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Spring Camp Gets Lakewood Youth Out of the Digital World and Into the Sailing World
In an age where digital devices constantly compete for our attention, youth sailors prove themselves a rare breed. Spring training is gearing up at Lakewood, and kids throughout Clear Lake are ditching their cell phones for wetsuits and sailboats.

Move over seafarers. Sailing's not just your father's sport anymore. Boys and girls as young as first graders are ready to unplug and set sail.

For many youth sailors, racing has raised a bright and shiny bar that refuses to go away. Even less competitive kids are consumed by the thrill of the open waves. From age six, every newcomer to the world of sailing aspires to two things -- keeping the boat upright and winning a race.

Earning a spot on a racing team is an investment that Lakewood's youth sailors are willing to pay.

A typical weekend of spring training looks like breakfast on the go without even hitting the snooze button. Waking before sunrise, sailors gear-up and head to the club for a full day of practice on the water.

One of the biggest challenges facing a first-time racer is finding the stamina to just get out and compete. Not only do racers need coaching on strategy and technique. Motivation is one of the key components of getting any racer to plunge in at full-throttle. Lakewood's Sailing Director, Marek Valasek, knows a thing or two about motivating others to personal mastery.

After winning the National Championship for his home country Slovakia a total of seven times, Valasek decided to up-anchor and move to the United States. His one burning goal? To compete in the Finn class sailing events at the summer Olympics.

Overcoming the tremendous odds of adapting to an entirely new environment, Valasek settled in the southeast and began training for the Olympics. On the day of the event in 1996, Valasek's life was forever changed. Competing with Olympic-caliber sailors in Atlanta tested Valasek. It challenged his skills and raised his standards for personal mastery in sailing -- a level of excellence that's he's eager to pass on to everyone he trains.

Valasek remarks that, "Kids who sail tend to learn how to solve problems on their own, operate more independently, and be accountable for their actions."

Even in heavy winds and biting temperatures, Lakewood's youth sailors tend to be all-in. Not even gusts up to 40mph interfere with practice. Training goes on. For these kids, it's just another awesome day out on the water. I got to catch up with a few racers in the opti class on a particularly blustery day in November. I asked them if they were freezing, and they said no.

"We've been out in the freezing cold before. Today we were sailing in gusty waves. The wind out there is high. But we get to go really, really fast!"

And the reward for training under droll weather conditions? Mastering your racing skills, and finally -- winning a race. Nothing spurs a youth sailor to victory like the taste of their first win. One of the junior racers shared what it's like to actually win a competition.

"Last year, I won a race in the Cold Front Series. I didn't say anything about it at school. But I called my Grandma. She was pretty impressed. She took me out to Kenny & Ziggy's for a corned beef sandwich."

As the stakes get higher, Lakewood's high school sailors fix their sights on slightly more prestigious prizes. Competing in the 2016 Orange Bowl Regatta, Lakewood's youth team brought home the highly-coveted first-place trophies in both laser and 420 classes. Winning big only gives rising sailors a taste for a boating lifestyle they can't get enough of.

One of the key advantages to learning to sail within a club environment is the continued momentum of the sailing way of life. Valasek adds that, "Sailing also introduces kids to a lifestyle within a strong yachting community that they'll enjoy on into the future." Without the solid framework of successful club routines, many sailors don't continue to practice and spend time on the water. The Youth Sailing Program at Lakewood offers tactical and strategic skills to build top-notch success at the fleet and team racing levels.

Back on shore to grab a quick slice of pizza, most of the kids head straight for their cell phones. Break time’s almost up and there won’t be any texting for at least a few more hours. But then again, who’s got texting on their mind in a 40-mile-an-hour wind? When you're out on the water and get to go really, really fast, it’s already been a totally awesome day.

Topping out at over 100 sailors, Lakewood's Youth Sailing Program trains athletes who sail in opti class, laser class, and even the Olympic-grade 470 class. Directed by Olympic competitor Marek Valasek, the Lakewood sailing team enjoys coaching expertise from international competitors as well as winners of top-ranking national regattas. Program opportunities are available for youth aged six and older. For information about Lakewood's Youth Sailing Program, contact Marek Valasek here.





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Anne Bechard 
Digital Marketing Specialist

I'm thrilled to be a part of Lakewood's marketing team! From an early age, I started showing signs of becoming an auspicious writing geek. Today, I'm a columnist for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Business Insider. I get excited about exploring new ideas, communicating in a creative way, and solving problems that stump me. It's especially thrilling that I get to do all this in a place that personifies one of my greatest loves -- nature and the outdoors. I'm looking forward to growing our digital marketing techniques and meeting your communications needs with excellence!



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