Rowing is arguably the most physically demanding and intense sport known to men and women. It fosters bonds between its athletes like that of no other sport. Rowing is also extraordinary in terms of another aspect: its rich and long history.

Every ancient power used rowing as a form of transportation, commerce and war. Yet over the years, rowing has evolved into a form of competition and sport. Competitive rowing for leisure was first recorded in 1430 BC, where a funerary carving for Pharaoh Amenhotep II depicted the king as a rower and detailed some of the competitions he won against rival Egyptian nobles (1). Who knew you could “Row Like an Egyptian”! During the fourteenth century, competitive rowing could be found at Carnevale regattas — events used to celebrate the beautiful aquatic setting of Venice. Rowing teams and individual rowers raced on the milky blue waters of Venice’s narrow canals and waterways (2). While rowing has been used for competition and celebration, it truly evolved into an organized sport in England.

In London, 1715, the first official “regatta” was a contest established by Irish actor and playwright Thomas Doggett, where the winning rower was awarded a coat and badge (3) Students at Eton College, located west of London, quickly picked up the sport, and once they graduated, brought rowing to Oxford and Cambridge. Founded in 1829, the famous Oxford Vs. Cambridge race is highly anticipated to this day (4). Organized sport rowing made its debut in the US with the Harvard-Yale race in 1852 (5). Its reputation as a pass time of blue-collared workers quickly morphed into leisure for the middle and upper class. Spectators began to bet on rowing and it became more commercialized as merchants situated on rivers with good racing waters saw the sport as an opportunity to sponsor regattas and draw consumers to their towns (6). Rowing picked up momentum as clubs and organizations were created in countries including Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Hong Kong. Everyone suddenly wanted a seat in the boat.

Today, rowing is truly a sport for anyone who wants to pick up an oar. We have technologies that can measure our power, tell us how fast we’re going or need to go, and improve our technique. We even have the ability to adapt boats for anyone with a disability. Programs around the world are changing lives by instilling in their rowers confidence, work ethic, and a sense of community. Anyone who is lucky enough to experience the joys of being on the water will find himself or herself a part of this great history.

It’s time to blast the Bangles in the erg room! (Remix anybody?)

 

 

Sources

“History of Crew.” Rockford Rowing. Accessed January 31, 2017. http://www.rockfordrowing.com/new-to-the-sport/history-of-crew/. (5)

“Neglected.” Accessed January 31, 2017. http://www.rowinghistory.net/neglected.htm. (3,4,6)

“The History Of Rowing.” Accessed January 31, 2017. http://www.athleticscholarships.net/history-rowing.htm. (1,2)

 


Located on the clear, azure waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, Miami Beach Rowing Club is a rower’s paradise. Founded in 1995, the club is known for its hard work ethic and strong presence in the Miami Beach community. In addition to its youth and masters programs, MBRC warmly welcomes teams from around the country who come to escape the cold weather of winter. As if all of this was not enough for one of the most dynamic clubs in the country, MBRC is also home to a fast-growing — and winning — adaptive rowing program.

 

The MBRC Adaptive Rowing program began only a couple of years ago in 2014 by an amazing group of volunteers, and offers the opportunity for athletes — no matter what their situation or ability — the incredible opportunity to participate in a life-changing sport. Whether athletes want to be involved on a recreational basis, or compete at the international level, MBRC is there to make it happen. Amazingly, this young program already boasts Olympic experience! Helman Roman, an Afghanistan war veteran, and his double partner Laura Goodkind, competed in the trunk and arms event at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio! MBRC was the first club to receive the designation of Paralympic Sport club from the United States Olympic Committee.

 

In the summer of 2015, Stephanie Parrish, previously an assistant coach at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, took on the position as the first head coach of the adaptive program. I had the opportunity to visit with Coach Parrish, and see firsthand the great success of the adaptive program, while on one of those aforementioned training trips to MBRC. It was inspiring to see the incredible work ethic of the athletes, and how we as a community can make rowing truly limitless. Whether it’s a fixed seat erg or boat with stabilizer pontoons, MBRC’s adaptive resources give its athletes every opportunity for success.

