Maturity and sense of belonging major themes of high school crew clubs
Rowing, a sport often associated with collegiate and Olympic competition, is gaining in popularity at the high school level.
Crew clubs associated with several local schools including Bedford High School, Manchester Central High School and Derryfield are housed in the Amoskeag Rowing Club in Hooksett.
Central Crew Club, the rowing team for Manchester Central High School, began in 2001 with about 15 members who hit the water in a borrowed boat. The following spring the club was able to purchase used equipment from Notre Dame College and continue racing with about 20 members. By last fall, the club had grown to 70 members, according to Greg Bairam, president of Central Crew Club.
Following their motto of “together everyone achieves more,” the Central Crew Club has traveled as far as New York for the Head of the Fish Regatta and has competed in the Head of the Charles, the “Super Bowl” of regattas, consistently for the past six years, Bairam said. During that time, seven students received sports scholarships and several more received them for leadership and merit, Bairam said.
The achievements are even more impressive considering that most high school students come into the sport with little to no exposure to crew. Program start-up costs and fleet maintenance make it difficult for schools below the college level to sponsor crew teams. Still, many local students joining crew in high school go on college crew teams.
“Rowing is a sport where it’s a clean slate,” said Lori Ashooh, vice president of the Bedford Crew Club. “Everyone starts out on equal ground.”
The Bedford Crew Club began in 2010 and now has about 90 members from Bedford High School.
Crew requires eight rowers working in unison under the guidance of the coxswain, who steers the boat and sets the pace. Once on the water there’s no time out and everyone is expected to pull his or her weight. A no-show can ruin it for the entire team.
“You do need a certain level of maturity to be able to stick it out on the crew team,” Ashooh said.
The drive and commitment required for crew also helps the rowers to excel academically, Ashooh said. Colleges love to see applicants with crew experience and hiring managers recognize the thought, commitment and team work involved with being part of a crew club, Ashooh said.
“It’s all the kind of qualities that help them succeed later in life,” Ashooh said.
Physical benefits also exist. The sport is one of the few to work all muscle groups as well as an extended cardio workout. Many students involved in two or more sports find crew is a great way to stay in shape during the off-season, Ashooh said.
Crew itself to a variety of body types and temperments, said Zachary Saunders, head coach of Central Crew Club. New team members are accepted for themselves, as crew members “celebrate and suffer together” in the boat, Saunders said.
“Everyone really feels as though they have a home and a role on the team,” Saunders said.
The dedication and high standards required to compete in crew trickle down into other areas of the students’ lives, Saunders said. His athletes gain self-respect and self-confidence that helps them become better adults than they would have been, Saunders said.
“It (crew) becomes their life, not for the reason it’s the only thing they do, but because it becomes the reason they do other things better,” Saunders said.
Maya Ashooh is taking the plunge into crew as a freshman on the Bedford team next fall. It was an easy decision for Maya. Her parents met when her mother was a coxswain and her father a rower for UNH. Her sister Emma is also a rower for Bedford.
“I just saw it go through my family and said, ’I want to do this,’” Maya said.
Maya has some rowing experience and is attending a summer program at Amoskeag Rowing Club. She gets tips from her family and looks forward to following in the tradition.
“I think it’s one of the best things you can do,” Maya said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”
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