With Regatta Day on Aug. 4, IRC rowers, coach acknowledge how rowing being less common sport contributes to team building


Nyah Lam Submitted Photo

Junior Nyah Lam (second from right) watches the movements of her teammates. Lam said it is important for all rowers to be coordinated when rowing.

Darshini Shankar

Rower and junior Nyah Lam competes on the same team as rowers from various schools in the Indianapolis area due, she said, to there being few local rowing clubs. As a result, Lam said many of her competitions are also in other cities and states.

According to Lam, “(Regattas) are farther away because there’s not a lot of teams settled here locally. For example, (we’ve gone to) Ohio and Fort Wayne.”

Although rowing receives recognition on a global level with Regatta Day being celebrated in parts of North America on Aug. 4 as well as its status as an Olympic sport rowing has struggled to gain a foothold here. The only major club within the vicinity of Carmel is the Indianapolis Rowing Center (IRC), where Lam rows. 

Becca Kimball, director of rowing and head coach of the juniors program at IRC, said because IRC is the only club in the area, rowers come together from various schools as one team.

According to Kimball, “Rowing is definitely less well-known at the high school level, but (that) makes it fun because we have one giant team with kids from 32 different Indianapolis-area schools.”

Anna Frey, IRC rower and senior, said rowers from many different schools come together by the teamwork-centered nature of the sport. According to Frey, rowing requires more teamwork than other sports because rowers must act as one unit when they compete.

Frey said, “I have played countless sports in my life and nothing has compared to the teamwork required in rowing… On the water, you do (everything) as a unit. Every single motion of each person has to completely align with the person in front for the boat to move efficiently.”

race graphic

Similarly, Lam said she closely watches her crewmates to ensure their movements are synchronized and their oars hit the water at the same time.

“Mostly for me it’s just been about looking forward and copying the movements of the person in front of me,” Lam said. “Every time the oars go out and then back into the water, the boat stops for a moment. So if you’re in sync, the boat stops once. If you’re out of sync, the boat stops several times and your time slows down.”

In addition to the teamwork required when racing at regattas, Frey said rowers must constantly work together at practice. 

“It’s interesting because you can’t just (skip) practice one day. If you miss practice, your entire boat can’t go out on the water,” Frey said. “To even carry the boats, which are really heavy, down to the docks, each person has to work together and distribute the weight as evenly as possible.”

Due to the importance of teamwork and collaboration in rowing, according to the University of New Hampshire Magazine, it has been dubbed “the ultimate team sport.”

Because of how important teamwork is in rowing, Frey said her rowing career was affected by COVID-19 when social distancing measures were in place. 

“Rowing was really tough last year with the biggest shutdown in the pandemic. Our spring season got canceled and we couldn’t go out on the water,” Frey said. “When we got back on the water, we were only rowing in singles or household doubles.”

However, as the situation has improved, Kimball said rowers are now able to compete as they usually do.

Kimball said, “Rowing is great because it is outdoors and we can (socially) distance (ourselves) pretty well. Our team has grown over (the course of COVID-19).”

Despite rowers from different schools being brought together by the teamwork-centered nature of rowing and facing challenges together, Frey said there are still differences between rowers due to their schools’ acknowledgment of rowing.

According to Frey, “IRC is a club team, but it is recognized as a varsity sport (at Brebeuf High School). All of the students there can receive varsity letters for participating in rowing and we can use their facilities and weight rooms. It is really nice that they have recognized it. Being a Carmel student though, it isn’t recognized so it’s the same as playing any other club sport.”

Even though rowers from this school are unable to obtain varsity letters by rowing for IRC, Lam said she still appreciates the sport because she enjoys seeing her teamwork and hard work pay off.

Lam said, “I like doing something hard and getting better because of it, (and) I do (rowing) because of that, but also because it’s just fun to go out and be on the water without any pressure.” Rowing Graphic