 

Looking as much like a supermodel as she does a head coach, Coach Parrish exudes a contagious enthusiasm and dedication to the sport and her athletes. She spoke passionately about the extraordinary healing powers of rowing. Since beginning at MBRC, she said her whole perspective on rowing has changed. “I feel like I have a completely different appreciation for rowing. Up until [joining MRBC] I had been coaching and competing at the Division I level and working with athletes who had a path sort of laid out for them. They were training for a specific, focused team goal and time spent at the boathouse was all business. Now I can see how therapeutic and peaceful it can be; I realized I had always associated rowing with intensity and pressure. I guess the biggest change I’ve noticed in myself is that I have a newfound love for rowing!” said Coach Parrish.

 

Parrish shared how the program has changed the lives of its athletes. For some, she said, rowing has brought a renewed feeling of independence. Athletes are able to push themselves physically in a way that other adaptive sports wouldn’t allow. Ultimately, she said, the program provides its participants with a sort of therapy, whether physical, mental or emotional.

 

MBRC’s adaptive program has attracted the attention of the Miami community in a big way. People with disabilities in the Miami area have a thrilling new activity in which they can participate and members of the community have the opportunity to volunteer. It’s been especially popular for members of the MBRC Junior Team, who often volunteer over the summer to help at the boathouse. Coach Parrish says “I think people see that they can give back to the sport and the boathouse community by being a part of our program, and that’s an amazing thing to witness and be a part of.”

 

Note: You can learn more about MBRC’s adaptive program at: http://rowmiamibeach.com/adaptive-rowing/ and follow them on Instagram at @mbrcpararowing

 

Row Well. Do Good.

 

 

 

 


For those of us suffering through the cold of winter, time seems to slow down, and it’s easy to go into hibernation mode. We crave hot, hearty and often unhealthy foods, and after that grueling winter erg workout and circuit, it’s oh-so-tempting to demolish an entire cheesy pizza. Yum.

However, it’s vital to keep our bodies properly fueled during the indoor season! The work you put in during the off months can make or break your spring, and it’s our ongoing job to make sure we’ve prepared properly for every workout.

Here are three super foods that allow us to fuel up before and after training.

Bananas

Potassium, potassium, potassium. Bananas are full of this mineral, which is fantastic for the heart. Potassium also is essential for the body to retain fluids, so it will prevent dehydrated while exercising(1). Bananas are also a great source of carbohydrates, which the body needs before and after a workout. Blended in a smoothie, or just as it is, the banana will prepare you for the worst erg.

Avocados

The king of guacamole, the avocado is the perfect recovery food. Although it’s high in fat, this is good-for-you fat! It helps the body metabolize fat soluble vitamins, which are crucial for the health of metabolic pathways(2). Adding avocado to your next meal will also help you metabolize all carbs or proteins eaten, and replenish your body(3).

Chocolate Milk

While it may seem like an indulgence, chocolate milk is an excellent after-workout recovery food. It’s packed with healthy fats, calcium and whey protein, which helps build muscle. It also restores muscle glycogen and hydrates the body, so you can throw away the sports drink(3). This delicious treat should be saved for after a workout, or you’ll risk building up too much lactic acid in your muscles beforehand.

With these three, easily accessible foods, you should be prepared for any circuit or 2k that comes your way!

 

SOURCES

3Details, The Editors of. 2015. “The 7 Best Things to Eat and Drink After Your Workout.” GQ. April 13. http://www.gq.com/story/what-to-eat-after-workout.
2ROCKLOCKRIDGE. 2010. “Why You Need A Multivitamin To Achieve Your Health And Fitness Goals!” Bodybuilding.com. June 9. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/why-you-need-multivitamin-achieve-health-fitness-goals.htm.
1Swain, Phil. 2013. “9 Amazing Reasons to Eat Bananas.” Fitness and Health Advisor. May 22. http://FitnessandHealthAdvisor.com/9-amazing-reasons-to-eat-bananas/.


