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Schools Case Studies

Birmingham Secondary School pupils learn new skills at the Eton Rowing Summer School

Date Added: Tue, 03 Apr 2007

Related tags: Birmingham

Earlier this summer, six pupils from Schools in Birmingham attended the Eton Rowing Courses: four from Kings Norton Girls' School and Language College and two from Lordswood Boys' School and Sports College. These were part of the first group of twenty schools in Birmingham to receive Indoor Rowers from the Steve Redgrave Charitable Trust in 2004, so the pupils were experienced using their Model D's. Although the transfer from Indoor Rowing onto the water was a big step, at Eton they made real progress and all are very keen to continue rowing in Birmingham. The Eton Rowing Courses were established in 1990 and are open to boys and girls aged 12 - 18. All participants learn to row or improve the skills they already possess and are grouped together by similar ability with two coaches allocated. They come from any school or boat club in the UK or abroad and beginners with no experience are particularly welcome.

There are about ten to a group with seven or eight groups from novices to experienced rowers. Rowing activities take place on the River Thames and at the College's world class Rowing Lake at Dorney. (The venue used for the recent World Rowing Championships and for the Olympic Games in 2012.) There is a wide range of rowing equipment available and two boarding houses are used for the residential accommodation. Over the years, 5,000 youngsters have participated on the programme and many go on to compete at national events. Today the Courses are the largest of their kind in the world, and accommodate a total of 230 boys and girls every summer, spread over three single weeks, back to back. Besides, youngsters from the UK and throughout Europe there are those who come to the Rowing Courses from Japan and the USA.

Course outline

Sunday afternoon: Register and settle in to own room in the Boarding House. Swim test/capsize drill and first water session in a single scull.
Monday: Three single sculling outings, video analysis and land based training session. Coxing talk and evening sculling Time Trial.
Tuesday: Morning outings sculling or rowing. Afternoon visit to Henley-on-Thames River & Rowing Museum and Leander Boathouse.
Wednesday: Dragon Boat/quad scull trip five miles upriver to Queens Eyot and barbeque. Evening scull or row.
Thursday: Morning outings - sculling or rowing, Indoor Rowing Competition, presentation by guest speaker and evening row.
Friday: Morning outings sculling or rowing. Evening: Regatta/style competition. Disco.
Saturday morning: Procession of Boats. This is based on Eton's traditional "Procession of Boats" ceremony. One at a time the crews paddle down with every member of a rowing eight raising their oars and standing up under complete control. After completing this successfully, crews paddle back to shore to receive their medals for a job well done.

Daily Routine

7.45 Morning wake up call
8.15 - 8.45 breakfast
9.15 - 1.00 two outings, River or Dorney Lake with half hour break in between
1.00 Lunch
2.00 Land-based instruction + videos with coach
3.00 - 4.00 Tours, talks, stretching, games/organised sports
4.00 - 6.00 Free time for swimming, tennis, shopping etc.
6.15 Supper
7.00 Final Outing on the Thames or Dorney Lake
9.00 Social Room
10.30 Return to Houses and lights out

Comments from the Boys

"This is an amazing programme and I never though I could achieve as much as I did. My first impressions were large buildings spread over the town, but I soon found my way around. I had some scary moments on the first few sculling sessions. I enjoyed the challenge and want to go rowing when I get back to School. I had two goes at the Procession of Boats on the Saturday. The coaching was fantastic and I'd like to go again next year."

"I crossed off the days and couldn't wait to go boating. The swim test was hard and it's important to be a strong swimmer with water sports. After the Sunday afternoon the rest of the week passed in a blur. I won the group Indoor Rowing Event and was given a Concept2 tee shirt by the Coach. Besides the sculling and rowing the social side was great as well."

Comments from the Girls

"On Thursday we had a short talk first thing. We were told that the woman that I had thought of as our coach turned out to be Alison Mowbray, the quad scull Olympic silver medalist. I could hardly believe it. That afternoon we went out in single sculls on the main Lake at Dorney. I was quite pleased. I seemed to have overcome my magnetism to the bank."

"I think Tuesday was the best day by far; we went to the Leander Boathouse and to the Rowing Museum. They were both amazing places. But these were nowhere near as good as the feeling when I went out sculling on the Lake that night. I went round the whole Lake in a single scull and didn't fall out once."

"We spent the day on Friday in a rowing eight. It was certainly a change from sculling and I enjoyed most of it. After two hours of rowing we went back to Eton for our last free time in the outdoor swimming pool."

"On the last day we had the procession of boats. We had to row out to Fellows Eyot and stand up in our boats. We had about four practices, in which we found out that standing up in an old oak boat was a lot more difficult than we had imagined. We were told to bend our knees slightly, so that if the boat shakes our bodies wouldn't shake with it. Unbelievably, we managed to make our boat stay up in the real thing. It shook a lot but that just made it more exciting."

Coach Report Extract

"After a few initial confidence problems her sculling - and hence her rowing - improved considerably. It was a great pleasure to see her having full control of her single scull on the Thursday night at the Lake. It showed that she has learnt a great deal in a very short space of time."

Participants from the two Birmingham Schools each received a Bursary Award worth 25% of the full Rowing Course cost and were involved in individual fundraising towards the remainder of the balance. Early application is advised for 2007 and further information is available from the website.

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