Institute for Rowing Leadership Alumni Spotlight

by Alex Mann | Nov 23, 2015
This summer I decided to switch out my coaching toolbox for a cooler on the Schuylkill. Not groundbreaking, nor a secret, getting cool when it is hot out is really nice. The switch was a game changer

This summer I decided to switch out my coaching toolbox for a cooler on the Schuylkill. Not groundbreaking, nor a secret, getting cool when it is hot out is really nice. The switch was a game changer.

I found that the Philly heat was taking a toll on the rowers and causing the second half ofAlex Mann2 long practices to be low quality. In the launch, I could feel the change just sitting in the heat for a long practice. Drinking cool water and cool water on the skin were things that I learned about during the thermoregulation portion of the exercise physiology class in the IRL. The key was not that it was pleasant, the key was that it improved practice quality significantly. Once I did it, I was amazed that launches everywhere don’t have coolers filled with ice during the summer. After all, every field sport has five gallon buckets of ice cold water or sports mix for that very reason.

Often it’s not secrets kept that make for the best coaches, it’s a willingness to think creatively and collaborate with others. Since my time at the IRL I have coached with the junior national team, Princeton, Vesper, Seattle Rowing Center, and now the UW Men, continuing to learn from the fastest programs in the country. What I have found is that great coaches and rowers at every level are continual students of the sport with a deep awareness that they always have more to learn.

As a fellow at the Institute for Rowing Leadership from July of 2013 to June of 2014, I was immersed deeply in this integrative learning process, but it has not been a one-off experience for me. The IRL was the way for me to pursue my passion, become a better student of the sport, and develop professionally by providing a model for continual learning and improvement that I continue to build upon every day.

My introduction to rowing as a walk-on novice at University of Puget Sound, a small liberal arts DIII school in Tacoma, Washington. Quickly, I became passionate about the sport and spent my summers working at different boathouses trying to learn as much as I could to squeeze the most out of the informal learning opportunities available. Upon my graduation from UPS, I coached for two years, but was not as effective as I wanted to be. I became aware of significant deficiencies in my knowledge of the stroke, team management, injury prevention, and physiology. I was not serving the athletes well and I wanted to do something about it.

It was then I heard about the IRL fellowship program and knew it was my best option for pursuing a career in coaching. 

The IRL set a standard for the level of attention and amount of work it takes to be a part of a successful coaching team. Coupled with my coaching practicum with the Boston University Men, I was able to learn daily from top notch coaches, which was complemented by intensive coursework in the methods for effective coaching, the science behind training, and the nuts and bolts of program management.

Alex MannTwo years and four cross country moves took me from Tacoma to my ideal position in Seattle with the University of Washington Men, a drive from Tacoma to Seattle which takes most people just under an hour. That said, I would not give up my very winding path. En route I worked with some of the best programs and people rowing has to offer and participated in the most pioneering and innovative coaching education program offered in the United States or anywhere. 

The Institute for Rowing Leadership at Community Rowing Inc. is the only sport specific post-graduate level coaching education program in the USA. The IRL provides an intensive yearlong Advanced Certificate in Rowing Leadership fellowship program for future leaders with a curriculum based on both academic and experiential learning methodologies. Fellows spend 16-20 hours a week in the classroom learning from Boston-area professors, coaches and professionals and 16-20 hours a week on-the-water coaching and implementing lessons learned in the classroom. The IRL Fellowship Program accepts applications twice annually with an early admission deadline on January 4th, 2016 and a regular admission deadline on March 14th, 2016. For more information on the program and details on how to apply, please visit

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