If there’s one thing that every rower is obsessed with, it’s making and/or keeping their gains.

During the on-season, rowers work incredibly hard to gain fitness and endurance. While rowing may be primarily a mental sport, if you’ve lost the intensity for that 2k or 5k over the summer, getting back in shape can be a difficult and painful time.

There are many ways to stay in shape if you don’t have rowing equipment or water access. Here are just a few tips to keeping your gains:

The Aerobic vs. Anaerobic workout

In order to keep healthy, you must pick the right kinds of workouts. If you run for hours on end or do the same set of weights every single day, you may keep your endurance, but your muscles will get used to certain motions and when it’s time to get back on the water, you will not be ready. This is why it’s important to understand different types of workouts and mix it up!

An Aerobic workout uses energy! When we exercise aerobically we use glycogen and fat as fuel. As you start to exert yourself, carbon dioxide is expelled from your body. Lactic acid is not produced and this type of exercise can be done over long periods of time. It keeps your heart and lungs pumping, allowing you to gain fitness.

In contrast, Anaerobic workouts use only glycogen as fuel. Once all your oxygen has been depleted, you will experience lactic acid build up and fatigue. Doing these workouts will build your intensity and endurance, and will allow you to complete harder workouts in the future. These workouts are usually shorter in length and are more intense.

Balancing these two types of workouts will ensure that you stay in shape and will allow you to reach your fitness goals for the up and coming season.

Examples of Aerobic Workouts

  1. Running – Long distance running is a perfect way to stay in shape if you don’t have access to the water. All you need is a pair of sneakers and the lay of the land. A 20-minute steady state is around a 4k-6k depending on your level. This is about 2.5-4 miles. Depending on how you are feeling, you can adjust your running distances to what you would normally do for steady state workouts. This will give you the same amount of exercise.
  1. Swimming – Swimming is an incredible workout because it gives you all the cardio benefits, but is easy on your joints and muscles. The resistance of the water gives you an extra challenge, which will also improve fitness.
  1. Spinning/Cycling – Like swimming and running, this type of exercise provides a great aerobic workout. It keeps your heart and lungs in wonderful condition, and like swimming, has little impact on your joints.

Examples of Anaerobic Workouts

  1. Sprinting – Again, running is a fantastic way to stay in shape. As opposed to long distance, sprinting will bring an intensity that will lead to an anaerobic workout. Much like you adjust your splits for erging/rowing in shorter bursts, increase your speed and shorten your running distance. Run the distance, take a short break, and run it again, however many times you feel will give you the best workout.
  1. Power lifting – These workouts should focus on building muscle and increasing training capacity. The goal of anaerobic workout is to develop metabolic capacity and thus make the athlete stronger. By lifting maximum amount of weight with as many reps as you can complete in 3-10 seconds, you will build anaerobic capacity.
  1. Interval Training – This cardiorespiratory technique is perfect for creating more aerobic capacity. Body weight activities such as abdominal exercises for a minute, then walking for 30 seconds will give you a fantastic anaerobic workout. This will build muscle and increase endurance and core.

Don’t despair if you can’t get in a boat or on an erg! You can stay fit and focused no matter where you are.

 

Sources

“Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise: What Is the Difference?” 2016. Accessed July 11. http://www.fitness19.com/aerobic-and-anaerobic-exercise-what-is-the-difference

Bhattacharya, Christina. 2016. “Example of Anaerobic Exercise.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Accessed July 11. http://www.livestrong.com/article/500155-example-of-anaerobic-exercise/.

“Examples of Aerobic Exercise.” 2016. LoveToKnow. Accessed July 11. http://exercise.lovetoknow.com/Examples_of_Aerobic_Exercise.


One of my favorite rowing jokes is “To find out who the rowers are in the room, scream 2k and see who wets themselves.”

