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Rowing academy dips its oars again in North Vancouver School District

January 14, 2022

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A rowing academy is set to launch in North Vancouver School District this year. | file photo

By Jane Syd, North Shore News.

The North Vancouver School District is set to put its blades back in the water on a new rowing academy at Seycove Secondary.

Originally approved two years ago for a September 2020 start date, the rowing academy found itself scuttled by the global pandemic, compounded by the departure of a school district rowing coach.

But this year, the school district is back in the coxswain’s seat, with a plan to relaunch the academy at Seycove Secondary in partnership with the Deep Cove Rowing Club.

Rowing is one of Canada’s most successful sports when it comes to competitions like the Olympics, but is still not really a mainstream sport, said Colin Gray, head coach for the Deep Cove Rowing Club.

Rowing isn’t even like other boat-based water sports, the key difference being rowers face backwards – away from the direction of travel.

It’s also the “ultimate team sport” said Gray, with a group of rowers following directions to pull in the same direction. “There’s no star athlete.” The emphasis of the academy will be on learning skills rather than on competition, he added.

Unlike some sports, no special equipment is needed. Another benefit: kids don’t have to start training at an early age to develop good skills.

“It’s not like hockey or swimming where people have to get a very early start to be proficient,” said Gray.

Gray acknowledges the sport of rowing is often tied in people’s minds to private schools, Ivy League universities and elite pursuits. There’s no reason it has to be that way, he said.

But rowers who excel at a competitive level can apply for athletic scholarships at many universities, he said.

There is truth to the idea that rowers tend to be early risers.

“I have people out rowing at five in the morning,” said Gray.

For the high school academy, students will most likely launch their training before school – at a time slot around 7:15 a.m.

That allows the program to fit better into a semester system at school and allow for timetable flexibility, said Mark James, district principal in charge of academies.

In practical terms, the waters around Deep Cove are less busy in the morning and “there’s less wind in the morning,” said Gray. “The weather is generally better.”

For those who sign up for the academy, the annual cost will be $1,835, which covers the cost of coaching and equipment, supplied by Deep Cove Rowing.

In inclement weather and months when it’s still dark at 7 a.m., training will move indoors on to indoor rowing machines.

The rowing academy will be for students in grades 8 to 12. The school district is hoping for an enrolment of between 15 and 25 students for the first year, starting in September.

Anyone interested can attend an online meeting about the new academy hosted by the school district on the evening of Jan. 19