At a big
regatta a few years ago, I saw a lone sailor come in from the race
stormy and blustery day. He had dropped out of the fourth and final race
of the day. In the third race, he had capsized three times, having been
over his head, both figuratively and literally, in the trying
conditions. He was wet. He was cold. He was exhausted. Yet he beamed
with pride for having finished that difficult third race.
sailor’s father was waiting on the shore, having spent a lot of money
and invested a lot of energy in “his” sailor. Dad proceeded to shake the
boy by the shoulders and berate him for being a “quitter”.
Everyone was hurt by it - most of all, the previously proud child,
now heartsick at having disappointed his father. It would be a real
understatement to say that this dad completely missed the parenting
I’m far from being a violent person but this scene made me furious.
I wanted to intervene. Many others saw this happen and everyone was
hurt by it – most of all the, previously proud child, now heartsick
at having disappointed his father.
It would be a real understatement to say that this dad completely
missed the parenting boat.
This was an extreme case, which should horrify and responsible
parent. And yet many parents, without being aware of it, adopt the
same philosophy in dealing with their children. Although they may
not carry it to the extreme level of this dad, they still manage to
overstress the importance of winning. Perhaps they do this
unconsciously and inadvertently, but they do it all the same.
The single most important question for parents to confront in their
hearts is this: “What lessons do they want their children to learn
from sailing?” Do they want their children to fly and leave the nest
as an eagle, to soar on their own? Do they want to give their
children powerful tools to grow into a confident, productive, and
satisfying adulthood? Or do they want to relive their own youth at
their children’s expense, and collect a few trophies?
Sailing offers our children a treasure trove of life skills, if we
stay focused on placing these qualities ahead of winning. Here’s a
partial list of potential benefits:
confidence and independence
Skills in dealing with all sorts of people
Winning with dignity but not arrogance
without feeling beaten
Honesty and Integrity
Citizenship and Sportsmanship
Importantly, Friends for life
basement of my home are over a hundred trophies. They are worthless to
me. They are not what I cherish from my years of sailing. Looking at
them reminds me of the famous poem by Shelley, about an elaborate
monument to an ancient king, which the centuries have left in ruins.
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
something much more important than the trophies does remain – the
and life-skills which sailing has given me. I need them and use them
hour, to be the best person I can be. Perhaps with time, all parents
will seek to
children these enduring benefits of sailing, and let trophies gather
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