To start off with some mind-blowing facts, physiologists have calculated that a 2k takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back. That toll only takes about six minutes[1]. And, pound for pound, Olympic oarsmen can take in and process as much oxygen as a thoroughbred racehorse[2].

The 2k is highly competitive and can be a rower’s worst nightmare. It’s hard not to think of the painful buildup of lactic acid, the burning lungs and the mental fatigue that could make any intense athlete wince. Yet there are ways to beat the voice in your head that says you can’t accomplish your goal.

Make a race plan. If you have a coxswain, or are going it solo, make sure that you create a plan for your 2k. This race plan should include power 10’s, goal splits and mental motivation/calls. If you have a plan before getting on the erg, you will be much calmer.

Visualize the 2k. A technique that is being used by many teams is to visualize the warm-up and 2k in real time. Sit next to your erg in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Visualize yourself taking 10’s in the warm up. Then get on the erg and take your start five and lengthen 20. Think about how you will be feeling at certain points and have motivation ready to counter negative thoughts. By completing the 2k in your mind, there will be no surprises when it comes to the actual test, and you can challenge any mental obstacles before they occur that might inhibit a personal best.

Trust your training. Leading up to a 2k, rowers complete trying workouts such as 8x500m and 3x6x1 minute on one, one minute off, in addition to hours of steady state. Physically, sprint workouts are usually much more demanding than a 2k, yet the mental pressure often gets to the rower. If you have trained properly, your body can take a lot more than you think it can. You must trust at the start that you have prepared all you can to accomplish your goal split.

Take care of your body. Two nights before a 2k is the most important time to get a decent sleep. It will ensure that your body is rested, even if adrenaline keeps you awake the night before your awaited piece. Remember to hydrate (at least 3 bottles a day), and eat some form of carbs (preferably pasta or bread… yum J). Stretching and heating will also prepare your muscles for the workout. This will prevent any injuries from occurring.

Lastly, believe in yourself and know you’re not alone. It’s true that you are completing this erg test alone, but chances are you will be next to your teammates, who are working just as hard you. Every piece you complete will make you stronger for the season, and stronger for the boat. Unless you’re in a single, you have to pull for your fellow oarsmen. Envision your teammates around you and believe in the boat.

 

Photo Courtesy of Coach Libby Boghossian https://www.instagram.com/choategirlscrew/

[1] Robinson, Dean. 1372705990. “An Oarsman Is a Verb Meaning ‘to Row.’” The 6th Floor Blog. http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/an-oarsman-is-a-verb-meaning-to-row/.

[2] Ibid


Every “List of things a college freshman should know” will emphasize how different college is from high school. However, the life of a collegiate athlete is not your typical college experience. Today we bring you a list compiled by the Catch & Feather brand ambassadors with everything you need to know about mixing college life with rowing life.

  1. The Keurig is your new best friend.

Let’s face it. As a collegiate rower, you are going to be on a totally different schedule from everyone else. Attempting an early bedtime with your nocturnal roommate who needs music to study and schedules nightly Skype calls with her long distance boyfriend may result in you losing more hours of sleep than you would like. You and your roomie will eventually become best friends and learn to laugh about your differences but for now you may need a little caffeine to jump start your day. Having access to a hot water heater to make dinosaur egg oatmeal, a Cup-O-Noodles, and numerous other college staples will make your life a whole lot easier, especially when all the dining halls are closed after you get back from evening practice. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, try a French press. Everyone on your floor will think you are the coolest hipster around.

  1. Go to class.

Collegiate athletes miss classes. Professors genuinely want you to do well especially when you make an effort. All they ask is that you show up and do your best. A heavy regatta schedule may result in you missing more classes than you would like so it is important that you attend every class you can and stop by office hours to check in on things you have missed or will miss later. Getting to know your professors on a more personal level in office hours will help you in the long run – especially if you need to make up an exam or lab because of a regatta.

