Bruce Lynn who leads the adaptive squad at Marlow very kindly allowed Love Rowing's Sam Courty to attend one of their adaptive training sessions so we could see first-hand the great work they are doing to increase participation amongst the adaptive community. Sam takes us to the session...
"When I arrived down at the club I was greeted with the familiar sight of organised chaos. Boats were being adjusted, new shoes being fitted because the current ones didn’t fit, crews trying to figure out their order; at first nothing would suggest this was an adaptive squad training session. However, take a closer look and rigger floats were being fitted, a carbon fibre static seat was being secured into a double and rowers were wearing life jackets to row.
It wasn’t long before my extra pair of spare hands was being used to help manoeuvre boats in and out of the boat shed. It surprised me there weren’t any designated racks or the equivalent ‘disabled car parking spaces’ for their boats, no, we still had to weave our way in and out of boats, riggers and awkwardly placed trestles and it was all absolutely fine. Everyone had found their own way of managing and adapting, I guess no different to world we all live in.
They were preparing to race at City of Oxford Regatta, so the racing crews were having their final outings. Most crews I watched comprised of an adaptive athlete and a support rower- an able-bodied rower, whose job it is to offer support in whatever way needed, whether it be to provide balance to the boat, some coaching, to do the steering, whatever was required to make the combination work.
The range of disabilities that were catered for was amazing and no two crews were the same. One lady only had the use of one arm so her and her crewmate went out in a ‘sculling pair’. They each rowed with the opposite side blade but, as only one arm was being used, sculling blades were used to ‘lighten the load’.
I had a lovely conversation with a girl, Mari and her dad. Mari has cerebral palsy and is a fulltime wheelchair user. She is a current para dressage rider and was longlisted for the Tokyo Paralympics. A friend of hers had started rowing and Mari wanted to give it a go so came down to Marlow RC to see if it would be possible. This was only her 9th or 10th outing and she was partnered with Paul, an experienced support rower. Due to Mari’s condition, she is classified as a PR1 rower which means she can only use her arms. It was fascinating to watch how Paul adapted to this and even invented a new ‘style’ of rowing where he would take one stroke to Mari’s two.
It's clear that this club will find a way to cater for everyone regardless are their disability and if there’s not already a way to do it, they will be creative and find one.
The main message I got however is the importance of SAFETY.
The way Marlow work is every boat that is out on the water is in eye shot of a coach the whole time. The coaches communicate via ‘vital’ walkie talkies to ensure there is always sufficient cover of the rowers and their whereabouts. Bruce told me while we were out on the launch, ‘we don’t do that much coaching, our main role is to ensure everyone is safe at all times’.
To hear about how Marlow RC started up their adaptive squad, take a look at this month’s Adaptive Oar-igin story.
For anyone interested in learning more about adaptive rowing, Bruce has a fantastic website where he blogs regularly and there are two must reads blogs called ‘Myths of Adaptive Rowing’ and ‘Not Myths of Adaptive Rowing’ which are linked below.
I had a brilliant time visiting the club, their squad and learning about everything they are doing to support adaptive rowing. I would like to say a big thank you for having me and being so welcoming."