It was chilly on the Snohomish River, even at 3 in the afternoon in early June. The Everett Rowing Association’s (ERA) varsity high school men’s team arrived at Langus Riverfront Park on time, coming directly from school to practice. Crossing what used to be a junkyard filled with old cars and beer bottles before ERA cleaned it up, they headed to the boathouse and took up their positions to carry the eight-man Pocock racing shells down to the dock the organization built in 1991.
Each crew turned, lifted and walked in perfect synchronization, under the direction of the coxswain of the boat. Had they not followed directions precisely, there could have been any number of accidents as the teams carried the boats down the narrow ramp to the dock, swung them around, and put them in the water.
In addition to learning to follow directions, the sport of rowing teaches participants the lifelong skills of perseverance, teamwork, and making efficient use of their time.
Teams practice for three hours a day, six days a week. They come before or after school, regardless of the weather. During the winter months, when it’s too cold to be outdoors, the teams use rowing machines in the boathouse.
“With the amount of work that these guys put in, and the amount of work that I put them through, their physical abilities at the end of spring are amazing,” Coach Bill Clifford said. “What they gain most is structure. They spend 18 hours a week here, and getting school work in takes a focused student-athlete.”
Of the eight high school students rowing in one of the shells, Clifford pointed out five who will row for the University of Washington next year, one who has a full-ride academic scholarship to the University of Calgary, and one who will attend Washington State University.
There are not a lot of scholarships given for crew, but schools recognize the dedication it requires. Making it to the national level looks good on a college application, and this year 27 students from ERA traveled to Tennessee for the national youth championships. The women’s four-member team placed third, one of the men’s teams placed fifth, and the other men’s team placed eighth.
On that day in early June, the two crews raced up and down the river, alternately passing each other in speed intervals. It was obvious that they were working hard, but they were enjoying it, too.
Clifford spotted a smile on one of the boys faces and joked through his megaphone, “Wipe that smile off your face. This isn’t supposed to be fun today.”
It was one direction the team had a hard time following.
ERA has teams for middle school students through adults. They offer free introductory sessions for the public in addition to summer and school-year programs.
For more information or to sign up for a summer session, visit www.everettrowing.com.