2018 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
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.