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Not Sliding By: Mark Borchelt, the 2015 Fan’s Choice Masters Coach

by Sarah Marshall, smarshall@usrowing.org | Nov 17, 2015
Borchelt, the head coach of the Texas Rowing Masters program and this year’s 2015 Fan’s Choice Masters Coach awardee, has come a long way since his early days of coaching.

When Mark Borchelt made his first attempt at coaching, the result was disastrous.

“A year after the 1980 Henley, my old high school program asked me to come back and do someMark-Borchelt coaching,” said Borchelt. “So I took over the freshman girls team and had no success at all. I didn’t have a clue. It was so frustrating because I knew how to row, but I didn’t know how to teach other people.”

Borchelt, the head coach of the Texas Rowing Masters program and this year’s 2015 Fan’s Choice Masters Coach awardee, has come a long way since his early days of coaching.

In five years, Borchelt has put TRC on the map as a formidable program in masters-level competition. This year Borchelt guided his crew to an overwhelming victory at the Heart of Texas Regatta with almost three times as many points as the runner-up club and the points trophy at the Texas State Championship Regatta.

TRC’s most impressive numbers could possibly be from the 2015 USRowing Masters National Championships in Camden, N.J., as 27 boats took home medals, including 10 national championships, to finish seventh in the overall points race.

The men’s program finished third overall behind much larger teams. Borchelt not only coached the club to its best finish at the event but also raced and claimed gold and silver medals of his own.

“We were all at masters nationals looking around at each other, asking, ‘Is this real?’ To amass almost 400 points and take home almost 30 medals was unbelievable.”

DSC_9773The success at this year’s masters nationals had been the goal all along for Borchelt, who, after taking a long hiatus from rowing following elite level competition until 1980, only recently made his return to rowing in 2008.

“My hope and dream from the get-go was to coach masters who had the skill and the desire to win a national championship. The dream was to help people achieve their potential and show them they have more potential than they think they have and to help them reach that level.

"Masters rowers really want to help one another. They are like sponges that appreciate everything I try to teach them and constantly want more. Getting athletes into the sport and within a year, having them be successful and winning medals is what made me want to be good at this.”

Besides the accolades, Borchelt shines through his simple actions as a coach. His positive coaching mannerisms and habits of taking the time to coach athletes one-on-one have paid off, and his humility, respect and love for the sport is respected by all he teaches.

“I have spent so much time teaching my masters how to row, from the first time they put an oar into the water, from when they push off to race at masters nationals, I feel like I give people hope. I help them change what they need to do, and it energizes them and feeds their spirit.

"I spend so much time going over technique and really giving them constructive advice on how to become a better rower. It doesn’t matter what their skill level is to me. I don’t let them just slide by and do whatever just to get by. This isn’t survival rowing – it's efficiency and performance-based.”

Before his time as a coach, Borchelt was an athlete for many years with the elite team atHenley 1980 Potomac Boat Club and was a member of the U.S. national team from 1973 through 1980 including the 1976 and 1980 Olympic teams. At the 1979 World Rowing Championships, Borchelt brought home a bronze medal in the pair with coxswain.

Borchelt also enjoyed success at the Henley Royal Regatta winning the Stewards Cup in the straight four in 1975 and won the Silver Goblets as part of the U.S. Olympic team in 1980.

USRowing’s Fan’s Choice Awards embodies excellence in rowing by showcasing top performances over the current year. Borchelt 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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