How The Louisville Rowing Club fostered a strong teen community

Avid rowers take part in a leisurely ride down the Ohio River. Photo by Sara Holland .

Sara Holland

Avid rowers take part in a leisurely ride down the Ohio River. Photo by Sara Holland .

Grace Fridy

The thrill seeking junior rowers at Louisville Rowing Club (LRC) make the most of every moment they share together on the water. Rowing isn’t just a sport to the individuals involved, it’s an adaptive character building experience. 

“I had a coach once that said that getting into a boat is like getting into a roller coaster, you’re kind of strapped in until practice is done,” head coach of LRC’s Junior Program Riley Kerber said. 

During the winter, a group of dedicated high school  students work indoors on strength training in preparation for the upcoming summer season. 

“I think one of the great things about rowing is that there’s a lot of cross training, and it’s one of those things where you can still keep your fitness up. If you have an injury of any kind that might prevent you from being  on the erg, you can bike, you can run,” assistant coach Olivia Oestreich said. 

The erg (ergometer), is a rowing machine that the high schoolers at LRC commonly utilize at this time of year. This is just one way to exercise various body parts, as rowing is a dynamic sport with many health benefits. 

Rowing provides multiple training options, such as strengthening and stabilizing arm muscles, leg muscles and the core. According to the Junior Program’s Coaches at LRC, rowing is a great form of activity for those recovering from injury. This is because it is a low-impact workout that increases cardiovascular health. It can also help strengthen joints for people with arthritis. The accessibility of rowing has led to a diverse culture of welcomeness within the community. 

“I used to be a swimmer. I stopped because I broke my shoulder, and then I got into rowing, and it was awesome because I got to still be on the water,” Bryce Jackson, a freshman at Presentation Academy, said. 

Jackson, a coxswain for the junior program, explained that as a coxswain, her job is to navigate the boat and communicate with her teammates while they row. She also has experience coxswaining in the big leagues. She has participated in the Masters Program, consisting of experienced rowers, and in the Louisville Adaptive Rowing Club (LARC). 

The LARC is a safe space for disabled people to engage in rowing recreationally and competitively. The flexibility of training has made the LARC an approachable athletic community where disabled and non-disabled people can come together. 

It definitely does help people stay active, gives them something to do, something to work towards, and it’s really nice to meet new people,” Lucy Vanderhoff (10, J&C) said. 

Vanderhoff participates in weekly rowing at the LARC during the summer, where she and her family have been learning to row. Vanderhoff’s brother Chase, who has hearing and vision disabilities, has also thrived at the LARC. Chase, Lucy and their parents have connected through their shared love of the outdoors, as well as with other rowers. Chase loves being on the water, as he also enjoys swimming, and Lucy has enjoyed learning to row, as well as taking part in the LARC community. They both have been able to forge their own friendships, set personal athletic goals and thrive. 

Speaking of thriving, a focal point in the attractiveness of rowing for many of the club’s members is setting off on the Ohio River. 

“It’s so cool to be going through water and creating so much power, and knowing that it’s just you, it’s just a really cool feeling. When you’re all in sync and your oars lift out of the water and go back, there’s just kind of that moment of almost flying that’s really addictive,” Emily Holland (MST, 12) said.

“I think rowing is so different because there are a lot of team sports where everyone on the team matters, but rowing is so different because you’re all in the same boat together. So on the field, if there’s a player that’s weaker you just don’t pass to them. But in the boat, if there’s anyone who’s off time the entire boat feels it, it affects everything, so you really have to be in sync together,” Holland said. 

She joined the team in the summer of 2022, which was the Junior Program’s relaunch after a five year break. Working with her coaches and teammates to form a sense of togetherness and community has been a rewarding experience for Holland. 

The Louisville Rowing Club has fostered an environment where people of all ages and ability levels can come together and connect in a relaxed, engaging, and healthy setting. Students like Holland and Vanderhoff have been able to grow as athletes and teammates with the help of their coaches, peers and the Club’s unofficial mascot, a dog named Ray.