This past Sunday, Maidenhead Rowing Club formally launched its adaptive rowing programme with a superbly conceived and executed event which should serve as a template for other clubs looking to kick-start their own initiatives.
Very often, adaptive squads just sort of quietly evolve in the background. A disabled athlete shows up, a volunteer coach offers to figure out the kit and the training, and before you know it word gets out, more support (financial and volunteer) steps up, and the programmes strengthens (that’s how most programmes that I am familiar with started). But Maidenhead decided to make a bit of a splash (well, not literally as there were surprisingly zero capsizes). Making a special event of it was a real catalyst to stirring so much support, buzz and (critically) attendance. They have a number of athletes now who have joined there with, I suspect, a good number more to follow.
Here’s the basic recipe that Maidenhead’ followed…
- “The Guy/Gal” – Every successful initiative needs a “Guy/Gal”. This person is the linchpin who makes things happen when no one else is available. The person who lies awake in bed mulling whether everything is sorted. Maidenhead’s “The Guy” was Nick Steele. While he has been surrounded by the support from the club, he has been the one sweating the details, emailing me late at night with questions, driving the club trailer around Berkshire to pick up boats, and so on.
- Enlist Support from Other Clubs – Nick worked extensively with Marlow, Guildford, British Rowing and other clubs to get guidance on what to do and how to do it. In planning the equipment, Maidenhead needed a few boats that they didn’t have which Marlow and Guildford gladly lent.
- Enlist Support from the Club – Maidenhead had a sizeable platoon of volunteers on the day helping with rowing, coaching, equipment, refreshments, logistics and all manner of support on the day.
- Enlist Support from Adaptive Sport Groups – Maidenhead is fortunate to have the SportAble programme as its neighbor which is an area hub for sports like wheelchair basketball and adaptive golf. Also, they got a good crowd of the Invictus folks to the event.
- Enlist Support from a Champion Pararower – Maidenhead had Paralympic Champion Naomi Riches and current GB AS International Pararower Andy Houghton (who started his rowing career at Maidenhead RC) attending the whole day and doing the prize giving at the end.
The format of the day is an excellent agenda for anyone wishing to hold their own launch events:
- 10:00 – 10:30 Welcome and Orientation (coffee and cake)
- 10:30 – 12:00 Introduction to Rowing. Guidance tasters for newbies as well as experienced adaptive athletes getting in the water to demonstrate a range of equipment and range of techniques.
- 12:00 – 13:00 Lunch BBQ for socializing
- 13:00 – 14:00 Scratch Regatta of boats assembled from both experienced and new rowers
As with all these things, it did run a little over (the regatta itself finished at 2:15 and then the final thank you’s, commendations, and prize giving took us to 2:30 pm). 4 hours allowing for a 30 minute overrun is a good time to shoot for (don’t schedule 4.5 hours because activity has an amazing ability to fill time allotted and you will just overrun to 5 hours). Plus, most people expect things like these to overrun a bit anyway and are okay with up to 30 minutes. 4 hours is a good amount of time to advertise because it seems like a half-day while 5 hours seems like a full day.
Special congrats to the scratch regatta winners…
- Supported 4x+ – Dan Stevenson (Maidenhead), Kevin Drake (Invictus), Michelle Partington/Helen (Invictus)
- Supported 2x+ – Mark Ormrod (Invictus)
- Supported W2x – Claire Connon (Cantabs)
- Supported M2x – M2x Luke Delahunty (Invictus)
- Adaptive 1x – PJ O’Donnovan (MAR)
Special thanks to Caroline Steele for the photos used here. She took an extensive collection of superb shots on the day which can been seen here.