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Rowing tidbits of interest, even when there is no news to share

There is no such thing as a boring conversation with Amanda Schweinbenz - nor an unenlightening one, for that matter.

Moments after the head rowing coach at Laurentian University and coaching coordination with the Sudbury Rowing Club noted that there wasn't necessarily a lot of news to share, just yet, we pivoted, tangentially, to a variety of interesting topics.

True, like many in the world of Covid-19, the folks at the Northern Water Sports Centre are proceeding cautiously, as the province loosens their grip gradually on recreational activities.

"When the government announced it about a week ago, it took a lot of people by surprise," said Schweinbenz, adding that the NWSC board had met as recently as just last week. "There are a lot of steps that people need to address before anyone can get back on the water, before people can do anything."

Still, the docks are in the water, and the club proposals for the adjustments that must be made, in terms of adhering to both cleanliness and physical distancing requirements, have been presented to the local health unit for approval.

"It's moving slowly, but in a very positive way," suggested Schweinbenz.

Though the city has yet to open the facility itself, the Laurentian university associate professor in the School of Human Kinetics staunchly believes that competitive rowers will return to some sort of workouts on Ramsey Lake prior to September 1st.

In the meantime, (altered) life must go on.

"I am still the provincial coach, so I am still sending out 160 or so emails later this afternoon," she stated. "I am connecting with athletes who did really well on the most recent battery of testing. In a normal summer, I would have been at competitions, having face to face discussions, we would have been hosting camps here, and in Welland."

"We just have to modify and do things differently," she added. "We've shifted such that I am now doing a mentorship program with coaches."

As a sport, rowing does enjoy some inherent advantages in terms of dealing with current restrictions. "It is easier to do athlete maintenance because they can all be on rowing machines," Schweinbenz acknowledged. That said, there is no substitute for being out on the water.

The varsity Voyageurs, typically a squad of perhaps six to ten who compete at the OUA level, alongside another 20 or so novices that are welcomed aboard each fall, will also be more than ready to go once the green light is given.

"When we get back on the water, when that happens, and it will, I will have the luxury of a singles boat for every kid that I coach," said Schweinbenz, with L.U. being home to no less than 16 solo rowing vessels.

The number is one of the largest in the country, even when compared to several university programs that will register teams that are five to six times the size of the Laurentian squad. "It's because of my philosophy," said Schweinbenz.

"I am the only program in the country where every novice starts in a single. Everybody else tends to start them in eights, which are safer, and easier to manage (for large groups). I want everybody to learn how to row in a single, and the reason I want everybody to learn to row in a single is that they will have better skill development."

"Novice rowers will learn how to balance a boat properly, you learn how to propel a boat on your own," she added. "If you are learning on an eight, it's a harder skill to learn. Because I have a smaller team, I have to make everybody as good as possible."

"In order to do that, you have to have the fundamentals."

And at a time where things are relatively quiet on the water, this was yet another source of insight from a casual conversation with Amanda Schweinbenz, never one to disappoint.

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League