When the wheels fell off…

Roll back ten years and I would be the person who understood the difference that sport could make and just how important it is to have in our lives. However I had never really taken part, never really felt like part of a team, never practised until I was really good at something. I didn’t feel like anything was missing from my life – I went to the gym sporadically, took tennis lessons, took up tap dancing but that’s about it!

I had encouraged my children to have a go at everything and supported them with their chosen sports, at which they have both excelled, playing for the county and competing nationally and becoming a British Champion (had to get those bits in #proudmum)!!!

After standing on the river bank for the umpteenth time, waiting for my daughter to row down the river, in the rain I wondered if I should have a go at rowing and so I did!!

Fast forward ten years and I was asked to support a charity sports day – primary school style. Well being an ex primary school teacher that was right up my street so I agreed. We did the sack race, egg and spoon race,  skipping race, hoola hooping and three legged race amongst others. It was so much fun but I suddenly realised I had developed a competitive streak – generally when we were being penalised or disqualified for something when other teams weren’t ( it still bugs me today!) but also in that I was screaming encouragement so we could be first over the line – points meant prizes. I wasn’t even interested in the prizes – it was the kudos of winning that meant so much more for me, certainly not just the taking part!!!!

What had made me develop this competitive spirit? Yep you’ve guessed – it was rowing.

I started in a boat of like minded mums and we were basically pushed out in a quad boat and left to work it out for ourselves and we did. We had great fun pootling up and down the river. We even began entering some local races and even won!!!! Shortly after this the rowing club began offering Learn to Row courses and our senior ladies squad began to grow. We soon had a regular turnout of about twelve ladies out of a squad of eighteen.

I began to help with the Learn to Row courses and encouraged a regular session for the recreational squad, many of these people chose to join the senior squads because they decided they wanted to compete. We got regular crews together, training became part of our lives. We didn’t want to let our crew members down so we did our very best to be at all the training sessions both on and off the water. We entered local races and won a huge amount of medals. We were never disappointed if we hadn’t won but we’d put up a good race – we always were the best we could be!


Then the wheels fell off …for a number of reasons. For eighteen months we lost our way and because we didn’t have regular crews we didn’t feel the pull to turn up to all the training sessions and shockingly people started having a life outside of rowing! Then they couldn’t make events and so we competed less and so the team spirit diminished!

I was the one of the ‘saddy pants’ who did keep on training (most of the time) as I still wanted to compete and I had built up a level of fitness which I had never had before and I needed the buzz of training. I began to get frustrated when we couldn’t get a crew together for a race or crews were thrown together at the last minute. Don’t get me wrong I knew we were never going to make the Olympic squad but I wanted to do the races justice and show people what our club could achieve, not just bowl up and be a walkover. Remember I had developed a competitive streak – it wasn’t going anywhere!!

And I loved being part of a team – that felt like a thing of the past.

It was a frustrating time. Thanks to my family and friends for listening to me whinging and moaning, twelve months on from the charity sports day and two fantastic things have happened.

Number one – so it seems that quite a few squad members felt the same as me and when it came to organising regatta season 2018 some one ‘took the bull by the horns’ and we had a frank discussion which ended in us joining together, combining forces and showing some commitment and hopefully our regatta season will prove to be a good one.

Number two – another of our ladies suggested a challenge – we would row a marathon supporting Cancer Research UK. That was about two weeks ago and in that short space of time some of the ladies have completed their challenge on the ergs or on the water and the rest of us will be rowing the 26 miles on the river on Saturday 24th March. (We planned to do it last Saturday but the mini beast from the east got the better of us and we had to postpone it). We have also raised over £2500 and that amount is still growing.

And guess what?


There’s a renewed buzz around the ladies squad.

All the people who have taken part in the challenge and gone the extra mile (literally!!) and made sure they have been around to support people in their efforts, whether that is sitting beside someone on an erg and helping them through the last 5k or 500m, feeding people jelly babies so they don’t have to stop rowing, shouting encouragement  when they “hit the wall”, cheering them on the water every time they passed the club and turned around for the next leg, lifted boats off the water for fatigued rowers in the snow and generally just been present while others are completing their challenge.

Huge thanks to those responsible for instigating the changes and thanks to the Ladies Squad as a whole for muddling through and then pulling together when it really mattered.

