Rowing is an incredible sport that requires endurance, strength, and teamwork. The sport involves a crew of rowers working together to move a boat through the water. Rowing requires each team member to be highly skilled, disciplined, and committed to working together towards a common goal. It’s no wonder that rowing has been associated with developing leadership skills.
One of the reasons why rowing is so effective at developing leadership skills is that it requires each team member to take responsibility for their own performance while also working towards the team’s success. Rowers must be highly disciplined and committed to training, both individually and as a team. They must also be able to adapt to changing conditions, such as wind and water currents, and work together to navigate the boat through the water.
A book that covers the link between rowing and leadership is the 2013 New York Times bestseller, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. In this book, the importance of teamwork and leadership is covered, extensively, such as this section in Chapter 10:
“Nobody who does not believe deeply in himself or herself—in his or her ability to endure hardship and to prevail over adversity—is likely even to attempt something as audacious as competitive rowing at the highest levels.”
“The sport offers so many opportunities for suffering and so few opportunities for glory that only the most tenaciously self-reliant and self-motivated are likely to succeed at it. And yet, at the same time—and this is key—no other sport demands and rewards the complete abandonment of the self the way that rowing does. Great crews may have men or women of exceptional talent or strength; they may have outstanding coxswains or stroke oars or bowmen; but they have no stars.The team effort—the perfectly synchronized flow of muscle, oars, boat, and water; the single, whole, unified, and beautiful symphony that a crew in motion becomes—is all that matters. Not the individual, not the self.”
The importance of team spirit and unity has been highlighted time and time again. In an Owayo interview, sports psychologist and team coach Markus Flemming speaks of the importance of having a cohesive team.
“It helps all players enormously, especially at the beginning of the new season, to consciously take time and get to know each other in a common round, to communicate with each other and to agree on common rules and goals,” he says.
“If there is a new coach, he should introduce himself to the team and show interest in his team. On this occasion, the team members can communicate and become conscious about the strengths and weaknesses of individuals too.”
The article also breaks down sections of Lothar Linz’s book, Erfolgreiches Teamcoaching which covers a number of group rules in organised sports including “the group is more important than the individual member”and “everyone influences everyone”. According to Linz, a team always needs a good leader who sets the direction of the group.
Rowing also provides individuals with opportunities to take on leadership roles within the team. The team captain, for example, is responsible for leading and motivating the team, communicating with coaches and other team members, and making strategic decisions about training and competition. These leadership roles allow rowers to develop and practice their leadership skills in a supportive and challenging environment.
The internet has many examples of the link between rowing and leadership roles. For example, in a Business Insider piece by James Rosebush, he converses with his friend Cal, a nationally ranked American rowing champion. In this article, Rosebush asks his friend: ïn rowing, what makes a leader?” to which Cal replies:
“The leader in the boat empties the gas tank in every race — he goes full force, puts all his energy into the race, every time, in every competition. This is the way natural leaders emerge in the boat — it’s the ones who expend the most energy in winning, work the hardest. They stand out because they run the course with more obvious commitment and power and energize others in the boat to follow.”
This idea is echoed in an Institute of Managers and Leaders interview with rower Chris Hudgell.
“In every crew, someone will take the lead, generally the stroke of the crew,” he says.
“Everyone else follows the lead. It’s not necessarily the person who’s been there the longest so it allows people with different skills and qualifications to step into leadership.”
Overall, the link between rowing and leadership development is clear. Rowing provides individuals with opportunities to develop a range of leadership skills, including teamwork, communication, resilience, and adaptability. The sport requires each team member to take responsibility for their own performance while also working towards the team’s success. Rowers also have opportunities to take on leadership roles within the team, which allow them to develop and practice their leadership skills in a supportive and challenging environment.
Rowers have clear objectives and work towards achieving them through a combination of individual and team effort. This focus on goal-setting and achievement translates well to the world of leadership, where setting clear objectives and working towards them is essential for success.
In addition to the studies and experiences of individuals, there are also programs around the world that specifically focus on using rowing as a tool for discipline and development. An example of this is Row New York, a competitive program for high school students that combines comprehensive academic support with athletic training. The aim of Row New York is to help participants develop a strong work ethic and confidence. Their website states:
“Rowing instills in athletes a strong work ethic, persistence, and grit. This is particularly evident in the classroom, where focus and determination produce higher grades and college acceptance rates.”
Participants learn how to set goals for themselves and their team, communicate effectively with their teammates and coaches, and work together to achieve success. The program has been highly successful in developing important skills in its participants, with 100% of seniors in the program graduating high school.
In conclusion, the link between rowing and leadership is supported by a range of experiences and statistics. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rower, the sport offers a unique opportunity to develop your leadership skills and achieve your goals through teamwork and determination.