Hi Mullet readers!
Bailey Rosen here, stoked to be back this week giving you some tips about getting a kids SUP team started in your own backyard! Junior training groups have been popping up in recent months on the West Coast, now reaching the East Coast. I recently pioneered my own SUP team in Florida inspired by the Performance Paddling Team that I was selected for a few years back. It was the first ever official SUP Competition Team for juniors, headed by Candice Appleby and Anthony Vela. Since then, I’ve had other paddle enthusiasts approach me looking for help with starting their own program. That is so rad! I’m all about encouraging kids to paddle, so here’s some tips from my experience to help you establish your own kids paddling group!

10 Things to Think About When Starting Your Own Junior SUP Group

Stand up paddling is generally pretty easy for kids to pick up, especially in a calm, flatwater area. But it is a watersport, and there’s a definite risk associated with putting minors out on the water where not everything is completely under control. It may seem like a no-brainer to most watersport enthusiasts, but it’s important to consider the swimming ability of the kids. Also, make sure they all wear leashes and PFDs, and paddle in a safe, relatively controlled area. 
2. Take on only what you can handle.
Managing kids isn’t easy, especially out on the water. Decide how many kids you can watch at a time based on how many eyes are watching them. Also, make a plan for the number of practices you can host over a given period of time. For my Florida Junior SUP Team, that’s one per month, given how spread out the kids are over the state. But if you’re starting a local team, you may be able to host practice sessions more frequently.
3. What about equipment?
Will all of the kids have their own boards and paddles, or will you be providing necessary gear? It’s important for everyone to have equipment proportionate to their size so they can paddle comfortably, have control over their board, and avoid shoulder injuries, which are starting to pop up with alarming frequency, especially in kids with developing muscles and bones. Most kids on my team use the Quickblade Microfly paddle and absolutely love it!
4. Goal Setting 
Set goals for your team. What’s your purpose for creating a kids paddle group? Racing, recreation, surfing, fitness, or teaching beginners? Start the process with your goals in mind so you can set a direction and help the kids grow their skills and make progress. Start with smaller goals and move progressively upward. I have seen from experience that with plenty of motivation and proper direction, the kids can accomplish amazing things! 
5. Keep in contact with parents.
For me, this works best with a Facebook group all the parents (and some of the kids) join. I also use email and phone to keep up with the team members and get the word out about updates and practices. Communication is key.
Give the kids something that encourages team spirit! Matching tees, hats, or even just board decals give a physical indication that they are part of a group. This will build their inclination towards sportsmanship and unite them within the team. 
7. Planning Practices
Look back at the goals you have set and ask yourself, “what can I do to reach these goals?” Keep the practices fun and entertaining, but also challenging. I aim to start practice with some team building and fun, then move into sharpening their skills and picking up new techniques. Every session, the kids should walk away knowing more than when they began. 
8. Team building!
Sportsmanship and camaraderie are essential for kids, and it’s part of what makes SUP so fun! On the FL Junior SUP Team, the kids genuinely like each other and are always interacting on and off the water. The older kids mentor the younger ones, who hang on every word. In order for paddling to grow to its full potential, it has to be a sport that engages kids, and nothing engages kids more than, well, other kids!
9. Communication with the team.
Keep in mind that talking with an 8-year-old is different than talking with a 12-year-old. It’s important to be engaging and fun while recognizing that these kids are sharp, and pick up on everything you say and do. Your task is to be more interesting and fun than their iPad. Good luck. 
10. Come to a clinic!
Little bit of shameless self-promotion here, my last tip is to come to my clinic and mini-symposium at Lazy Dog Paddle Fest on February 8 and 9! I’ll be going full nerd and unloading statistics on all of you with some really interesting trends I’ve seen in SUP for kids. I’ll also be hosting a specialized kids clinic, and The Mullet himself will attend be in attendance to dispense his wisdom. Plus, Key West! Don’t miss it. https://distressedmullet.com/events/lazy-dog-sup-fest-and-race
Bailey Rosen is back with fantastic tips!