  1. Always carry 3 pairs of socks with you.

Carry them in your glove compartment box, backpack side pocket, whatever you choose! Having extra socks will keep you warm and chances are you can be there for a new teammate or a new friend. You can never be over prepared. College is a chance to use all those preparation tools for regattas as well as school.

  1. Be a good sport.

Be fair warned…your old high school rivalries should be put away (for the most part) by the time you get to school. As you may have heard college is nothing like high school. Collegiate sports and rowing specifically are just the same. You will become part of a larger community of athletes competing for a bigger goal, a bigger title and all the glory.

  1. You will never regret buying a regatta t-shirt.  #memories

…but make sure to save up for upcoming regattas. Learning to budget yourself at college can be hard for some. And it can be hard to maintain a job between practice, friends, eating and sleeping.

  1. Don’t be afraid to get involved with things other than rowing.

Getting involved is the best way to meet new people at school. You can find a club for almost anything and it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. You can usually find clubs for your major that might only meet once a month or clubs who go on trips during breaks. See what your teammates and friends are getting involved with and take a chance. College is the time to explore all of your interests and trying something new could help you discover a new talent or even spark a new career path.

  1. Try not to go home on the weekends.

Everyone gets homesick and if you are only a few hours away it can be tempting to head home with a bag of laundry to hide out for the weekend. It can be hard to get to know the people in your hall when you have practice, class, and team activities throughout the week. The weekends are the best time to hangout and make friends in your dorm. Some of your best college memories will be recounting last night’s shenanigans at Sunday brunch with the friends from your hall.

  1. Get advice from your older teammates.

They might seem scary and big and post a 2k time that blows yours out of the water but that is all just temporary. Remember that everyone starts out as the newbie at some point in his or her career. Look to them for advice and learning the culture of the crew. Remembering to be respectful, eager to learn and ready to pull hard will go a long way.

  1. Remember not to alienate your non-rowing friends

There will be a time when you might just need some space. The boat might not be meshing, you are worried about a seat race and you need to shave 2 whole seconds off your 6k split… Having a friend who has absolutely no clue what catching a crab means is sometimes refreshing and forces you to remember that college is a great big wonderful world with millions of things going on and people to meet. Your rowing friends could be your best friends but remember that variety is bliss.

  1. College rowing is actually the best.

Believe it or not, regatta moms are not really a thing in college. Chances are your coaches won’t be watching over you the way they did in high school. That means no more duct tape on the hotel dorm room and the freedom to make your own decisions. You will be held responsible to know where you need to be and how to act. We know from high school that there is nothing else quite like finishing a race, comparing blisters or winning shirts.

Collegiate rowing will bring you more places that you ever expected.

 

 


valor-games-34-web

We are happy to continue our partnership with USRowing with a recent donation to FREEDOM ROWS , a program designed to change the lives of injured veterans and members of the armed services through rowing.

Freedom Rows began in November 2014 with a grant from the Veterans Administration (VA) and has been met with tremendous success to date. Since its inception, USRowing has partnered with seven VA medical therapy programs and has effectively changed the lives of more than 200 of our country’s heroes through the power of rowing.

“Studies have shown that the repetitive nature of the action of rowing decreases the symptoms of PTSD,”
says Debbie Arenberg, Adaptive Programs Development Specialist at US Rowing.

“We have a couple of veterans who have actually gotten off their PTSD medication as a result of rowing.” she continued.

There are obvious physical benefits to adaptive rowing for wounded veterans. Studies show that rowing can help increase lower extremity bone mass, aerobic capacity, and blood lipid profiles. Some hospitals have partnered with rowing clubs to bring specific types of adaptive rowing to wounded veterans.  For example, Spaulding Research Hospital has partnered with Community Rowing Inc. in Boston to bring Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) rowing to individuals with Spinal Cord Injury.  FES is a technology that allows paralyzed muscles to contribute to whole body exercise.

