CEO's Blog - Back to the Future

Posted on Mon, 12 Nov, 2018

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Boat Race President’s Challenge where Oxford and Cambridge officially kick off their preparations before taking each other on in April 2019.  It’s a terrific evening where the squads first get to eyeball each other and amidst all of the champagne and canapes you can definitely feel the underlying sense of tribal competitiveness which is brilliant!

I was there with two of the most successful juniors we have had through the doors at Fulham Reach, Schuyler and Christian.  If you’re reading this then you may well have seen their stories already but in summary Schuyler has gone from being home schooled to now being on a full-scholarship place at Eton College, thanks in part to his time in a boat.  Christian features in the video on the home page of our website and was one of our first students to have a tour around Trinity College, Oxford as part of the Thames 100.  He has since gone on to compete successfully for the FRBC junior squad and is now looking to continue his rowing at university.

It was amazing to see these two young men handle themselves so confidently on stage in front of a crowd, including the great and good of Boat Races past.  What was more impressive was the genuine enthusiasm with which both of their stories were met by both shades of blue.  For the rest of the evening they were approached by both current and former athletes, congratulating them on their success to date and encouraging them to continue in the years to come. 

One event that evening really brought home to me how important it is to recognise what an impact encouragement like this can have on a young person in the formative part of their life.  Within about fifteen minutes of arriving to the Challenge, I had one of the Cambridge squad confidently walk up and shake my hand, introducing himself as Reggie, a 2nd Year at Trinity who represented Goldie in the 2018 race.  It took a few seconds for the penny to drop but with his quick intro it turned out I had helped introduce Reggie to rowing 8 years earlier when I worked at Barn Elms Boathouse!  I instantly recognised the man before me who last time I saw him he was 12 years old.  I vividly remember coaching Reggie and speaking with him about that, even as a 12 year old, he had the physical potential to go far in the sport.

After catching up with Reggie I could then see him and other people in the room chatting with Christian and Schuyler about their future in the sport (including double Olympic Champion, James Cracknell) and could see history repeating itself all over again.  Both of those two boys came away from the evening buzzing about rowing, the contacts they had made and excited for what their future was going to look like.

As coaches we have to recognise how every interaction we have with a young person could set them up for a lifetime of enjoyment and success, both inside and outside of a boat.  We have to see this as a huge responsibility and be wary of those days when shouting orders, rather than coaching, feels much more fun. To do this could actually mean the sport loses a potential Olympic Champion of the future.

We’re hugely grateful to the Boat Race for their continued support of all we are doing with the young people along the Championship Course and who knows, we may have just found two of our next Future Blues.


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