Early in the season, as she prepared to take her seat at the stern of the boat, one of the coxswains felt her new phone slip from her jacket pocket. She shrieked and grasped at it in vain. Time stood still as the entire team turned to watch the phone sink beneath the glimmering waters of the Rock River.
"I'll find it," the stroke of the boat confidently assured her as she pulled off her sweatshirt and dove into the river. Sure enough, after a few dives to the bottom (the water is shallow near the docks), and poking around with her bare feet, she brought back to the surface the wet but functional phone.
At that moment I was impressed by two things: the incredible engineering of the iPhone X, as water resistant as advertised, and, even more, the willingness of the team members to take care of each other. I knew right then that we were going to have a great summer of rowing.
We had a great summer last year as 20 dedicated rowers converged on the boathouse at 5:30 every morning. They came to have fun, because there is little that can match the joy of rowing in boats with teammates turned friends. They came to bask in the magic of dawn on the Rock River. Sunrise in summer is an enchanting hour (check out ryrcrew on Instagram). They came to work hard and support each other, because rowing is a sport that rewards teamwork unlike any other. It was awesome to see each individual grow stronger and witness the way in which the speed of the boats increased as the rowers applied their strength together!
The junior team added a 1000 meter sprint race to the schedule, a first for all the rowers on the team. The race left everyone eager for more. The team returned to the Milwaukee River Challenge, a 5000 meter head race, where they improved their finish places from the previous year among a field that included some of the top Midwest high school rowing teams. All summer the crew continued to build steam, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to meet those teams again, on our home course at the Head of the Rock Regatta.
The junior rowing team of the Rockford YMCA Rowing Crew (RYRC) is comprised of high schoolers from across the greater Rockford area – motivated students from Auburn, Guilford, Boylan, Stillman Valley, Rockford Christian, Rockford Lutheran, Keith, and Belvidere North who meet at the boathouse by the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA every weekday morning from June through October. Several of these schools, including the RPS 205 schools, have agreed to acknowledge the achievements of high school rowers by offering varsity letters to those meeting specific criteria.
Thank you to Rockford Public Schools for supporting the four hardworking, dedicated and talented student-rowers who are integral members of the RYRC junior team. The importance of this acknowledgment lies as much in the rewarding of individual accomplishments as it does in the investment of the community.
One of the greatest values of youth athletics is to present young people with mental and physical challenges which can be overcome with hard work, perseverance and determination. It is through these challenges that athletes gain confidence, learn about their abilities and grow as people. To approach these challenges as a member of a team brings another dimension. For just as students might grow into confident adults, so too a group of these passionate students who support and challenge each other as junior rowers grow into adults invested in their rowing club and the community that has supported them.
Ultimately, the greatest accomplishment of the 2018 rowing season was the growth of the junior team as a group of supportive young people invested in each other. For even as the rising waters of the Rock River kept the boats off the water, the dedicated rowers continued practicing on rowing machines in the boathouse. Even as regattas were canceled, the strong team bonds fostered by a summer of shared experiences sustained them. Even as, for the first time in 30 years, our own Head of the Rock Regatta was not held last October, the team kept their spirits up by making plans for winter training and the next season.
As we prepare for the 2019 season, we do so with optimism. That the unprecedented flooding of 2018 will not occur again, that more enthusiastic student athletes will join our team and that the opportunities to race, and win, will abound!
If you are interested in rowing with the RYRC, please join us for an open house at the boathouse (located near the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA, just north of the Whitman Street Bridge) from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 27. There you can find out more about the awesome experiences of rowing! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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