April 16, 2012

Tips from the Top - The DeBrief

Scott Poe

Coaches talk about setting goals-reasonable and achievable goals before a
competition. These goals get us to train, practice and fine-tune ourselves
and our boats leading up to the regatta. But what about after the regatta?
What do you do after each competition is just as important as the goals
leading up to it. We call this, the Debrief.

The time immediately following a race or regatta, is the perfect opportunity
for racers to assess their achievements, compare them to the goals set, and
make sure that they "bank" all the learning that occurred out on the
racecourse. Basically, capture all the good stuff, and discuss the not so
good as well. In addition, on a multi-race day, make sure you have a mini
debrief between races. Important, this should be done after the boat is
prepped for the next start, and while everyone grabs a bite or drink. This
will help to keep everyone focused, and the results will show it.

The main debrief should be done on the ride back in for several reasons.
One, you have a captive audience. Two, items are "fresh" in everyone's mind.
And three, no one has wondered off to the bar! Items to discuss are mark
roundings, sets/douses what worked what didn't, communications, did someone
discover a better way to do a maneuver, etc...

It's important to remember that every crew is a TEAM. We are all in this
together. The debrief should only take 10-15 minutes, be kept upbeat, with
no finger pointing, and end on a positive note. You want your crew walking
away feeling good. It is also important for someone to be ready to take
notes if needed. West Marine's "Wet-Notes" work great for this. This
information should then be reiterated the next day or weekend during the
pre-race meeting.

If you want to take it one-step further, after the crews all home ask them
write down a short regatta report/critique on their position, the regatta
and any feedback, it could be invaluable. Plus it's a great way for them to
feel more involved and valued. This is a great opportunity to refine the
"playbook" for each position on the boat. After a multi-race regatta, even
the most uncommon maneuvers have been performed a few times at least. What
better way to build a position-by-position playbook? The same exact crew may
not be on board at the next regatta. Plus, newbies will benefit from past
experience. And even if the same crewmembers return, they will have
forgotten some of the nuances of their position and will benefit from a
re-read of their regatta notes. 

Bottom line, the debrief is a fantastic team-building exercise. Not only
will it make the boat run smoother and more efficiently, each and every
crewmember will feel valued and appreciated. And I dare you find me a harder
working, more loyal crew than one that feels wholly a valuable part of the