This is Part 2 of a story looking at the unique sport known as crew – from a parent’s perspective.
Let’s take a look at the sport of crew, not from the boat or the shoreline but from a drone flying high above it all – big picture kind of stuff.
Ann and Brent Hollenbeck are sort of graduating this year as members of the Pioneer crew parent’s team. Their daughter, Kate Hollenbeck, is now a senior and will be rowing for her fourth and final year as a Pioneer. And as many parents will tell you, crew not only provides lasting memories and life-long lessons but also can change lives. It certainly changed Kate’s.
“Kate tried a variety of sports in elementary and middle school and she liked various things but didn’t have a favorite, until she tried crew,” said Ann Hollenbeck. “That was it – she found her sport!”
Next fall Kate will be attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh (NCAA Division 1) where she has been recruited to row. Yes, indeed, life changing.
“We are so proud of her and grateful to Pioneer Crew and coaches,” said Ann, an active member of the crew team over the years.
She was the Bagel Coordinator (“the importance of bagels as fuel for the rowers at regattas cannot be over-emphasized,” she says) and as the team’s booster club representative. “This means I attended the club meetings and kept up to speed with their issues and activities and served as liaison with the crew team,” she said.
Meanwhile, Brent has supported the team as routinely cooking at regattas which he loves. We have two grills that we assemble and it’s amazing the feasts that result: chicken fried rice, eggs, sausage, pancakes and bacon! “Having warm food for rowers is key as the weather conditions are routinely wet and chilly,” Ann said.
Leigh Ann Koepp’s son Ryland Koepp (Class of 2017) was on crew for four years and her daughter Presley Koepp (Class of 2021) is in her Novice Year this season for the Pioneers. From Leigh Ann’s perspective, crew stands out as something “very special.”
“Never once at any other sport that my three children have participated in have I been so amazed,” she says. “I have never sat and watched at soccer, softball, football, or volleyball and had this thought flow through my mind as I watched them: I am amazed at my child doing this.
“The hard work ethic of this sport. The closeness and bonding that is fostered by the coaches. The quality of my own life of being at the river and making friendships that will last forever is endearing and a perk I never saw coming.”
Julie Morrison and Paul Morrison are in their third year as members of the crew family. Their son, Tom, started rowing in middle school and takes his seat in the boat for his junior year at Pioneer this spring. Julie has seen plenty of positive changes in her son as a result of his involvement in crew.
“He has developed such a strong group of friends through this sport, and learned how to not just really improve his own fitness, but also be committed to working with his teammates toward a common goal,” she said. “Plus, this sport has such a supportive coaching and parent base.”
Julie says crew is “truly all about the team.”
“It takes an incredible level of focus, cooperation, and mutual support in addition to training,” says Julie, who has been the team’s travel coordinator since 2016. “A lot of kids come to crew having never rowed before. It’s pretty amazing to see them start from scratch as novices, most with little or no prior experience, and become so enthusiastic, skilled, and powerful at putting an eight-person shell through the water.”
Crew can create confidence, build character and also result in lasting friendships. Just ask Linda Stater, whose son, Jonathan Flynn, is a senior and has been on crew for four years while her other son, Stephen Flynn, is a freshman on the team.
Linda says Jonathan was coming from a small private middle school but because of crew he had a solid group of friends on his first day of school at Pioneer. “Because crew started during the summer, he immediately made a group of friends who are some of his best friends now,” she said. “This made the transition to a large public school really easy. My younger son is at Community and his friends now include his brother’s – since they are both on the crew team. This has been wonderful for his confidence (also going to a new school where he only knew a few kids) and brought my boys closer together.”
Stater also likes not only attending her kid’s events but feeling like a part of the team.
“There is a lot more parent involvement in crew,” she said. “Because they practice on the river, you need to either have a carpool to get them to/from the river or find someone who can drive. A regatta is a lot longer than other sporting events and more food/snacks/cooking is involved.”
Sarah Williams is one of many proud crew parents. Her daughter Elizabeth Williams is a junior and in her third season with crew and everyone in the house loves crew.
“She has a t-shirt that says, ‘Coxswain, small body, loud mouth and huge attitude,’ that about sums up the cox,” says Sarah.
The coxswain is a big responsibility in crew. The coxswain has to get the boat safely in and out of the water without breaking anything or injuring anyone; they plot the boat’s course and race plan with the coaches; they steer the boat, giving instructions to the team which she plugs in at the start of the race and then motivates the rowers to do their best; and they watch the other teams, which factors into the team’s row rate.
“As parents, we have seen Lizzie mature, become a leader rather than a follower, question decisions, develop friendships across all four grades and beyond, and learn time management,” Sarah says. “It has been lovely to see her mentor the younger team members and have others rely on her.”
Ron and Melissa Snyder’s son, Rob, is in his third year on Pioneer crew. And Melissa is on board with the “life changing” impact crew can have on young men and women. She’s seen it up close and personal.
“My son had a lot of attitude as a freshmen and I used to joke that we were ready to ship him off to military school,” Melissa says. “A few weeks into crew and I noticed the attitude was gone. He has grown so much and he himself has told me that crew has taught him more than any other thing he has ever been involved in. He is most likely to jump in and help, never looking for direction or to be asked. I love everything he has learned from this incredible sport.”
Melissa also enjoys the “comradery.”
“I love going to the events not only to see him in his sport but to chat with other parents,” she said. “Everybody is friendly, helpful and we have a lot of fun.”