The Team15 initiative has been one of the biggest and most successful projects our sport has seen and still growing strong. You can find out about all the successes, opportunities and how not to miss out below…
RYA Team15 – the future for club windsurfing
Much has changed since 2001 when Bob the Builder topped the charts, Tony Blair was Prime Minister and our economy was booming. It’s true of the windsurfing world too, which has also seen some radical developments over the last 10 years. Boards have got fatter and lighter, masts have got thinner and the Team15 programme has grown to a point where the UK has one of the finest club structures for young windsurfers in the world.
The RYA Team15 (T15) programme was in embryonic form back in 2001 and in March 2011 celebrated a decade of success.
Arguably, one of the biggest developments in the world of windsurfing in the last 10 years, Team15 was set up to provide not only a feed into the RYA competition pathway, but if not more importantly, to develop a grassroots programme that made it easier for youngsters up to the age of 15 to get involved in the sport.
It was identified that the best way to do this was by developing a network of clubs that could provide friendly, fun- filled competition out on the water combined with good coaching and supervision.
“The programme looked to ensure that windsurfing skills of all descriptions were nurtured, providing children with a good foundation in the sport, allowing them to take their windsurfing in whichever direction they wanted.
“Suitable kit is also made readily available by the clubs and, essentially, the programme was ready to go”, explained Team15 Manager and the RYA’s National Windsurfing Development Officer Gillian Wright, who has been a driving force behind the programme since its inception.
In the formative years of the T15 Programme, a new style of coaching programme had to be developed to underpin the T15 philosophy. Coaches and organisers were ready and willing to go the extra mile in order to ensure that it was a success and the take up was extremely good. Ten years on and many of today’s young windsurfers will undoubtedly have experienced that first thrill of windsurfing under the careful supervision of a Team15 club.
Perhaps the best measure of the programme’s success is to take a look at some of the alumni who have graduated through the ranks of T15. World class sailors such as Izzy Hamilton, the Sills family – big brother Sam and twin sisters, Saskia and Imogen; Youth Olympics Bronze Medallist Kieren Martin; Freewave sailors George Shillito, Graham Woods and Adam Lewis who left T15 to form Team AirBorn are just a few of the ex-T15 sailors who have gone on to greater things and many have become windsurfing instructors of talent themselves.
“Given that the first batch of graduates from T15 are just starting to come through, it’s exciting to think who will burst onto the scene having been nurtured and helped along their way by the programme”, enthused Gillian.
Developing the windsurfing stars of the future is really just the thin end of the wedge, however when it comes to T15. For every star of the future the programme helps along the way, there will be a hundred or so youngsters who catch the bug for windsurfing for life and will help keep our wonderful sport flourishing. Beyond everything else, this is what makes this programme so important.
Another key aspect of the T15 programme is the Champions Cup. In order to develop the grassroots competition side of the programme, clubs were encouraged to put together a team of up to 15 children, all aged 15 or under – which is how the programme got its name.
Friendly inter-club rivalry was encouraged, and to give the whole thing a clear structure, teams from the same zones took part in inter- club challenges and vied for the chance to make it to the T15 national Championships – the T15 Champions Cup. It was a foundation which has been built on with great success.
Team15’er Tom Sylvester from the 2010 Roseland Waveriders team said: “The Champions Cup is brilliant. It involves everyone from the younger ones who are just beginning right up to age 15. I’m now in my final year and Team15 has been so good. I love getting out in the wind and getting the speed going.
“My advice for other youngsters who want to windsurf is to find a Team15 club, join as quickly as possible and get out on the water lots.”
Today there are currently some 80 Team15 clubs from a far afield as Cornwall and Scotland with many of them putting their windsurfing skills to the test in the Team15 inter-club championship and this year’s competition is set to be a corker.
But what’s in store for the future of Team15?
“Naturally I’m very proud of what we have achieved so far, and I’m sure there is more to come from T15. It’s fantastic to see the youngsters progressing from Team15 to succeed in a variety of windsurfing disciplines including racing, freestyle and waves. Whatever they go on to do, we hope that they will continue to windsurf long after their Team15 days”, continued Gillian.
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