This week is Women’s Sport Week, an annual “national awareness week providing an opportunity for everybody involved with playing, delivering, working in, volunteering or watching sport to celebrate, raise awareness and increase the profile of women’s sport across the UK”.
Marketing campaign like can certainly play a part in prompting women to take up rowing. but the reasons why many of us got got into the sport are often highly individual and would slip through the racks of formal sport development strategies
Here are some of my favourites from amongst the GB internationals I’ve interviewed for RowingStory.com:
Highly logical reasons
Ann Sayer (GB International 1960, 1962, 1964)
“When I went to university, I thought, I want to do something a bit energetic and I wanted to take up something where I wouldn’t be at a complete disadvantage because other people had done it for years at school. So I looked at three sports – swimming, and fencing and rowing. I went swimming a couple of times but I didn’t like the chlorine up my nose and it was cold! then I tried rowing. I never got to the fencing….”
Gill Webb (GB International 1975, 1976, 1979)
“I was a sporty school girl – good at most sports but I wasn’t the best at any of them and I wanted to do something I could be the best at.”
Incidentally, Gill coached the Lea RC crew which won the Intermediate Club Coxed Fours event at Henley Women’s Regatta last weekend. – Ed.
“My friend asked me along” reasons
Judith Burne (GB International 1987)
“I was at school and I lived in Henley and I hate to say it but a friend of mine fancied a rower, and she wanted me to go with her down to Upper Thames with her so I did!”
Chris Aistrop (GB International 1974)
“My flatmate, who was also a work colleague, rowed and skiffed. so she said to me, ‘We can’t work together, live together and row together so I will row and you will skiff,’ but when we stopped sharing a flat together I took up rowing as well.”
Other accidental reasons (and complete misconceptions) including one involving alcohol
Barbara Benzing (GB International 1954 and 1957)
“I wanted to be an athlete but there were no athletic clubs around at all. But I had an uncle by marriage who was a member of Crowland RC (on the river Lea), so he said, ‘Why don’t you come rowing?’ So he brought me down rowing.”
Daphne Lane (GB International 1962, 1864, 1965)
“I had a kayak that I’d built and when I arrived at Southampton University, I decided that the best place to keep the kayak would be either the boat club or the sailing club, and I happened to go to the boat club first. When they saw that I was almost six feet tall, they immediately said,’If you will row with us you may keep your kayak anywhere you like!’”
Christine Davies (GB International 1964 and 1970-72)
“When I went to the University of London in 1962 I missed the freshness and open spaces of the Yorkshire coast where I came from and when I heard about the rowing club I had this lovely image in my mind of a nice, gentle river somewhere with a wooden boathouse and reeds at the side and I thought an afternoon spent on the river in those sort of circumstances will be a lovely balance to living in central London.”
Penny Chuter (GB International 1960-1964)
“In the summer of 1959, when I was just 17 I won the Ladies Skiff Championships, beating Jean Wilshee who was then the GB Sculling Champion. My coach said, ‘If you can beat her in a fixed seat skiff, why can’t you beat her in the shell sculling boat, and all you’ve got to do is to beat her to be able to go to the Rome Olympics.’ He didn’t realise that women weren’t allowed to row at the Olympics then!” (Women’s rowing wasn’t included in the Olympics until 1976.)
Lin Clark (GB International 1974-1977, 1980-1982, 1985-1987)
“My husband (GB International rower Jim Clark) said we could have a dog if I took up rowing.”
Liz Paton (GB International 1979-1980)
“When I first started work for the Civil Service I was sharing a flat with two girls who did a lot of make up and a lot of chat about boys and fashion and that wasn’t really where I came from so I thought, ‘I’ve got to find something else to do.’ So I went to Civil Service Ladies RC, knocked on the door, and the person who opened it said, ‘Oh, you’re the right size, would you like a pint? And that was it. I was in!'”
And the one that just bowled me over it’s so inspiring
Dorothea Newman (GB International 1954 and 1957)
“My brother rowed and I got interested and thought I’d have a go myself, but what really inspired me was watching the Olympic regatta at Henley in 1948.”
Dorothea told me this in December 2016 – I was just in awe to find myself talking to someone who had been at this historic event and taken up rowing as a result! – Ed.
Reply below with why YOU took up rowing!