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IRL Alumni Spotlight

by Judith Vogel | Dec 07, 2015
In early June of 2010, I hit ‘send’ on my application for an internship with Riverside Boat Club’s (RBC) Men’s High Performance Group (HPG). Little did I know that I would find myself in Boston one week later, sleeping on my friend’s couch for seven weeks, and spend the next five years coaching HPG athletes at Riverside.
Judith Vogel CoachingIn early June of 2010, I hit ‘send’ on my application for an internship with Riverside Boat Club’s (RBC) Men’s High Performance Group (HPG). Little did I know that I would find myself in Boston one week later, sleeping on my friend’s couch for seven weeks, and spend the next five years coaching HPG athletes at Riverside.

The learning curve was steep, coming from coaching juniors and masters, but I faced the challenge with conviction. My time away from the boathouse was spent watching video, listening to presentations, talking to experts, and voraciously reading up on every topic that might be related to what I was doing. A shift in the coaching staff brought a new perspective to Riverside in 2011, along with the opportunity to collaborate with new people, implement a different training program, run a summer U23 program, and coach at the U23 World Championships (LM2-). These experiences were well contextualized in my classes through the Institute for Rowing Leadership (IRL), where I was a fellow at that time. After graduating from the IRL in 2012, I spent the summer coaching the U23 Lightweight Men at Vesper Boat Club before returning to Boston to the coaching staff of the Women’s HPG at Riverside.

Judith Vogel + 2015 USA LW4xThese first two years at Riverside, and my subsequent years with the HPG, were paramount in my understanding of the central role a coach plays in the development of the people in their program and also how they contribute to the long-term viability of the organization for which they work. Increasingly, coaches are expected to participate in fundraising efforts, boathouse operations, event management, and the long-term vision for both program and organization.

In the case of Riverside, the summer of 2015 brought exciting success with the club qualifying a LW4x, which I coached, to the World Championships along with two other HPG athletes in the LM8+. Riverside does not have a racing team budget and athletes are expected to raise the money for their trip, with a commitment from Riverside to pay any remaining balance. In the span of eight weeks, from Trials to Worlds, it was my role as coach to tackle the very challenging task of raising $20,000-$24,000. Our approach would have to be a bit different from the standard pleading emails, to parents and friends, to raise this amount over a short period of time. Committed to remaining true to the culture and tradition of Riverside we organized a social media campaign (check us out at @rbchpg), created a year-round Worlds fundraising strategy, and used new and existing annual events to draw contributions from outside sources. As a result we were able to raise more money than the cost of the 2015 trip, which allowed us to put that money towards future Worlds athletes.

The IRL program impressed upon me the value of strong business fundamentals in addition to a solid background in technique and science. We are no longer in the era of the coach who can run a team by volunteering their time a couple of days per week on the water. Coaching has evolved to have a substantial administrative component, evidenced by many colleges and clubs creating an operational position within their coaching staff to focus exclusively on budgets, recruitment, fundraising, and other strategic planning. Coaches have to persuasively communicate their vision with other athletes, donors, the organization, and the community.

For me, the knowledge I’ve gained through my time at Riverside Boat Club and at the IRL has equipped me with skill sets to tackle the increasingly significant components of what it means to be an effective coach, whether that be on the water or off.

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The Institute for Rowing Leadership at Community Rowing Inc. offers the only sport specific graduate level coaching education program in the USA. The IRL provides an intensive yearlong Advanced Certificate in Rowing Leadership fellowship program for future leaders through a curriculum based on both academic and experiential learning methodologies. IRL fellows spend 16-20 hours a week in the classroom learning from Boston-area professors, coaches, and professionals as well as 16-20 hours a week on-the-water coaching implementing the 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 www.IRLatCRI.org.
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