What’s that saying? You don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone – been there, seen it, done it and now we’ve got it back!

Watch this space for the next challenge!

I’ll leave you with a quote from the least normal member of our squad!

“I love that you are all weird and I’m normal but you’ve accepted me anyway!”



The Youth of Today

A couple of hours a week I spend some time coaching children from local secondary schools as part of the Warrington Youth Rowing programme. They are predominantly Year 9 so around fourteen years old and have attitude by the bucket load! Backed by British Rowing these children are being encouraged to take up a sport they probably wouldn’t normally have access to.

I guess a visit to the rowing club can be quite daunting for some of them and everyone reacts to new situations in different ways. They generally come across as being overly confident while trying to be nonchalant, cool and unamused. I’ve coached a couple of the schools and generally they all dampen their enthusiasm in front of us adults.

The programme has been running for over a year now and it’s not easy juggling timetables, staff and travel arrangements for eight different schools in the borough but this is what is happening.

In July a mini regatta was organised so the children could showcase their newfound skills to parents and staff alike. It was enormous fun and gave these children the opportunity to shine.

Last week an indoor rowing challenge took place at Priestly College organised by the Warrington Youth Rowing coaches and a variety of other people, including students from the college, head teachers and teaching staff and various volunteers.

Twenty four rowing machines had been collected and arranged so that there was a warm up area and a competition area. The machines in the competition area were wired up to the big screen so everyone could follow the race and shout encouragement where needed. The PA system was fully tested and they even had a professional sports photographer snapping away!

The children arrived looking nervous and not quite sure what to expect, huddled in their groups shivering with excitement ( or was it nerves?). Eventually the first competitors names were announced on the screen and after a warm up period they were asked to take their seats for their race. The start procedure was explained and then WHAM! off they went rowing as hard and as fast as they could – how many meters could they row in a specified time?

Going off too hard meant they ran out of steam – would slow and steady win the race? It’s not just about strength but about technique and also holding your nerve and not giving up.

They were fantastic – each and every one of them. Not only showing great skill and stamina but also empathy and encouragement for the fastest and the slowest! Many kids cracked their PBs!

After the individual round came the relay race. Now if you thought handing over a baton while running was tricky try the equivalent on a rowing machine!

So you row full pelt for about a minute, stop, drop the handle, take your feet out of the straps, move off the seat making sure the next person can sit down, strap feet in, pick up the handle and get that machine going again from scratch.

This really was the ultimate in team work with competitiveness, stamina, energy and enthusiasm by the bucket load. They all deserved medals – they were oarsome!!

Looking around the gym as they raced the last few meters it was heart warming to see the dedication from the children, staff and coaches as they screamed each other on when legs were sore, arms aching and lungs gasping- it would be easy to stop but they didn’t they powered on.

Teenagers get bad press today but this lot showed their true colours because someone believed in them. Warrington Youth Rowing is giving these children such a fantastic opportunity and they are certainly making the most of it.

I hope this programme continues to grow and you never know we could have some Olympians in the making, but even if they don’t take it to that level they will have skills for life – not merely the rowing technique but team spirit which will serve them well all through life.

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms…

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before but I LOVE ROWING.

When I’m not working on our Always Oarsome business, I’m usually doing something else rowing related. For example running the Learn to Row courses at Warrington Rowing Club. Here’s an insight into what it’s all about.

Learn to Row November 2017
Team L2R

So approximately five times a year, Jen and I run the Learn to Row (L2R) course at Warrington Rowing Club. Although WE organise this we also have the help of a super group of volunteers from our senior and sometimes junior squads. It’s a six week course – two hours a week on a Sunday morning – open to anyone over the age of eighteen.

We generally get a mix of ages and usually more women than men! However this time the majority of the group were over forty and sixty percent were male!

The big day arrives and our “clients” begin to turn up. Some people book on with friends, some come as couples and many come along completely on their own. It’s quite a brave thing to do – to start to learn something new with a group of unknown people.

Some are nervous, some excited, some reluctant – usually those who have been dragged along by a friend! I know this feeling I was recently dragged along to my first kayaking lesson – it was brill by the way!

Most people have watched rowing on the TV – you know The Boat Race? Those “kids” make it look so easy – believe me they have trained for hundreds of hours both on and off the water!

