30for30: Capital Adaptive, from the Beginning

By Chuck Linderman

The Capital Adaptive Rowing Program had its first year of practice and competition in 2009. Of that early group of rowers there are but three members of Capital still with the group: Joe Tezak, Chuck Linderman, and Charlie Lenneman. None of the original coaches or Capital volunteers from that early time are with the program with the lone exception of our volunteer extraordinaire: Bob Lenneman, who brings and rows with Charlie and also brings Chuck Linderman. This is a reflection not on the coaches, but rather the intensity of personnel requirements to run a successful adaptive rowing program and the adversities that each participant must overcome to be successful.

One thing is very different for CARP in 2018: continuity in the coaching staff from year to year. And continuity from one coaching year to the next is highly important for adaptive rowers. All of our athletes have been classified by medical professionals who understand the FISA classification system for adaptive rowers. It is important for competitive purposes that this be done fairly, because it seems as though each adaptive athlete brings his or her own set of variabilities to an adaptive regatta. Our program includes single and double amputees, stroke victims, college athletic injuries, blindness, and degenerative end-of-life challenges. All of these are included in our program and all of them have medaled in the Bayada Regatta in Philadelphia.

Our first head coach was Patrick Johnson with assistance from Mike Curtis. This was before the new boathouse opened in 2010. Patrick and Mike operated in the classic manner of crew coaches and did not hesitate to push the rowers as necessary. The results for that first year of competition were inspiring to all.

In subsequent years, a variety of coaches, each with their individual style, have come and gone through CARP. Those coaches who have had the most success have had strong volunteer coordinators. Our current volunteer coordinator, Michele Woolbert is responsible for much of CARP’s success. She makes the boat assignments and determines which volunteers can pair up with which rowers. It is more of an art than a science. Sometimes, if CARP is short of volunteers, some adaptive rowers will go and erg, though this is not the best solution.

Without our loving and unselfish volunteers, CARP would not be successful, let alone competitive on a national scale. The primary things the volunteers do are:

  1. Be a rowing partner for someone in a double, which usually means the volunteer steering the boat from the bow seat;
  2. Carrying boats down to the dock from the storage bay and rigging area;
  3. Helping put away boats after the rowers return.

Results from the Bayada Regatta in Philadelphia each August are the standard by which CARP measures success. It is truly a powerful spectacle to watch people with various challenges get into or placed into a boat for a race and see the results. It inspires everyone who is at St. John’s Boathouse that weekend in August.

As we stand on the banks of the Anacostia at the beginning of June 2018, CARP has its first new double, is scheduling in shifts on Saturdays. In order to get everyone on the water, with our limited number of seats, CARP is now splitting into two practices on Saturdays and practicing on four weeknights.

How far we have come with the great and generous support from Capital!  We could not have done this, and continue without all of the supportive people at Capital.   

30for30: Learning to Row

Andy Waiters is the head coach of the Learn to Row Program. He has also coached with the Juniors Program, and rows with many of the programs at Capital. You can usually find him out in his single whenever he has a free moment.

Capital recently ended its first Learn to Row class of the year, after ten days of introducing the basics to people who had never sat in a boat or touched an oar. This day was very similar to other tenth days, as we set lineups, got boats down, warmed up on the water and headed toward the big tree, the starting line we use for our Learn to Row races. After getting boats aligned, Coach Nicole and I went over general things they should be thinking about at this point, then got ready to trail the boats in the launches. I called “Attention, Row,” and they were off! To both our amazement the boats were moving pretty well, matching swing timing and best of all finding pretty good set, allowing for some really clean strokes. Those folks have now moved on to Intermediate Novice and are continuing to find their stroke.

I never would have imagined that I would have become a Learn to Row coach when I was going through the program with Coaches Bob Brady and Megan Silke in 2011, but the opportunity arose and here I am. One of the coolest parts of the class is getting to hear a little about where the new rowers are coming from, geographically and athletically. After we go around the group for introductions, we pretty quickly set all that aside. There is too much to cover over the ten days. Learning this sport also levels the playing field for everyone because it requires so much physically and mentally and includes concepts that are different than anything they’ve ever done before.

I also love hearing how people ended up in the class. When we go through introductions on the first day, we ask everyone how they learned about us. We always get a wide range of responses. Some heard about the class from a friend or coworker who went through the class, and some are former runners or swimmers who were looking for another competitive outlet.  I think my favorite response is and will always be “my mom made me do it.”

