Recently, the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING) interviewed HWS Head Sailing Coach Scott Ikle. The interview, in question-and-answer form, appeared on the organization’s news section of its website. US SAILING is the national governing body for sailing.
The article notes, “In this question and answer session with Ikle, he discusses a number of relevant topics surrounding college sailing, including an approach to practice plans, what he looks for in potential recruits, making the transition to the college game, offseason training, and logistical challenges facing college programs…”
One “trade secret” Ikle shares is “A good coach does not plan day-to-day. All the top college coaches today plan for the season and where they want their team’s performance to be at the end of the season for championship events.”
The full article follows.
Jake Fish • Communications Manager
Last week, US SAILING’s College Coaches Corner debuted with Stanford Head Coach John Vandemoer. In our continued efforts to educate the sailing community about the “ins-and-outs” of college sailing, US SAILING interviewed Scott Ikle, head coach of the Hobart and William Smith College sailing team.
In this question and answer session with Ikle, he discusses a number of relevant topics surrounding college sailing, including an approach to practice plans, what he looks for in potential recruits, making the transition to the college game, offseason training, and logistical challenges facing college programs… This is an outstanding resource for coaches interested in taking a shot at the college ranks and for high school sailors interested in sailing at the collegiate level.
When developing your weekly practice plans, briefly discuss the criteria you use when preparing for your next regatta… How do your practice plans change day-to-day through the course of a week?
Here is a trade secret… a good coach does not plan day-to-day. All the top college coaches today plan for the season and where they want their team’s performance to be at the end of the season for championship events. The trick is – how do you get your team there? Here at Hobart and William Smith we focus on developing the entire team together, making our weakest link the strongest link. Hence, everyone gets better over the course of the season since everyone is being pushed at practice by their teammates. A team together can push to higher levels of performance. Together if you have a vision of where you are going, you now know how to get there. A detailed practice plan developed before the season starts, will provide a start for this journey.
What qualities and skill sets in sailors do you look for when recruiting?
I am looking for “PhD’s”- someone who is poor, hungry and driven. Guys like Andy Horton, Trevor Moore, Colin Merrick, Amanda Callahan, John Storck and John Pearce to name a few. Guys who have that fire in their eyes; they just wanted “it” a little bit more than the next guy. We seem to attract athletes that are not afraid to work hard for what they want. And if you have to explain what “it” is, they do not have “it.” That is why these guys continue to be top sailors today.
What are some of the challenges high school/summer sailors need to consider while making the transition to college sailing?
Keep it fun! Parents and high school coaches put way too much pressure on developing an impressive sailing resume. If you sail for the love of the game in the long run you will have a better collegiate sailing experience.
How important has it been for you to be creative with fundraising? Got an example?
If there is new creative way to ask for money, please let me know. Teams make the mistake of fund raising in the short run by asking supporters to fund the current year only. They operate year to year with no fiscal stability. That is when students have to start paying to play. I believe teams need to work with their institutions to endow their teams in order to help offset their annual operating costs. A multi-year comprehensive fundraising strategy can remove the pay-to- play aspect that seems to be all too common in college sailing.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a varsity program? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a club?
The obvious answer is that varsity programs such as Hobart and William Smith has better funding and coaching than a club team. But it does come at a price for the student-athlete. There will be more demands on their time if they want to be a varsity athlete, with practicing and training. I see this only as an advantage. The harder you work, the better sailor you will become. And isn’t that what we are training to do? Get better and win regattas?
What kind of offseason training is expected from your sailors?
We were one of the first teams to develop a comprehensive, year-round training program that a lot of teams now emulate. Bottom line is that sailing is a thinking game. If you are fit you will not get tired, and when you are not tired you can think clearer, so you are going to have an edge on those not training.
Do you have challenges facing your program based on your location? How do you work around those?
The fact of the matter is that if you are sailing in intersectional regattas, you are going to have to travel to events. If you are familiar with college sailing you know that Hobart and William Smith Colleges is a major hosting site within the ICSA. One weekend you may be in Geneva and the next weekend in Boston or Annapolis. By the end of the season all the top teams have traveled to the same regattas and racked up about the same mileage. Yet when it comes to travel, we do have a major advantage over many other colleges. Our boathouse is located on campus and no one has to drive to practice which means more study time for our student-athletes. The ability to walk to practice and sail on Seneca Lake, one of the best open water venues in all of college sailing, is a major plus for the members of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges sailing team. And for some reason Upstate New York gets a bad rap for the weather, but the lake does not ice over and we are able to sail year-round in some ideal conditions.