- Published on Friday, 07 September 2012 13:26
- Written by Carlo Caraluzzo
7 August 2012 - UK. The news is usually full of baseball, basketball and football players making controversial statements to the press. This is not new and usually surprises no one when it happens and most of us ignore it. But a few weeks ago when Ben Ainslie criticized the public school system for not teaching sailing he has stirred a large hornet´s nest of controversy. Ainslie said that while many private schools have sailing classes as part of their curriculum none of the public schools do and he maintains that this lack is at least partly responsible for low grades. Ainslie said that “There should be an afternoon put aside…for sports such as sailing.” Comparing private school grades with public schools grades he implied that the reason that public school grades were significantly lower was because of the lack of time-intensive sports as part of the curriculum.
Ainslie´s statements have attracted a great deal of ire from not only public school officials and sports directors but many reporters for the yachting community and purists as well. The public school systems feel criticized for not providing programs that are simply not in the budget. Buying a set of uniforms and a ball to play with is one thing, but buying several small sailboats and maintaining them throughout the year is something entirely different, and since most schools are not located near water, traveling expenses for classes each week will lead to even higher expenses. School officials feel that their limited resources would be far better used on teaching and improving test results than on sailing.
But purists, especially sports writers, are complaining simply because many believe that sailing instruction is best conducted by families and that all the real champions, including Olympians, were introduced to sailing by their families who dedicated many of their weekends to early instruction. The problem with this objection however is the seeming inability of these people to see the big picture. Of course families pay a huge part in early sailing instruction. But the truth is that, in most cases, sailing champions might have begun instruction on the family boat but without professional instruction, whether by private tutors or in sailing classes, very few of today´s best captains and crews could have risen to the top of the sport.
A number of writers have implied that Ainslie was suggesting that sailing instruction should be exclusively in the venue of the school system. The problem with this is that even in private schooling; students receive instruction from professional instructors in school and take those lessons home to practice with their families when on holiday. Ben Ainslie understands the huge impact that sailing has had on his own life and simply wanted to see this wonderful experience extended to all of our young people. We may have record breaking sailors in our public schools, men and women who will astound us in the future with their skill, that we may never see simply because their schools do not offer instruction and their families cannot afford a boat.