As Freedom Rows prepares to expand into ten more partnerships next year, they stress that once clubs bring adaptive rowing into their boathouse, it will benefit not only the adaptive athletes, but the rowing club as a whole. “Once we buy the equipment for the program, and the veteran needs have been met, the club can use that equipment,” says Debbie. “It’s not exclusively reserved for the vets. There is a mutual benefit.”

Bringing in equipment and fostering an inclusive attitude in boathouses does not come without its challenges. Sometimes, clubs or coaches may not have had experience with adaptive rowers. USRowing has an Adaptive Rowing Manual available to coaches in need of resources when an adaptive rower joins the team. “Our biggest role is spreading the information so that we can educate everyone,” says Debbie of the toolkit. “As we learn more about different disabilities, we can continue to educate coaches and clubs.”

What remains clear is that rowing provides opportunities for all people,
including disadvantaged youth, athletes with disabilities, and people looking for a community.

“What’s unique about the rowing is that despite the disabilities, between a rowing machine and being on the water, we have a way to adapt the equipment,” says Deb. “No matter what your disability is, we can get you rowing. You can’t say that about a lot of sports.”

At Catch & Feather, we believe that everyone should have the freedom to experience the transformative power of rowing, and applaud Freedom Rows for giving veterans an opportunity to get into the boat!

For more info or to make a contribution:
FREEDOM ROWS

freedom-rows

photo courtesy of US Rowing


Horizons_ergs_opti

Rowing develops confidence, dedication, and passion in its participants. However, rowing can often be a selective sport because it requires expensive equipment, strong swimming abilities, pricey travel, entry fees, and a body of water, which some people do not have access to. Still, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of rowing.

The Horizons Summer Program agrees with us, and they are making it their mission to give campers the rush of wielding an oar. Horizons is a summer camp based out of Greens Farms Academy in Connecticut. The program fosters academic and personal growth for children in grades K-12 from underserved areas of Bridgeport. This year, the rising high schoolers get the chance to try out rowing for the first time.

All rising 9th graders have the opportunity to participate, and this year’s group includes 8 boy and 8 girls. The campers can be seen rowing with their high-vis shirts out of Saugatuck Rowing Club.

“Rowing doesn’t just give our students the opportunity to experience a new sport. It strengthens their self-confidence and challenges them to be leaders,” says Raluca Cocianga, the Executive Director at Horizons. “Students return to campus enthusiastic and eager to share stories with their peers and teachers.  Rowing has transformed our entire program!”

We love seeing the campers out on the river right outside our office. The smiles are contagious!

 



USRowing’s America Rows program diversifies rowing across the country

When USRowing hired Richard Butler in 2010, they gave him a single directive: figure out how a 135 year-old organization could become more diverse, and why it was not. Five years ago, the membership of USRowing was 98.7% white. Today, thanks to US Rowing’s America Rows program, the boat is a lot more diverse than it was back then, and everyone is happier for it.

You can hear the passion in Richard’s voice when he speaks of breaking down barriers in a centuries old sport.

You can hear the passion in Richard’s voice when he speaks of breaking down barriers in a centuries old sport. When he talks about the barriers that minority students face, you can’t help but catch on to the sense of justice that he is bringing to the sport.  “I realized that there were a couple of barriers to entry of why people of racial disparities were not interested in rowing. One is that it’s not affordable. Although we don’t have to purchase boats as individuals, it costs an individual an average of $600-1300 per season to row.”

Richard points out that nearly 60% of African American children cannot swim. Most rowers grew up jumping off docks or swimming at their local pool and can’t imagine that it would be like to not have this basic skill. “If you can’t swim, you can’t row. That’s our rules. So we needed to address that barrier,” Richard said. By offering swim lessons to new rowers,  the sport is becoming not only more equitable for all, but teaching non-swimmers a life skill that they will value for life and pass on to their families.

A third barrier was the age at which most children begin a sport. At the time, rowing was not typically offered as an intramural sport for elementary and middle schoolers. By the time students reached high school, and were eligible to row, they had either committed to another sport or did not see themselves as athletes. “We immediately recognized that we needed to go after kids who weren’t already playing sports,” Richard said. “Our philosophy became to reach out to kids who don’t identify as athletes, and introduce them to rowing.”

