Launched for life

Our groundbreaking survey My LegaSea shows the benefits of Sea Cadets: it gives young people a head start and helps them to be the best version of themselves

Resilience, self-discipline, confidence, trust, a sense of purpose – these are just some of the things that former cadets mentioned when we asked them about the impact that Sea Cadets has had on their lives, as part of our groundbreaking research project My LegaSea.  

As part of the first-ever multi-generational review of the long-term impact of being part of a youth group like Sea Cadets, more than 3,000 former cadets told us about their experiences of being a cadet, and how it shaped their futures. 

The results were announced recently at a virtual event, introduced by Theresa May MP, and show that Sea Cadets plays an important role in helping young people through the most challenging of times – the transition from childhood to adulthood. 

Cadets take part in the National Band Competition at the Tower of London, 2019

Coping strategy 

After a year of disruption due to Covid-19 lockdowns, young people need all the help they can get to cope with challenging situations. One former cadet, Oliver James, says being a sea cadet gave him the tools he needed
“to carry on when times got tough”. 

The research suggests that young people often don’t even realise they are picking up skills for life until later on, when they’re adults.

“In the moment, the key thing you’re aware of is all the fun you’re having,” says Oliver of his time as a sea cadet. “It’s a constant source of activity and fun.”

But behind the adventure of an offshore voyage, for example, is a level of managed and positive risk that allows young people to explore challenging situations in a safe environment, and to build up resilience that will help them with more serious challenges they might face later on.

Cadets from Wandsworth gear up for getting out on the water

You do you 

Sea Cadets shows young people “what they might be, rather than what they are,” says Tony Jeffs, a leading academic in youth work who contributed to the research project. Oliver says that being a cadet “had a profound impact” on who he is today. Feedback from the survey reveals that people feel welcomed at Sea Cadets – whoever they are.

‘It’s a safe space in which to push their own boundaries and be themselves, regardless of demographic, identity or background’

Anna Spencer, lead researcher for My LegaSea

Anna Spencer, who led the research, says it shows that young people can build healthy relationships and “mental equilibrium” at Sea Cadets, by navigating relationships with other cadets, sometimes in moments of pressure. “It’s a safe space in which to push their own boundaries and be themselves,” explains Anna. “Regardless of demographic, identity or background.” 

Reaching your potential 

“I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for Sea Cadets,” says Oliver, who was so inspired by his rowing instructors at Sea Cadets that he went on to compete in the Rio Olympics. He now has a career passing on the skills he learned by coaching other aspiring young athletes.  

In 2018, research by The Prince’s Trust found that young people lack positive role models – a void that Sea Cadets fills. Rita Cobb was 17 when she joined the Girls Nautical Training Corps in 1951 (it would later merge with Sea Cadets). At a time when there was nothing much to do in her village, it gave young people an outlet. Rita’s inspiring female leaders and the confidence she gained as a cadet would lead her to travel Europe as a musician, to continue spending time on the water, and pursue a career in a male-dominated field. In short, she says, “It made my life interesting.” 

The almost universally positive responses to My LegaSea show that being a cadet during their formative years plays a vital role in a young person’s development, especially for those not so suited to school. Being in the ‘yes environment’ of Sea Cadets makes young people realise what they are capable of. And, at a time when the world of work has become increasingly uncertain, the skills they learn can open up new career opportunities. Martin Coles, CEO of Sea Cadets, says the results show Sea Cadets has a “proven track record of improving job prospects across generations.” 

Challenging waterborne activities encourage young people to work together and learn new skills

The greater good

Introducing the results, Theresa May, former Prime Minister and current President of Maidenhead Sea Cadets, said the research demonstrates that it’s “the contribution to a young person’s whole life, not just within Sea Cadets, that is hugely important.  

“I’ve seen the immediate value – the coming together, the camaraderie, the teamworking and the skills they develop and the fun they have.”

Theresa May MP, President of Maidenhead Sea CAdets

“As a Member of Parliament, I have seen over the years the value of the cadet groups in my constituency, particularly Sea Cadets,” said Mrs May. “I’ve seen the immediate value – the coming together, the camaraderie, the teamworking and the skills they develop and the fun they have.”

She says My LegaSea is an important document for anyone with an interest in “building our youth for the future. What a wonderful aim for us to have. Sea Cadets does that and this research shows that.”

Martin Coles adds: “The evidence is clear that there is a link between structured youth groups and later life. Being engaged in the local community helps young people in developing skills and a sense of civic responsibility.” Furthermore, he says, “the impact is especially noticeable in harder-to-reach communities.” 

Being a sea cadet shows you “what it means to be a good quality person,” Oliver concludes. The responsibility that he feels to pass this on to the next generation is another reason he went on to work with young people himself. “The values of compassion and kindness have stayed with me.”

My LegaSea highlights:
the long-term benefits

of respondents believe Sea Cadets had
a positive long-term impact on their life

reported that Sea Cadets increased their independence and skills in the longer term 

said Sea Cadets improved their happiness and wellbeing while they were members 

said Sea Cadets helped them with their careers in the longer term 

Watch the launch of the My Legasea report, introduced by Theresa May MP:

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