Tips for Watersports Instructors
The term watersports covers a wide range of activities, with more being developed all the time. For our purposes here, we are going to concentrate on the watersports that offer recognised national qualifications, which allow you to forge a career as an instructor or coach. Leaving aside the activities that are covered by our paddlesports section, we can define watersports as dinghy sailing, yachting, surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding. The following article will provide some general advice and tips for people looking to get started in teaching watersports as an instructor.
You can get involved in watersports at any age and with any level of previous experience. People who have developed personal skills from a young age, often decide to learn how to become instructors so that they can share their already impressive knowledge. Others may take a fast track course, having barely set foot in a boat before! Once you have the basic personal skills under your belt, you can move on to learn how to teach and coach others how to enjoy those activities.
The RYA (Royal Yachting Association) is a governing body for watersports and sanctions the instructor courses for sailing, yachting and windsurfing. You can choose to train with many different companies around the country, but be careful if price is your deciding factor. While it is true that the cost of training courses can vary enormously, make sure you weigh up exactly what you get for your money. Some of the more expensive courses will include experiences that will add value to your qualification, such as the opportunity to spend some time working overseas.
When it comes to getting hired, it is your personality that will count as much if not more than your qualifications. The types of people best suited to watersport instructing are outgoing and good at engaging with young people, especially children. You need to be resourceful and flexible as the nature of the work you will be engaged in can be unpredictable. You should also be skilled at working as part of a team and while there will be plenty of opportunities for fun, you will have to remain professional while on duty as you will be acting as a representative for your company.
The more you get out on the water, the further you are going to progress as a watersports instructor. Take advantage of every opportunity to put into practice what you learn during your training. To stand out from all the other watersport instructors who will be applying for the same jobs as you, make professional development one of your priorities. Learning how to do something in theory is one thing, but it is only when you get the chance to practice what you have learned that you will improve as an instructor. If you are struggling to find paid work, why not ask around to see whether you can offer your services for a couple of weeks to gain that valuable experience.
Like many other outdoor instructor roles, being a watersports instructor means you are likely to experience plenty of variety in your day to day job. Each group you instruct will show different abilities and potential. As well as keeping you from enduring a boring routine, it will also keep you on your toes as you will need to be able to pitch your instructing at the correct level for each group and even at different levels within the same group.
Going back to the training section, some great advice we were given by a couple of employers was to make sure you don’t specialize too early. In other words, you may have long term ambitions to be a yachtmaster, but consider getting qualified to instruct personal watercraft or windsurfing too. It will give you more options during your career and will also give you more variety in your day to day work.
Most watersports instructors will spend at least some of their career working on a seasonal timetable. The lucky few may be able to secure year round work, but for most, employment can be anything from piecemeal for freelance instructors to, ‘go and find something else during the winter’! If the customers do not wish to learn how to sail during the British winter then your best bet is probably to head down to the Mediterranean, or even further afield. Even in season you may find yourself stuck on dry land due to extreme weather; not much fun, but it is the nature of the beast.
The watersports community is pretty close-knit. If you train with a group of individuals who also stick at it and develop their careers, chances are you will bump into them again, or more likely, never lose touch. Indeed, having a good list of contacts within any industry is a distinct advantage, for watersports instructors, it is crucial, especially those of you going down the freelance route. Building a good network of friends could be the difference between a successful watersports career and long periods of unemployment.