Bringing ergs to middle schools was a transformative move for America Rows. “Despite addressing barriers like cost and ability to swim, we still weren’t reaching everyone. It’s like an iceberg melting…we knew it was melting, but it’s such a slow pace that nobody notices. I wasn’t satisfied with the speed, so the “middle school” obstacle was a big one. We came up with putting ergs in the middle schools.”

As a result, America Rows began visiting middle schools around the country, bringing ten ergs to middle school gyms full of kids who had never seen one of these machines before. The first visit was to the Los Angeles school district, to an all-female middle school with a significant Hispanic population. Many of the girls did not know how to swim and would not be able to afford to row, and had certainly never seen an erg before.

“If you have never been exposed to rowing, no one is good….
it’s a fair, level playing field.”

The machine’s novelty excited them, and since everyone was a novice, the sport did not seem as intimidating as the ones played in gym class. Richard cites this as a major factor in creating new rowers. “If you have never been exposed to rowing, no one is good….it’s a fair, level playing field.” The program was an immediate success.

Chances are that your first time on an erg was in middle school, right? If so, you join thousands of young people across the country who experienced the joy of rowing as middle schoolers, igniting a passion to take it further and head out on the water.

One of the best effects of the  middle school program was that students who had never identified as athletes before were experiencing a transformation.“It’s simple. You take ten ergs and rotate them from school to school. You suddenly have entire schools of kids thinking that they are rowers just because they are on ergs,” Richard said.

These young kids experienced the thrill of athleticism with the fairness of an equal playing field. Richard saw an immediate benefit to the middle school program. “Local rowing programs now have a pipeline directly from elementary and middle schools to begin rowing. We tell boathouses to do field trips from the school to the boathouse to pique interest.”

We asked Richard if, after these barriers were addressed, he began to notice a change and increase in diversity at boathouses. To our ears, it sounded like the job was done. “Actually, there was a bigger program,” he said. “While we were starting to get good at including more kids in the program, none of the kids from local levels were showing up at national tryouts. It was too cost-prohibitive. Once we realized this, we knew that we needed to do something.”

As a result, America Rows started a grant program, where local rowing clubs could apply for funding to send qualifying athletes to national tryouts. The grants allow youth athletes from underserved areas the opportunity to participate in high-level youth rowing competitions, ones that they would not normally be able to afford due to the cost of travel, lodging and fees associated with competing at the championship level.

“We were asking clubs to focus on welcoming more kids into the program, which diverts a lot of their funding. When it came time to send kids to these national tryouts, clubs had no more funding left. The grant program took care of this by helping our affiliates send kids who would not normally go to tryouts because of cost.”

As of this month, five America Rows programs have been awarded grants totaling $15,000 that will fund athletes from those organizations to travel and compete at their respective USRowing Youth National Championships qualification regattas this month. The clubs receiving funding include Row New York, RowLA, Baltimore Rowing Club, America Rows and Swims Newburgh and Chicago Rowing Foundation.

When America Rows began, there were 5 rowing programs specifically dedicated to community outreach. Today, there are 38 America Rows affiliates focused on increasing diversity in the sport and sponsoring minority students to compete at the national level.

“For me, my legacy would be that at some point, in 2024, I could go to any regatta and ask myself, ‘do boats crossing the finish line look like the rest of America?’”

— Richard Butler, USRowing

As we wrapped up the interview, we asked Richard if he felt pleased with rowing’s transformation so far. Naturally, he still sees room for improvement and dreams for more. “For me, my legacy would be that at some point, in 2024, I could go to any regatta and ask myself, ‘do boats crossing the finish line look like the rest of America?’”

We hope we are sitting next to him at that regatta, enjoying the view.

For more info:
AMERICA ROWS

* photos for this post courtesy of USRowing