We have had a range of responses from club leaders around the country – reporting a range of diverse local situations which have an impact on the changing headcount of club active rowers. The orginal articles here and here.
From the North West
I can draw a similarity to what could be a problem. As you state volunteers are the back bone of any club and area while we do still have areas of negativity from some areas, the way forward, and a long term strategy, is to start the junior pathway and encourage the older squads into coaching participation.
Create a Junior Leader role. Create Summer Rowing experiences. We annually receive 100 plus giving us a membership stream and strong income stream willing to share.
East of England – female male attitudes vary
I’m a women’s vice captain at a large club in the East of England, and my personal experience is that women’s rowing continues to grow in the right direction. I think that Henley Women’s is able to provide appropriate statuses of competition which mean that people are competing against others on a reasonably level playing field, and so have a good end of season racing target. The intermediate categories all seem to do a good job of providing appropriate competition, and separating club and academic also does that. For rowers who aren’t able to perform at the HWR level, there are plenty of other races throughout the summer season that they can aim for.
I think in men’s rowing, however, because HRR is seen as the main focus for many dedicated club rowers, the standard of the competition and eligibility criteria of events mean that being fast enough to win or even get through 2 rounds require outstanding talent. There’s of course nothing wrong with needing to be talented to win, but it does mean that serious male rowers don’t have A Big Thing to aim for where performing well is a genuine possibility.
Yes, there are the Dorney regattas in the run-up, but when all that matters to many male rowers is how they get on at HRR, it can be quite demotivating. I’ve seen many leave the sport, and my men’s counterpart at my club is considering doing so, because they feel that they aren’t getting the results and satisfaction for all of the training that they put in.
What I think British Rowing really could do is consider what to do with Brit Champs. Potentially this is a way to address this issue. Moving it back to July (I’m not sure why it was moved to October?) when people have actually been training together, and making it A Big Deal to win it has, I think, the potential to be a game changer. The introduction this year of club pennants which aren’t open to clubs with HP centres was a great idea.
It’s a funny old issue. I find our men’s senior squad a bit frustrating because like in the women’s squad they have a bottom end, and yet absolutely refuse to consider not going to HRR. Whereas some of the women know HWR is out of their league so they’ll instead target local regattas just to get a flavour of racing and hope to develop with a view of going to HWR next year. But for the men, that’s just not seen as an option.
Then again, I think that British Rowing see something in the inclusion of the GB team at Brit Champs as being something that will give club rowers something exciting because they might get to race alongside an Olympian. It’s a nice idea, but something which gets spoiled somewhat by the fact that the Olympians cluster around Molesey and Leander etc. which just means that aim isn’t really achieved. If they all raced with the clubs they were originally at (unless it’s a school, obviously!) then that could be far more inspirational and helpful, but I noticed Andy Triggs Hodge’s tweet about Kat Copeland switching to Leander recently and it does raise some questions. When you train at Caversham and already have an Olympic gold medal, what does racing for Leander do for you? Maybe there’s just something I’m missing, or maybe they offer them grants or something if they represent them? Otherwise I can’t much see the point.