Meet Sarah Nicholson

Meet Sarah Nicholson

Meet Sarah Nicholson, 2020 Senior Instructor of the Year Nominee

Sarah has worked in a number of different clubs over the years, including Manhattan Yacht Club, so taking the Senior Instructor course in April 2019 and working as a Senior Instructor in her beloved Sligo Yacht Club was a natural progression.

Why did you decide to become a Senior Instructor?

Ever since I was on the junior course I looked up to the SIs and I wanted eventually take on the role myself and bring the experiences learned in other clubs back to Sligo.

How did you find the Senior Instructor training course?

The mix of instructors from different backgrounds was good and I got to see how different clubs operated and learn new viewpoints. Some would take 150 participants and others have a max of 30; or some would have different types of boats and waters and club environments. It was good to see how each managed their environment and make things efficient. All of our on-the-water skill levels were similar.

What did you learn from the course?

Dave Garvey (from Irish Sailing) delivered constructive feedback throughout the course - giving positives first and ideas to improve. We also listened to feedback from the other trainees, which taught us how to use the same technique, which I now use in everyday life. It’s a great method of keeping people motivated.

Can you share any challenges you experienced as a Senior Instructor?

Dealing with the tidal conditions is a daily challenge in Sligo, but at least you know when they are coming and going. Spring and neap are drastically different with the main channel from Rosses Point. It is not an option to go out with beginners when the tide is strong. I used my experience from different clubs to develop new ways to manage it and shared those ideas with the team of instructors and volunteers.

Did you have any support from your club?

We are a club with limited resources and the volunteers of Sligo Yacht Club gave a lot of their time to ensure the training programme was possible. They helped so much with sails, rope, parts, hand sanitisers, masks, slipway maintenance and so much more to make it all happen.

Any tips to other instructors thinking of becoming a Senior Instructor?

  1. Listen to your team ...
    ... You need to take everyone’s opinion into account, including the assistant instructors. One thing I really appreciated from new instructors was them using their own intuition and knowledge of the area. Young Dinghy Instructors often find it difficult to express their ideas and thoughts, so I like to encourage others to share their own ideas and opinions.
  2. Preparation is extremely important ...
    ... I had a morning check list for the instructors and another for the trainees, so I didn’t forget anything each day.
  3. Awareness of time ...
    ... Be aware of your own daily timeline, but also remind your instructors. Giving a call-out on the radio is really helpful for them to start wrapping up their day’s goals.
  4. Making time for feedback ...
    ... Make time in your morning briefings to listen to feedback and learning from your team of instructors.
  5. Encourage your team to communicate their own intuitive thoughts ...
    ... If they see a big black cloud on the horizon then make sure you listen to them and then others will not hesitate to share their thoughts.
  6. Overall respect for everyone ...
    ... From Assistant Instructors, Dinghy Instructors, Helpers, Committee … we all have a voice and a point of view.

Sarah is currently studying for her final year exams in pharmacy and we wish her all the very best in her career.

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