This summer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore (BGCMB) partnered with Baltimore Community Rowing (BCR) to bring their three-week Learn to Row program at Middle Branch Park to Club kids for a unique experience and valuable lessons in teamwork.
Middle Branch Park features picnic areas, wetlands, piers, and an amazing downtown Baltimore skyline view. BGCMB members traveled to the 150-acre park every Monday and Thursday for two hours of rowing under the direction of BCR's junior team and coaches. During these sessions, Club youth learned everything from basic rowing terminology to correct rowing techniques.
For many of BGCMB’s members, it was a new experience and one they grew to enjoy. “The experience was kind of weird at first, but I got used to it. At first, I just kept thinking about how I didn’t want to tip over and fall into the water. But now, I really enjoy it,” said Jordan W.
Rowing was once a major sport in Baltimore before waterfront industrialization took the boathouses. Since BCR was established in 1979, the organization has promoted the sport of rowing for fitness, competition, and recreation for people of all ages and abilities. BCR leadership understand that rowing is a sport that can be difficult to access. That’s why they partner with organizations like BGCMB: to give kids a chance to try something new and recruit those who may want to continue as part of a team.
“By partnering with groups already working in communities that might not know about rowing or don’t come to Middle Branch Park, that’s a way to bring those kids here. All of the Learn to Rows that we’ve done this summer have been partnerships with community organizations,” said John Flynn, the incoming head coach of the junior rowing team.
“Having an organization like the Boys & Girls Club bring us kids that are in their program immediately creates that bridge. The hope is that some kids will join the rowing team for one of our seasons.”
Many rowers would describe the sport as the personification of teamwork. To be successful, you need everyone to play their part. Few things are more satisfying than watching a rowing team reach top speed in a 62-feet-wide octuple scull (eight) because its members are in sync, starting with the coxswain, who’s responsible for steering and giving commands, to the rowers making sure their oars are in the water simultaneously.
“It’s one of those sports that no matter the position and your skill level, everybody has to work towards a common goal. I think for youth especially, getting that mindset that no matter what, you have to persevere and push through to get done what you have to get done, even if it’s difficult, is important,” said youth outreach coordinator Jordan Mueller.
“While there are individual boats, the majority of them are team-based. No one person can do anything. In an eight, it’s going to take all eight people to get the boat across the finish line first. Not just one star player.”
For BGCMB Club members, this experience taught them valuable life lessons.
“Rowing was a great experience for our teens. I loved how essential character building was to their success in rowing. It challenged them to communicate better, learn self-control, and conquer their fears. The boathouse is no longer just a landmark, but a memorable experience,”
- O'Donnell Heights Club manager William Howard