Team15 is an RYA run programme to introduce young people to windsurfing and develop core skills of junior windsurfers throughout the country.
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The initiative has been running for over a decade and has gone through some changes in recent years to address a decline in numbers of windsurfers at a junior level. From an initial rapid growth when the programme began, numbers started to decline, which prompted a response from the RYA to try and halt the falling participation. Among the changes was to focus resources in a different way to make better use of them. There was also an opportunity for clubs to gain coaching hours from a core group of windsurfing coaches provided by the RYA. This ensured that everyone involved in the process is invested toward the common goals of the initiative.
Another difference is the RYA attendance at the National Watersports Festival, as Chris Blackburn, RYA High Performance Manager and Team15 lead explains: “The National Watersports Festival in Rutland provides us at Team15 a great opportunity to showcase the initiative in a safe and controlled environment. 2017 was our first year at the festival and the staff were really pleased with what we were able to promote about Team15. We were also pleased with the response we got in return. Because of that we are planning on attending the festival again this year.”
At the festival the Team15 staff delivered skills clinics that were led by some of the programme’s coaches and it was an opportunity to show young people and their families what the Team15 programme is really about. It is about improving skills first and foremost.
“The clinics at the festival really gave us a chance to try and change the perception within the sailing community of Team15,” said Blackburn. “Many think Team15 is all about racing, which simply isn’t true – it’s first and foremost about developing and refining core windsurf skills.
Our primary aim is to increase the numbers of young people taking part and the skill level of these young sailors at a club level in a safe and fun environment, something that the Nationals Watersports Festival lends itself to very well.”
The location of the festival was also a plus point for the RYA. Rutland is a central location that is very accessible in terms of geography for most within the UK. The venue is also renowned for sailing, which only broadened its appeal to the governing body.
“Rutland has a fun, safe and controlled environment for people to try some of the skills we we’re trying to develop within Team15,” said Blackburn. “Also, if you’re fairly new to windsurfing you may feel a slight hesitation before trying it out, we think Rutland adds a certain level of comfort for participants to come and have a go.”
The Team15 festival clinics offer a chance for anyone to talk to the coaches involved in the programme, but Blackburn believes that trying windsurfing and Team15 out often has a greater effect on people.
“At this year’s festival we will be holding up to four clinics a day that run for around 30-45 minutes,” said Blackburn, “this should give anyone that wants to try Team15 a chance to come and have a go and see what the programme is all about.”
As well as showcasing the initiative, all Team15 representatives at the National Watersports Festival will be on hand to promote the positive changes to the programme, which has started to increase participation numbers yet again.
Interclub participation has increased from 2016 to 2017 and that trend seems to be continuing into 2018 which Blackburn believes the festival can contribute towards: “By being in the public eye at events such as the festival, we can point people in the direction of a quality club that we know can deliver the safe and fun experience that Team15 strives for. The more these clubs grow, the greater the increase in numbers of windsurfers out on the water which is what we want from the programme.”
Both Team15 and the National Watersports Festival have similar goals, to showcase sport on the water. Because of their common goals, the Team15 initiative has the opportunity to promote its key aims, to give people the chance to try out Team15 activities for themselves and hopefully lead them onto recognised clubs to continue their fun and friendly windsurfing education.
Once a windsurfer is at a club their skills can be developed through the support and resources of the RYA, but more importantly a great coach who truly believes in the programme. From here there is competition or simply sailing for enjoyment, either way Team15 will give them the skills they need.
For more information or to find your nearest Team15 club visit www.rya.org.uk/programmes/rya-team15