Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Fresh Perspective on Evaluating Your Programs

by Stu Gilfillen, Sailing Program Administrator at US Sailing

When I was a program director, one of the major questions that I always had was, “Where does my program compare to other programs nationwide?” While the question sounds like it was geared towards gauging what my achievements were, in reality it was more about seeing if I was on the right track in comparison to other programs that I viewed as the national standard for excellence.

When you’re looking for a college, it’s very easy to identify what makes one better overall and in specific disciplines, but with sailing programs the quantifiable data isn’t so readily available. I found that the only real option I had to be able to figure out what I was doing right (and what I was doing wrong) was to attend events like US Sailing’s National Sailing Programs Symposium, where I can “talk shop” with other sailing directors. I found that event invaluable because not only did I realize how my program compared to other organizations, but it allowed me to share ideas and brainstorm with similar individuals who seemed to get equally excited by the concept of creative programming as I did. Thankfully, “passionless” is never an adjective when used to describe sailors and this led me to some great conversations and great ideas.

Now that I’m working at US Sailing, I have a unique vantage point. From the Regional Sailing Programs Symposiums to the National event, I am able to connect with programs on a much more regular basis and develop a database of information that I can share with other organizations. And while part of my goal is to share information and resources, it’s also just as important to promote the organizations that create them. It’s much less about taking credit and more about providing a spotlight.

US Sailing as an organization is constantly working to improve. Providing resources is a big part of that. In the near future, those resources that I mentioned will be available in an easy to find location on our website and as we hold more and more Regional Meetings, we’ll be able to talk to people in your area about how you can successfully run everything from STEM (Teaching Math and Science through Sailing) programs to “Safety training for instructors” seminars. 

Nothing will be accomplished overnight, but I would invite anyone who has questions about programming, or just want to get involved, to contact us at We’d love to help you put a spotlight on what your program is doing well.

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