As registration fills for these classes, I always like to keep an eye on it just so I can get a general idea of what the makeup of the class will be. I’ve found that over the past three years the range of ages that are showing interest in rowing has increased. We’ve had middle schoolers and high schoolers looking to get a jump start on the season with their school or the Capital Juniors, but we’ve also had folks in their 60s and 70s looking for a way to stay active. It has been so rewarding to be able to work with people from so many different walks of life.

People find us in different ways but they keep finding us. As a short, black, gay rower, I am really encouraged by the traction the sport is getting in our small city and by how much more inclusive it has become over the years. There are so many opportunities for people to learn to row in DC, especially at the Anacostia Community Boathouse. Whether it’s one of Capital’s annual classes, DC Strokes’ Learn to Row program, We Can Row DC, Athletes Without Limits, Capital Adaptive, Capital Juniors, or DC Strokes Youth, people are spreading the word!

30for30: Bliss

By Emma Floyd

When I think about the two years I have spent at Capital, there is no one memory that stands out to me, but rather a collection of brief moments, where, in the instant, I have felt pure bliss.

The moments when everything in the boat is working perfectly and no one says it but there is an overwhelming feeling of triumph surging through everyone. The time on the bus ride back from a regatta when Erin tried about a hundred times to take a boomerang of the whole bus — and almost fell in the process. The awe I feel watching the sunset on the Anacostia, and the brilliant blazes of orange and pink and purple that paint the sky as the team leaves for the night. When, at the other side of the bridge, after our runs, we do piggyback and wheelbarrow races (don’t tell Nathan). The exhaustion and glee my girls 8 felt when we placed third at Mid-Atlantics, after having rowed in wind and rain. The bustle of the boathouse as boats come in and out. Just sitting in a circle as a team doing scullies and talking and laughing.

Crew is an incredible amount of work and sweat and pain and pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Honestly, sometimes you want to give up and quit. The team, coaches, and the love of being on the water is what keeps you going. I have met some of the most amazing people and created some of the most amazing memories while being on this team, and for me, all those moments are what Capital is about.

30for30: The Bratichkos’ Vision

By Guennadi and Elena Bratichko, with Clara Elias

Guennadi and Elena Bratichko came to Capital 25 years ago and are the club’s longest-running coaches. Guennadi had formally coached the Russian junior men’s team, and Elena was on the Russian national team, competing at the 1980 Olympics (watch her in lane 1, 2 seat). Their decision to coach that Capital, when it was young and less competitive, and their long-term dedication to Capital have made made a huge impact on the growth of the entire club.

Capital has significantly changed since 1994/95, when Elena and I started coaching here. Back then, we were not sending crews to national-level competitions like Masters Nationals and Head of the Charles River on regular basis. The first year we went to Masters Nationals was in 1997: a small group of rowers went to Long Beach, California, winning two medals, a gold and a silver.

Since then, the number of rowers competing at Masters Nationals has continued to grow along with the number of medals we have won and overall team placement. The biggest change is that we have a steady flow of rowers joining the competitive program from our own club programs. At one of the recent Head of the Charles River we had five rowers in our women’s eight that learned to row at Capital!

Our vision for Capital is to improve everyday training and grow the club’s team system, which introduces new athletes to rowing and provides them with the necessary foundation to move onto more technical and competitive programs, if they are interested. It allows us to grow our own talents and bring in new rowing enthusiasts to our program.

The greatest strength—and best asset—of Capital is its people. We love working with people who share our love and commitment to the sport.

30for30: Leon’s Story

To celebrate our 30th anniversary year, we are running stories about Capital’s past, present, and future. In our inaugural post, Juniors rower and Captain Leon Bi reflects on the difference Capital has made to him.

Splash. Gulp. Splash. My body ached as I ungracefully pushed myself through the water.

At age seven, I started swimming at a competitive swim club. Despite practicing hours every day, I made little progress. Each practice was a reminder that others, who started even earlier, were physically more developed and received extra encouragement from coaches. After three years of feeling insignificant and insecure, I quit.

At age twelve, my life changed when I joined Capital Rowing Club. I was a scrawny kid with a history of feeling inadequate. Yet the team welcomed me to be a part of something greater. Capital’s mission is to offer the sport of rowing to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and fitness levels. Although our team initially appeared to be a hodgepodge of students from across the DC area, we bonded closely. Our differences were vast, but on the water we were equals who believed in each other, striving to row together in perfect unison. Through Capital, I gained the confidence I needed to shape myself into the person I wanted to be.

Capital took me in and believed in me when I had little faith in myself. In crew, the team is only as strong as the weakest link. I started as the weakest link, but my team always encouraged me. Looking back as Captain now, I am grateful for the chance Capital took on me years ago and hope to inspire others to reimagine the way they see themselves.