From Asia to Africa…

Rowing has taken me to some pretty interesting places – South Korea, Australia and all over Europe for a start. But more recently, it has been destinations more commonly associated with sunshine holidays that have been the venue – the Maldives and Tunisia.


Both were in a coaching capacity, as part of projects to progress the sport in developing rowing nations. While the projects differed in duration – the Maldives for nearly 7months, and Tunisia for just 10days, the principle was the same: to get people rowing.


The Tunisia project was a camp in the lead-up to the African Rowing Championships, and involved athletes from all over Africa, and of all levels, from some that were fresh from Sarasota, to those that had never even seen an erg or a boat before. I was tasked with teaching the latter, who arrived anything from day 1 of the camp, to day 8 – literally just before racing was due to begin, and hopeful of racing a 2k in a single! Added to this, the common language for myself and many of my group was French, not something I had spoken since my Higher French exam at school, which was, well, more than a few years ago…

But this was a challenge I actually really enjoyed, personally I prefer high performance coaching to beginners, but doing it in French added a new edge! And it’s surprising what you can dredge up from the back of your head when you need to… “utiliser votre jambes et laissez voter bras droits” … “ramez ensemble!”

Some of my group showed real potential, not only in terms of picking up the skills quickly, but in how they mentally approached it, showing a real desire to listen, learn, develop and push themselves. Others didn’t take to it quite so well… but sport doesn’t have to be all about becoming an olympian. Sport is an invaluable tool for personal development. It allows you to challenge yourself, set goals, develop concentration, dedication and teamwork. Confidence is a muscle, you must push it and stretch it to make it stronger, and sport is a perfect way to do that. So if my group of fledgling rowers go back to Djibouti, Niger, Madagascar and etc, just a bit more confident in themselves and what they can achieve if they put their minds to it, then I have no doubt it will benefit both them, and their communities.

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