Courageous Sailing: Connecting to Succeed

This post is part of a series about the workshop presentations delivered at the ACT Skills Summit.

Jen Bodde and Ashton Smith presented Courageous Sailing’s approach to fostering healthy communication, teamwork, and relationships.

Courageous Sailing involves three programs – Swim Sail Science, Steps to Lead, and Instructors in Training – for different age groups. Many of their youth start the program at the very beginning, the summer before fourth grade, and work their way up to becoming instructors. Jen and Ashton credit the strong interpersonal skills of their participants with much of this success.

The workshop involved modeling activities to cultivate the Connect skills. Attendees first participated in several typical “ice breakers” designed to get them to know one another. At Courageous Sailing, staff are very intentional about using these activities to generate the right kind of interactions between their youth.

“What did that activity allow you to do?” Jen asked the group, forcing them to reflect on the application of the exercise to other activities. Teamwork exercises can be used to form legitimate connections. For example, communicating well in a game may be applicable to communicating well during a group project.

Jen and Ashton also challenged participants to think about the “magic” of their programs. Sailing, for example, is very conducive to team building. Every program has unique features that can be used strategically to teach these skills.

The remainder of the workshop session was spent on an engineering challenge: building the highest tower out of paper, tape, and scissors. Participants then reflected on their experiences using:

  • What: what happened?
  • So what: why do we care?
  • Now what: what do we do moving forward?

This reflection framework can be used with youth as well.

Finally, Ashton shared some new steps that Courageous Sailing is taking to improve their practices relating to the Connect skills, including the SAIL (survey, acknowledge, initiate, learn) through Conflict system and a lesson sequence on mindfulness adapted from Mindful Schools. All of the workshop materials can be found here.