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Coach to Kids: Prepare and Think Positive  –  As I pack my bags for what’s planned to be one of the longer road trips for the British Virgin Islands’ sailing team to date, I can’t stop thinking back to the past regattas and trips I have participated in as a competitor.

In order to allow for clear thinking in preparation of the sailors for the next few weeks I have to jam to the back of my head all the worries and preconceptions of what it’s going to be like. My phone rings off the hook from parents with questions that all need answers. Some answers I know, some I don’t, but I give them a response based on what I’ve learned from past experiences: you may not exactly know everything there is to know about an event, but as long as you act as if you do, you’ll be fine!

Yes, peace of mind is what allows a competitor to get a good night’s sleep. It also allows them to have confidence that everything is going to be fine and work out well. Positive thinking leads to positive results.

 

So how can one sailor maintain positive thinking in a regatta? That goes back to the one word I use over and over again with my sailors, yes it’s PREPARATION! I recently asked past world champion Optimist sailor Raul Rios from Puerto Rico what sort of preparation he used for the worlds. His advice for young, budding 16-year-olds made perfect sense. He stated, “I knew I had weaknesses, so I trained with the sailors who were best in my weakest areas, and once I began to beat them in training, I knew I could beat them on the race course.”

The first step in being confident in your sailing and preparing for a major event is being humble enough to know where your flaws are. Seeking the best in your flaws and pushing yourself to better them, is far better than the alternative—finding your strengths and exploiting them. I always remind my athletes that sailing is a mentally tormenting sport. It can make the gentlest human turn into an outright raving lunatic. Through positive thinking and structured training, sailors at all levels can gain from being confident in all aspects of the greatest sport in the world.

Obtaining this profound confidence is never easy. Long hours and long days make for an exhausting experience for any human being, even if you’re 12 years old and never seem to get tired. A clear mind free of worries is far faster on the race course than one with worries. Sailors who go into an event with nothing to worry about will often show that on the race course. They’ll push themselves hard and make good out of bad. They can learn from their mistakes and realize they’re not going to win every race, but they don’t need to in order to win a regatta. I have seen sailors win world championships without winning a single race in a series. These are the guys and girls that go out and will consistently put themselves in good places on the race course. Ones that take risks will often lead to inconsistency and are usually the ones who rely more on luck than preparation.

So back to the packing I go. By the time you’re reading this, the three major events that our team is heading to will be over. So why not check the results? Our five sailors on the Optimist North American team will be heading to Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic for Optinam 2009. 198 competitors from 23 nations will be on hand. Check out www.optinam2009.org. BVI sailor Alec Anderson will also be competing in two events. The first, United States Youth Sailing Championship in Connecticut. This event will be used as a warm up for the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2009, in Armação de Búzios in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You can follow that event at www.youthworlds2009.org.  
 

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