Friday, December 17, 2010

What do non-rowers talk about at a party?

I have no idea. :)

Earlier this week I got an intriguing request all the way from New Zealand. The people at were interested to know if I would mind writing a little something for their site. "Well why the hell not! What do you want?" So this is where it got interesting. Among other things they were curious about a U.S. point of view concerning the recent shake up at USRowing. "Uh...shake up?" I felt compelled to reiterate my disclaimer; I have not coached since 1999 and it's been even longer than that since I've competed. However, I decided I'd do a little research and see what I found.

It took only a moment to learn that the big shake up involved the removal of long time men's coach Kris Korzeniowski and the plans to relocate the men's Heavyweight program from lovely New Jersey to balmy California. Likewise the Lightweight men are being relocate to Oklahoma. So if I'm totally honest about my reaction, it was as follows: Kris Korzeniowski is still alive? KK was "the guy" when I was in college, in 1985! And while I can see a rowing base in California, especially if they want a "warm water port", Oklahoma? Seriously folks, I really don't care how great the facilities are, I would not put Oklahoma and rowing in the same sentence. Do they have water? Yeah screwing the lighweights again... I know they're not the money boats. And what of the women? They're going to hang in New Jersey. So now we're spread all over the country. I guess Team USA unity is not the focus. And don't get me started on the still non-existent support for rowers themselves. Basically if you do not row in an Olympic event, you need to be self-funded. That's not going to hurt the talent pool! But let's face it, if we can get a gold in the heavy men's 8, do we even need other boats?! (Just call'n like I see'm.)

I'll stop short of offering much more commentary related to the moves. I've been out of things long enough to know I need to learn more before offering too much opinion. What I can offer is just how quickly I was able to come up to speed, really a function of how little USRowing has changed in 25 years. Sure people right in the middle of things might think it's sooo different, but big picture, not so much. Rowing in the US is a boutique sport. A great one and one I love, but enjoyed by a fairly select few. Need more proof? As I started reviewing names of coaches, I started recognizing people I knew or coached against. Hell one current US coach stares at me every morning from the picture of my wife and her development camp 8 from 1992. Small world.

If the goal is to reinvent USRowing to bring home more hardware, maybe more than a change of coasts is needed. Maybe the appeal needs to be broadened. No I don't have the "how to" for that. Just asking the question. My uncle Walter, a former Syracuse oarsman, was very active in Canadian Rowing. I recall him mentioning disarray up north as well (eh!). How did that turn out? I don't know. Guess I'll call him and ask. Might make an interesting next article!


PS: Also saw that Three Rivers Rowing Association (my former boathouse while I was coaching at Pitt) from the great city of Pittsburgh (my home town), scored a second club of the year award? Begs the question, how many community oriented clubs are there?