Rowing club trains in Florida over winter break

GVL / Courtesy

GVL / Courtesy

Brady McAtamney

Every winter break, the bay area in Tampa, Florida is the place to be for college rowing squads. This year, like most every other, the Grand Valley State rowing club was well represented with about 40 rowers from the team making the trip down to warmer waters.

“It was great. It’s a great time to get on the water again and not just be inside. Can’t argue with 70 and sunny,” said junior captain Chris Doherty.

Third-year rower and fellow captain Brittany Gronda had a hard time disagreeing on her favorite part of the trip.

“Just getting out into the boat,” she said. “We’ve been stuck inside here at Grand Valley for a little over a month and a half on the indoor rowing machines, so getting outside into an actual boat was very nice. It was a beautiful area with beautiful waterways. It was nice being with the team going to the beach, but we still got a lot of work done.”

Since this is the only opportunity for the Lakers to hit a real body of water during the winter, they spent their 10 days in the warm environment almost exclusively honing technical skills.

“We spent a lot of time working on blade work. It’s the most important skill of a rower. They had some beautiful blade work. It’s what boosts the boat. They really worked on that,” said head coach John Bancheri. “The people who are the best at what they do know what good feels like.”

According to Bancheri, the rowers worked mostly in two- and four-person boats, which are instrumental in working on technique and feel while rowing.

Though the long, strenuous training days were anything but easy, Bancheri continued to drive home one specific point to his team: mileage makes champions.

“Ask any of these kids and they’ll tell you it was well worth it,” he said.

Not only was the outing beneficial for the physical and technical gains, but also for the overall experience itself.

“The places that this sport can take you is unimaginable. I never thought coming into Florida that I’d join a sport that would take me to Florida and Philadelphia and this summer we’re going to England,” Gronda said.

The trip was instrumental in bringing the athletes closer to one another as a team bonding experience.

“It’s nice to spend time with your best friends not only working on rowing but just hanging out with each other and visiting places that are very cool to see. We’re very lucky,” Doherty said.

To make it down to Florida, the Lakers accepted donations from several alumni. On top of that, the athletes were required to pay for their own transportation, whether by plane, train or automobile. In addition, each member who made the trip kicked in extra money to pay for lodging.

Bancheri was blown away by the commitment level of his athletes, citing that rowers from as far away as England and California joined his crew on the trip with money out of their own pockets.

The Lakers were successful in achieving what they wanted to over the course of the trip, but they’re just getting started.

“This is like taking it to the next level; the stepping stone into the spring. Now they’ll come back and work on their fitness level, and if their fitness level is the same as their technical level, we’re going to have a great year,” Bancheri said. “We’re going to go indoors and they’ll become one with the rowing machine and develop their personal engine. Rowing is a power endurance sport so they’ll get better at that. It’ll get them to March break, then at that point we’ll have selection, then boom, we’re off to the races.”

The first major event of the year for the Lakers will come on April 1 as part of the Occoqon Invitational in Fairfax, Virginia hosted by George Mason University.