I’m not trying to put anyone off – we have great fun in our L2R sessions and by the end of the course the attendees generally have a good grasp of the rowing technique.

Let’s begin

The first session begins with a quick introduction and safety briefing. Next we check that our “victims” are wearing the appropriate kit. We do not want anyone to be unsafe on the water or uncomfortable.

Following this we head to the gym and the fun begins. Several of our clients may have used a rowing machine (erg) in their local gym (the tricky ones!) and many have never sat on one before (also tricky but less so!)

We go through the basics of the stroke to give them an idea of what to expect and some pointers to bear in mind when in the boat.

Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms”.

How difficult can it be? Believe me it’s not that straight forward, even less so when you think about it! Eventually we have them all rowing together and we stop the torture, er I mean finish on the ergs and Jen gets the cake tin out – they get really excited, momentarily, until we say we are just collecting valuables to lock away while we are on the water!!! No cakes or biscuits I’m afraid.

And so to the water…

We have really stable, safe boats especially made to make learning to row easy. Think very large plastic baby bath and you’re on the right lines – except these definitely float and are very tricky to turn over!!!

The boats are carried to the landing stage and put on the water and the oars fastened into the gates – the amount of information and new words we have given these people in this first half hour is phenomenal and we haven’t even started rowing yet!!!!

During one of our earliest courses, about week four, one of the ladies asked the question many people wanted to but didn’t dare, apparently!

“What exactly do you mean when you say ‘tap down’?”

After explaining this term we vowed to say at every session please do ask if there are words or terms we use that you are unfamiliar with!!

‘Tap down’ is the very first part of the rowing stroke so to not understand it causes a problem from the beginning!

The students are then seated in the boat and they float to the middle of the water and the real rowing begins.

This is where the ‘team’ part of rowing kicks in. You can have the fittest, strongest, tallest, most competitive people in a boat but if they aren’t team players they are scuppered – the whole lot of them.

A smaller, weaker crew who listen and row together as a team can quite easily make the boat go faster purely with teamwork.

So basically in rowing you follow the person in front of you – moving when they move – their arms, their body, their legs, their legs, their body, their arms. Simples!!

(Remember I said earlier it’s not as easy as you think? Well, even as I sit here writing this I am going through that motion at my desk to make sure I have the correct sequence arms, body, legs, legs….. you must get it by now?)

Putting this into practice does get very tricky because, of course, you are bobbing about in a boat on the water at the same time and water doesn’t stand still!

Miraculously, it all ‘sinks in’ and before very long we have ROWERS!

We have grown our very own team with everyone working together and listening and encouraging each other.

It’s difficult to explain just how proud we become of our ‘newbies’. We look forward to catching up at each session and recapping on things learnt in the previous weeks.

From the safety launch Jen and I see a group of people concentrating, thinking, imagining, smiling and laughing, but most of all we see them working together to make the boat go faster.


The next course starts in 18th February 2018 there are two places available!

Hands On!

Winning Team at Dee “Build for five!”
“We’re off!”
 “Let’s go!”
 “…and settle”


What the Dickens am I talking about?

So last Saturday was the ‘Head of the Dee’ – a rowing event where the actual race lasts for less than twenty minutes, however the prep before and after the race takes significantly longer!

Regardless of training, coaching, choosing the crews and making the entries, all of which are carried out by other ‘teams’ often behind the scenes, the main prep for this event started on Friday around 5pm.

Participating crews are instructed to be at the club to derig and load. Woe betide anyone who turns up without a rigger jigger!

“Where do you want Smile?”
“Are we splitting Kevin?”
“Which blades?”
“How many trestles?’
“Check if that’s tight enough please”
“Fasten the seats in!”

This usually takes a couple of hours depending on the number of boats and indeed trailers going to the event.

As we wave the trailers off our thoughts turn to carb loading and food prep for the following day, an early night and definitely an early start!!

Silly ‘o’clock Saturday morning and we hook up said trailer and drive to Chester. One last check – ties are tight, riggers stored safely, seats tied in, tool boxes easily accessible and we’re off.

Navigate round the Roman walls – some more accurately than others. Arrive at allocated car park and try man handling a trailer full of boats down a muddy slope into a space big enough to park a mini!

