Sailing World - - Starting Line -

It had been 57 years since the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy won the Henry A. Morss Me­mo­rial Tro­phy (named for an MIT alum), awarded to the team that wins the Gill Col­lege Sail­ing Coed Na­tional Cham­pi­onship. The Engi­neers won both the A and B di­vi­sions last spring, as they did back in 1961. Al­though it had been some time since the Bos­ton-based sailors won these tro­phies, it was not sur­pris­ing. The MIT sail­ing pro­gram has a long his­tory in col­lege sail­ing, and the ethos of the school and the sail­ing pro­gram play a part in their legacy and suc­cess.

“With this par­tic­u­lar group of sailors, the de­sire to win was re­ally strong, and the work ethic over the past four years showed how they were self­less and ex­tremely hard­work­ing,” says Matt Lind­blad, co-head coach of the var­sity sail­ing team. “Com­ing into this year, Mike [Kalin] and I rec­og­nized the po­ten­tial to be the most suc­cess­ful team that we have had at MIT in a long time.”

“Those kids were in­cred­i­bly self-mo­ti­vated,” says Kalin, MIT co-head coach, of the win­ning team. “For ex­am­ple, one sailor, Sameena Shaf­feeul­lah, is a two-time All-amer­i­can who had never sailed be­fore MIT, and is one of the coolest, nicest, most awe­some peo­ple I have met in my life. But it’s hard to pin­point one per­son, coach or rea­son as to why this group of kids was so spe­cial and suc­cess­ful. Proof of that is our women’s team, which was win­ning na­tion­als af­ter day one [the women fin­ished the re­gatta in fourth place over­all],” says Kalin.

Coach Lind­blad is en­ter­ing his 13th year lead­ing the Engi­neers, and Kalin is en­ter­ing his 11th. The two coaches have a com­ple­men­tary part­ner­ship and look at sail­ing the same way. This, they say, al­lows for good com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the coaches and sailors, which is a cor­ner­stone of the team’s suc­cess when it comes to work­ing through aca­demic and ath­letic sched­ules.

“We have highly struc­tured prac­tices, sup­port­ive team poli­cies and pro­ce­dures,” says Lind­blad. “MIT is all about pur­su­ing pas­sions in a lim­it­less way and at­tack­ing prob­lems with cre­ativ­ity, joy and all-out ef­fort. I think there are many par­al­lels be­tween the ed­u­ca­tional phi­los­o­phy and how the var­sity team goes about our busi­ness.”

MIT is known for its aca­demic rigor and chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and given these de­mands, it’s hard to imag­ine the stu­dents have time for much else, but ac­cord­ing to Lind­blad and Kalin, their sailors main­tain al­most per­fect prac­tice at­ten­dance and sail as much as, if not more than, some of their com­peti­tors.

“MIT var­sity sailors don’t look at the aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment, highly se­lec­tive ad­mis­sions stan­dards and ex­pe­ri­ence gaps as rea­sons we can’t win,” says Lind­blad. “They look at them as op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn and im­prove through hard work, con­tin­u­ous in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment and a highly sup­port­ive team-teach­ing en­vi­ron­ment. The term we use for these traits is growth mind­set. The kids that come to MIT have the pas­sion, fun spirit, in­cred­i­ble work ethic and thirst for knowl­edge that also make our team suc­cess­ful.”

MIT coach Mike Kalin ad­dresses his Engi­neers.

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