the soccer parent mentality.

I've expressed my view of Opis elsewhere. Unsuited to purpose (except in certain conditions rare in Australia) and a toxic environment.



Opti’s are the crack of sailing, and the coaches are the dealers.

i fucking hate everything about Opti’s. It’s a piece of shit boat that probably turns off the majority who sail it. 

about 10 years ago there was a parent at NHYC paying his kids private coach $700 a day. 

I’m sure that kid is going to need an equally expensive therapist. 
Optis have their place. They're pretty bulletproof and pretty forgiving, so you can put a 25 kg kid on one and they stand half a chance of keeping it in control.

Now, the overly competitive racing of Optis by 14-year-olds is another issue. They probably should cap the age limit at 12 or something. With that, they should get rid of the bloody sail ties and go to something normal like a sleeve sail. Like, come on... do they not realize that the coaches are the ones helping put the boat together for the really little kids? How many square knots in 2mm line does anyone really need to tie and/or untie in a day?!?!?

The big issue though is when you have parents forcing their kids to sail whether they like it or not. Optis are a big part of this problem because they're really no fun once kids get beyond a certain size. 

The other big issue is that some parents take junior sailing so seriously that it isn't about having fun with friends anymore.



I recently had the absolute joy of a soccer parent of several kids being placed on my rescue RIB as an assistant rescuer...

Absolutely no idea about sailing, seamanship or humility, which was needed given the conditions, constantly abusing and mocking his kids as they rounded whatever mark we were made to sit at. Eventually I just started volunteering to tow kids back to shore so I didn't have to listen to him be an absolute dick to his children. 

Also having grown up in Opti's myself, theyre great to learn on in a school holiday program or something, but should never ever ever be raced. That's what 4.7 rig lasers are for. Or Open Bics, or literally anything else.

I think Optis are great boats to learn and learn racing in, I think worlds is very pointless but nationals has a point because you get to sail with other people and learn new skills.

I never really raced optis only learned to sail in them.


European Bloke

Super Anarchist
Actually I think the Oppie's a good little boat, for some a great little boat.

My daughter loved it. She loved the fact she could train with some really good people and travel to some regattas with a quality of sailing most of us will never experience.

For her younger brother it wasn't quite his thing. He did it for a bit, enjoyed it but didn't want more, so we got him something else.

Each to their own.

At Oppie events I was very careful what I helped with and who I went on the water with. I didn't really want to punch anyone in the face. Whenever I got the chance I got on my bike and fucked off a very long way for a long time.

You need to take a deep breath and remember what everyone else wants to do doesn't really effect you. Mostly.



New member
Sounds like you're in an enviable position to have a youth program to even complain about overinvolved parents. Our local "scene" is unathletic overweight dads hanging off the side of a keel boat. Youths and their mom's have absolutely no interest in getting involved. They will stick with lacrosse, soccer, and hockey. Now show them a scene with a couple stud 20 something trapezing off a skiff like in Australia....that looks like something worth working towards. People like Hobart Alter figured out how to market it at one time....so I guess it can be done?

I think this article still holds up even if its from 2018:

how yachting killed sailing in the us – Sailing Anarchy


European Bloke

Super Anarchist
I've seen on more than a few occasions, the parents rig and launch the boat. Tow the kid out, then retrieve, down rig, and pack up the boat and RIB.

The kid does nothing but sail. Is that okay? :blink:
The rules at most significant UK events won't allow that. I do get your point.


martin 'hoff

Super Anarchist
I've stayed away from optis with my kids so far, and I concur with the sentiment.

And yet, OTOH, the opti stream keeps a lot of clubs and coaches going. I recall a club where we had a UFO/Moth/Wazsp event, where I asked the barman who's the best crowd? Opti moms, they are bored and on shore. Our regatta, one beer each and that's it, gotta be sharp tomorrow!



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