“Hands on Marge!”
“Let’s put Kevin back together”
“Where’s Boizel’s box?”
“We need more tall people”
“Cox’s meeting in ten!”
“Who’s got the numbers and safety pins?
“All singles and doubles to boat immediately!”

And so boating for the first division begins. All boats are on the water and must row up past the starting post over four thousand metres up river. There could be as many as one hundred and fifty crews! Imagine how long it takes to get them all on the water and up there? If you’re one of the first it seems like ages!

We are racing in division two so now we can relax, eat, drink coffee and watch the first division come down. It’s great when the weather’s good but on a rainy day… it’s wet!!

12.45pm and division two start boating.

“Last toilet stop!”
“Have we taken the blades down?”
“Check foot restraints”
“Hands on!”
“To waists”
“Bring the bow round”
“Whoa ahead!!”
“Excuse me please err excuse me err watch yourself err mind your backs”
“Easy – feel for the edge – and down”

That’s us getting from the trailer to the water’s edge with the boat!!

Always Oarsome rowing in Dee Head Race 2017Blades in and we head up the river. Umpires and marshals along the way pass the time of day and shout instructions at us. We have been notified where we need to wait and we must NOT under any circumstances turn the boat around in preparation until we are told. Very tricky in windy conditions as the boat seems to develop a mind of its own!!

At last we are told to make appropriate kit choices and turn the boat around.

“Warrington start paddling’’
“Here we go girls – let’s give it our all – nothing left in the tank – this is our race – we can do this”
“Build for five!”
“We’re off!”
“Let’s go!”
“…and settle”
“make it easy for bow – up two – back up stroke – we’ve got overlap – let’s have them – keep it there – this is nice – ratio – last 500 let’s go”
“…….and easy there!”

They are the best words ever!

Now we ‘just’ need to paddle back to the landing stage, lift the boat out, collect the blades, derig, load the trailer, count the trestles, push the trailer up the slope, hitch it on to the car, drive back to Warrington, unload the trailer, rerig, put blades away, and lock up the club.

6.30pm – call at fish and chip shop, drive home, and pour a large glass of liquid refreshment.

All this happens because we are part of a team – the Warrington Rowing Club team and best of all our little sub team – our crew – our quad. We had a fantastic row because we work together (we have photo and video evidence!) we back each other up, we respect each other and we listen. Our bow person might be the smallest in the boat but she is the most powerful part of our crew leading the way, keeping us informed and encouraging us every minute – all fifteen minutes and thirty seconds!

We also know we worked together because our team WON!!

At an Always Oarsome rowing day, you’ll learn how to do this amazing sport! Read about one of our team building days and what others have said about us. And contact us to find out more. GO!

Always Oarsome – Bears v Bulls Day

Yesterday we had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Kevin Cademy-Taylor of CT Sports Academy and his guests from Fairstone Group.

Our brief for the day was to give the two teams (Bears and Bulls) a day full of contests and competitions that would tire them out, give them a good experience of rowing and be loads of fun!


The day consisted of a training session in the gym where everyone learnt how to do a rowing stroke on the ergs (indoor rowing machines). We then split the group (16 competitors in total) into their teams. One team went out onto the water in our training boats while the other stayed in the gym where Always Oarsome crew member Megan put them through their paces with a 2k relay race followed by a fun game of erg golf.

Meanwhile those on the water took to rowing like the very many ducks that we have on our river! We were very impressed! The teams then swapped before we served a very well deserved lunch – one fit for Olympians!

The afternoon saw more indoor contests and another water session for each team to get them “race ready”.

The Always Oarsome day finished with a Regatta Tournament down 200m of our Regatta course. Both the Bears and the Bulls did brilliantly. Rowing is definitely not as easy as it looks and to be racing after justa  couple of hours on the water is a great achievement!

WELL DONE everyone from the Fairstone Group! We LOVED welcoming you to Warrington Rowing Club and giving you an Always Oarsome Day!

Always Oarsome crew We’d also like to thank our Supporting Crew for the day – Megan, Holly and Beth.

Check out our little video of the day. Bear in mind this was taken from the Safety Launch on the river so we didn’t capture the indoor contests.

Looks like we did a good job. Thanks for the feedback folks!

Fancy introducing your team to an Always Oarsome day? Get in touch for a chat?

Or maybe you just fancy giving rowing a go yourself? Check out our FREE taster day on Sunday 9th July!.