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Belief in the Unbelievable: Brian de Regt, the 2015 Fan’s Choice Junior Coach

by Sarah Marshall, smarshall@usrowing.org | Nov 13, 2015
It was a known fact that the men’s junior eight race was going to be an all-out battle as the grand final looked to close the books on one the most competitive USRowing Youth National Championships ever. In a day filled with winners, losers, photo finishes, and coxswain tosses – it seemed only fitting that the last race of the day be an epic one.

It was a well-known fact that the men’s junior eight race was going to be an all-out battle as the grand final looked to close the books on one of the most competitive USRowing Youth National Championships ever. In a day filled with winners, losers, photo finishes, and coxswain tosses – it seemed only fitting that the last race of the day be an epic one.

With bow number six on their white Hudson and orange oak trees screened on the back of theirSmal uni suits, the Oakland Strokes junior men’s eight backed into the stake boat knowing that they were about to race in one of the fiercest competitions of their lives.

The road was not an easy one, however, or one that they all thought would lead to the grand final. But for Brian de Regt, it was a dream that he knew he could turn into a reality.

“When I was initially talking to the Oakland coaches about the job back in the summer, they asked me if I wanted to win youth nationals, and of course I said yes, one hundred percent,” said de Regt. “And they said ‘Ok, but in 2016.'"

"I came into the program with that in the back of my mind, but I knew the previous coach, and I knew that he had done some great work with them," said de Regt. "When I got there, I came to realize that this group of guys really knew how to work hard, but I think they didn’t know how much hard work to put in.”

And quickly, the team of young rowers saw how their hard work could turn into success as Oakland Strokes claimed victory in the junior men’s eight at the 2014 Head of the Charles Regatta – a program first.

“We almost, in my mind, snuck that win in at the Charles, but it worked because after that, they had definitely bought in to the training plan. They saw how successful it could be.

"I also think, coming into it, it would be a rebuilding year for them, and they weren’t supposed to be that fast yet. And then, with the victory in Boston, it kind of sunk in, the belief in the unbelievable. Maybe, just maybe, if we do everything right we can get exactly what we want.”

The rest is now history as many in the rowing community can recall the young stroke seat of Oakland Strokes emblazed on the cover of ROWING Magazine this July. An athlete standing in triumph, overcome with emotion in being part of the first crew to bring home a youth nationals victory.

The race was a close one. Oakland fought through Sammamish Rowing Club and Newport Aquatic Center until the red buoys. Then, the crew let loose and pulled away with a deck-length on Newport. Community Rowing, Inc., made a mad dash to take bronze.

DSC_3822Only 0.36 seconds spanned between gold and silver of that grand final race. It was one of six photo finishes in the 18 grand finals that day.

While many credit de Regt for the overwhelming success of the young crew, he spends much of his time giving credit to his athletes as they successfully “bought in” to his new program.

“There were 12 different guys who rowed in the varsity eight at any given time during the season, so there was a huge support structure and it was great to see that the whole team had just bought in all year. It makes it easy to coach when you have such a fantastic group of athletes. That is what made the win in Sarasota so special. It didn’t feel like just a victory for that one crew. It was something huge for the whole team.”

De Regt’s impact on the Oakland Stroke’s program has been felt beyond the athletes as parents have taken notice of the change in the young team’s attitude and work ethic. With a focus more on achieving excellence and less on medal count, de Regt’s coaching has been described as “truly developing young men and women who want to be leaders in the world at whatever they decide to pursue.”

“Rowing is the best sport in the world, because it is so honest,” said de Regt. “There are no short cuts. I don’t think there is anything I am trying to do outright to develop these kids into adults because I think the sport does it for us. If you don’t do the work, you won’t get the result, and that is something that is transferred way beyond rowing.”

While de Regt gives all the credit to his athletes, he is very aware of how his own coaches have shaped him into the leader he is today.

“I have had some of the greatest coaches in the world and their influences have truly resonated back into my own coaching habits. Guenter Beutter at GMS taught me how to scull when I was fourteen, Eric Houston at Kent School, my coaches at Trinity Wes Ng and Larry Gluckman and Dave Gleeson my coach during my last few years of elite rowing, to name a few.

I have stolen something from all of them and there are little pieces of them throughout my training plan. I would be somewhere totally different today if they hadn’t taught me so much. On top of that, the staff at Oakland Strokes is so fantastic, they keep me sane and deal with all my crazy ideas.”

USRowing’s Fan’s Choice Awards embodies excellence in rowing by showcasing top performances over the current year. De Regt and his fellow winners were nominated by and voted for based on their contributions to the sport and achievements on the water. All will be honored at the fifth-annual Golden Oars Awards Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 19 at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.

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