April 3, 2009
A Return to my Roots
A significant upside to our economic downturn has been the opportunity for me to return to a personal and professional passion, coaching sailing. In particular, coaching college sailing.
When I was presented with the opportunity to coach Northeastern University in Boston, I did not jump. I had never heard of Northeastern, and knew relatively nothing about the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s (NEISA) club-level sailing circuit, in which Northeastern operates. I looked at other known quantities first. No other season-long positions were available, and while I needed to maintain schedule flexibility for other commitments, I enjoy working with a group over a period and measuring the results.
Fran Charles, sailing master of the famed MIT program was my primary information source regarding Northeastern and NEISA. The MIT program coincidentally shares space at its facility on the Charles River in Cambridge with the Northeastern team. I have known Fran and his MIT coaching staff for many years and after a few phone calls and a meeting with the Northeastern sailing team leadership, I accepted the sailing coach position for the spring 2009 season.
Ned Jones| |Sailing in MIT’s Club Juniors, the Northeastern University Sailing Team goes through some drills on the Charles River in Boston.| In doing so, I returned to a line of work I’d held for 12 years, but not for the last nine while I worked at Vanguard Sailboats (now LaserPerformance). My prior experience in college coaching included a quick indoctrination at my alma mater, Orange Coast College, in Newport Beach, Calif., which introduced me to Adam Werblow, head coach at St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland. I crossed the country to rural Maryland to take over the nationally ranked Seahawks team while Adam pursued Olympic gold in the Flying Dutchman Class. From there I moved to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., and then to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. These were teams that were annually vying for national championship berths, recruiting blue-chip junior sailors, and creating All-America sailors and prestige for their institutions.
Up next: Northeastern University. A club team where the majority of the team never sailed prior to college. But they are eager and genuinely appreciate the simple act of sailing Club Juniors several times a week. This, I think, is the essence of college sailing. With dozens of similarly skilled teams, an entire regatta circuit to play in, and a home base at the MIT Sailing Pavilion, this is an amazing opportunity of which I had no prior knowledge. For them, and for me.