Laker Navy takes training to Tampa

Members of the GVSU rowing team wave to a nearby cruise ship on Dec. 18.

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Members of the GVSU rowing team wave to a nearby cruise ship on Dec. 18.

Mark Washburn

Winter break is not only a chance for rest and relaxation, but, for some, it is a chance to travel somewhere warm.

The Grand Valley State University club rowing team took a trip to Florida over break, but its intent was much more than a chance for some R&R. The team took on the “work hard, play hard” mantra to train for the upcoming spring season.

The weather was near perfect for GVSU’s rowers as they trained for eight days on the smooth waters near Tampa Bay. The annual trip provided time to work on technique before strength training in the winter.

GVSU coach John Bancheri, in his 10th year at the helm, sought to use the time to really iron out the technical aspects of the sport.

“We took the time out there on the water to improve upon our weight placement,” Bancheri said. “Bladework was also a huge focus for training.”

Such technical aspects increase the length of the stroke, which has more effect on the synchronization and length of stroke. Improvements in these areas are vital to the team’s speed and subsequent success.

Senior captain Austin Burris said he was excited about building up a strong base for the team.

“We were really focused on getting the most out of each stroke,” Burris said. “We want that great reach. Another focus during training was just getting a lot of mileage.”

The Lakers rowed 20 miles a day on average, and the extra time spent on the water figures to pay dividends when the spring season gets underway. 

The trip also gave the athletes an opportunity to bond. Three days were designated beach days, when the teams were able to hang out at the beach or walk around town.

“We had a great chance to get to know each other better, especially the novice (first-year) class,” Burris said.

The team has a few months of strength training before heading back to Florida for spring break. Then the spring season begins, which has incited a lot of excitement. 

For GVSU, there is much to look forward to in the upcoming season. 

“It will be great to go back to San Diego in April because both the men and women have been invited back,” Burris said. “The men won last year, and we were able to level up a race.

“We have the potential to be the fastest Grand Valley team to date.”

With the Florida training helping technique and team chemistry, the Laker Navy figures to be a force on the water once again in the 2015 spring season, which kicks off in the Georgia Tech scrimmage on March 8.

To read more about the trip, visit