Monday, April 20, 2009

A Wife’s View: The High School Sailing Coach’s Life

The first thing he checks online each day is not his email, not the news, but the weather… specifically, the wind. In fact, the chart that NOAA produces that shows, by hour, the wind speed (with direction and gusts), the temperature (with wind chill and dew point), the humidity (with potential for precipitation and sky cover), and thunder and rain predictions is constantly on display or minimized on his computer screen. Once this information covering the next several days has been closely inspected, he can attend to other things.

The second order of business is checking his email inbox for communications from other sailors, coaches, his sailing students, or yacht club members that may need a response. He then generates his own email, invariably related to sailing. After that, he reads his favorite sailing blogs and perhaps checks out the news on MSN.

After breakfast, if he doesn’t have any boat repairs or maintenance to deal with, he may type out a post to his own sailing blog or work on coaching plans for an after school practice session or meet for his high school sailing team. There are regatta invitations and van reservations to be made, trophies to be ordered and picked up, students, parents, athletic directors and other coaches to inform, attendance and medical forms to be tracked, and rainy day lessons, student pairings, meet schedules, and practice drills to be planned. Everything must be coordinated with his co-coach, and schedules and meet results must be recorded on the high school sailing website and communicated to the league director. Fortunately, the co-coach handles all the news articles about the team that must be written.

About four afternoons a week and one day most weekends in the spring, his time is dedicated to the business of coaching the team through a practice session or a competition. Many meets are held at other schools and often the kids must travel in vans 30 minutes to an hour each way for an away event. The sailing coaches, unlike the coaches of some other sports, drive the vans themselves. (Because they get qualified to drive the vans, they are frequently asked to drive other sports teams to meets in their vast leisure time.) If they are out at an away meet past 6:30 pm, the team sometimes stops for pizza on the way back to town. It is typical for the weary coach to arrive home between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.

When he isn’t actively involved in coaching, he is sailing in a local yacht club race, he is taking a course on sailing or boating safety, he is sailing in some other yacht club’s sponsored races, he is reading sailing magazines or books by experts on sailing tactics, he is sailing in a regional regatta, he is working on one of his many small sailboats, or he is sailing by himself on the lake across the street.

Golf widows have nothing on me.

Mrs. Yarg


  1. Assumption... there's no such thing as a day without the possibility of doing needed boat maintenance; just some days when it doesn't need to be done right away.

    (Of course, my son's very low key and low budget college team describes their CFJ dinghies as "more patch than original hull", and my perspective as an owner of older boats is that maintenance alone can be expanded to fill any possible number of hours available.)

    And, I don't always trust the NOAA wind forecasts to tell the whole story, so if it's a particularly important day I'll also pull up Accuweather,, Weather Underground, Intellicast, and USAirnet to see whether one of them has picked up a new weather trend or just to take a sort of "committee consensus" on the weather (and to warn me if the situation is unstable when they have big divergences). I do like NOAA's features of having the regular hour winds (2-minute puffs, more or less), gusts, and 20-foot wind predictions; these at least give me a vague idea of what to expect for puffs and lulls.

  2. I can appreciate your situation. I'm also a high school coach... coaching 3-4 practices a week and 2-days of weekend regattas (this year seemed to rain every weekend). Broken boats, travel, kids bailing out for AP's.... ugh! However, the energy I get back from my team makes it worthwhile! To know that they look forward to seeing me every day is my reward. And they learn. ANd they sail faster and better every week. Well, that's the reward along with a pretty solid paycheck...

    But like Ginger Rogers, I do it backwards and in heels, toting my 5-year old everywhere with me, working another (supposedly) full-time job and managing a household where my husband is a 24/7 sailing director who often travels the same weekends, leaving me to arrange childcare (or drag her with me!).

  3. Congratulation yarg. You made the Scuttlebutt newsletter... sailing blogging big-time!

  4. As a high school coach myself, it all sounds familiar. To be honest, however, the same story can be told about any professional that takes his or her job seriously.

  5. I am so excited when i heard about The High School Sailing Coach’s Life. Great shots... including the ethereal one! That would truly be something to see up close. What an experience. I once designed one for some friends who had a fairly large sailboat. I had a ball... although they never had it made. I used to go sailing with them every weekend (north shore of Long Island near New York City); we couldn't make turns "on a six pence" but we were were able to turn "on a small house. Sailing Team Building