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America Rows Feature: Re-Design Rowing
April 30, 2012
This last weekend, I attended a conference in Boston hosted by Up2US and Edgework Consulting and the Institute for Athlete Coach Education.
The conference got me thinking about how many of you have a difficult time getting started or have an even more challenging time keeping diverse rowers engaged. The core take away for me was that we need to rethink or re-design the way that we think about our sport. We are seeking a new demographic, but we are using old traditions, rules and roles to introduce this new group to our sport.
Just take a moment and think about how much rowing has changed. One of the biggest innovations was when the megaphone attached to the head of the coxswain made way for the first Cox Box. Can you suggest other major changes? What about in other sports?
Re-design happens all of the time in sports mainly for the safety of the athletes, entertainment of the spectators and for equity and fairness. The point is, maybe we need an ambitious re-design of our sport.
Sport re-design can help address issues such as:
- Access and inclusion
- Level of competition
- Skill development
- Youth development outcomes
Maybe we need to stop chasing after youth who already play sports in urban communities. Only three percent of the youth participate in organized sports. What about the other 97 percent?
What if we focused on middle school students and created mixed boat events with shorter distances of 500-750 meters and in small boats. That would keep it fun for the athletes as well as the spectators, which, in turn, will help the your retention rate. As they enter high school they would row in traditional gender specific boats. Someone needs to rock the boat.
There are 10,000 boomers retiring everyday. What type of marketing or recruiting are you planning for this group of people. You need revenue and they want something to do. The majority minority is now our Latino/a Hispanic population. What will you do differently to recruit this audience. What other ways can we change the game?
Take an assessment of your present reality - how is it working for you? What can you do better? What will your new outcomes look like? Let's get to work on the re-design of how we think about ourselves and our sport. Together we can be game changers.
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Richard Butler, USRowing Inclusion Manager
America Rows Features