Grand Valley Rowing Team
Lake Howell – Winter Park, FL
This winter break the Grand Valley Rowing Team did something it has not done in years. Selected members of the women’s and men’s crews were given the opportunity to attend a “technical” vacation training camp held on Lake Howell in Winter Park, Florida. Thirty athletes made the trip to Florida which marks the first winter break excursion in Grand Valley Rowing history. While most crews continue to train on the erg machines, Grand Valley used the Florida trip to get a jump start on their competitors. New Head Coach John Bancheri was excited for the trip and said, “This time of year is an easy time to back off of training, so we’re using this trip as a motivator for the upcoming season and a way to congratulate our athletes for their hard work.” While the team had three practices a day and rowed 100 miles on the square before feathering, they were able to enjoy Florida’s beaches and parks.
The team arrived the day of New Year’s Eve just in time to have their first practice on Lake Howell that evening. It was a beautiful warm evening and the team raced themselves in three mixed eights provided by Winter Park High School Crew. It was wonderful for the team to finally get back on the water after being on the ergs for so long. For being on the water for the first time in several weeks, the races went surprisingly well. The water was as smooth as glass and the team couldn’t ask for better rowing conditions. The races that night were complimented by New Year’s fireworks being set off from shore.
That night the team celebrated the New Year in Orlando. Dressed in attire unfamiliar to the normal spandex, the team paraded up and down the streets of downtown soaking in the culture of Florida. Thirty Michiganders brought in the New Year without the presence of snow.
The next afternoon the team resumed practice. Coach Bancheri had all the crews do a new drill where the rowers rowed with their inside hand and exhaled at the release by blowing into a New Year’s party favor. The coaches were able to capture the new drill on camera and some of the pictures were sent to Row2k and made the homepage!
Many of the practices throughout the week focused on posture, blade work, timing, and other various technical aspects of the rowing stroke. Stern fours of the mixed eights were usually occupied by the men and bows by the women. Coach Bancheri took two eights while the assistant Coach Keith Bouwman took the third eight. For most of the practices a pair was sent out to do individual rowing – circle rowing. Many of the pairs found themselves steering into alligator infested waters – so they were told. While much of the focus was put on technique, competitive pieces were done in the afternoons. The team raced the mixed eights and sometimes the women were racing against the men. A particular four would be rowing and the remaining four would be cheering so loudly that sometimes the coxies could not be heard. Everyone was supportive of each other and it was so neat to see both men and women working together. We also had to work together by working odd jobs around the boathouse for Winter Park High School Crew in return for them letting us borrow their boats. We wood-chipped, wracked, and dug holes. This manual labor was part of the deal Coach Bancheri made with the coach of Winter Park High School.
Knowing that practices were really strenuous, Coach Bancheri planned two afternoons were the team was able to relax and enjoy Florida. One afternoon the entire team went to Cocoa Beach, Florida. Coach Bancheri thought that most of the rowers would sleep on the beach the whole time. That was not the case with such an active crew. After playing “500” in the ocean, the women strolled along the beach while the men played a pretty rough game of football. The salt water seemed to do wonders for open blisters! The team sat down to dinner all together for pizza and headed back to Winter Park for more rowing after checking out the famous Ron John’s Surf Shop.
Thursday afternoon was also off for the team. Some people went to the beach, others so Universal Studios, and some just stayed at the hotel and slept. On one particular evening, the team made dinner for themselves. Each room was assigned a particular appetizer, entree, or dessert. It was held in the lobby of our hotel. While there was no clear winner as to which room made the best food, it was enjoyed by all and will definitely be done again. Many nights during the trip the team gathered in the lobby to watch video. Every rower had their own video tape which Coach Keith recorded. This was very beneficial to all the rowers and at the end of the trip the rowers got to keep their tapes.
The last practice ended with yet another series of races but this time the boats were allowed to row on the feather. After several strokes on the square, the team was finally able to let loose and fly. The races were short but fast. No one can recall who won but all boats made a significant improvement. The last night of the trip the team took one last outing to celebrate the end of the camp. Several rowers found themselves at a park with a ride called the Sling-Shot that threw two people 365 feet in the air at 100 miles per hour. Others celebrated with a more subdued style.
This trip served all of is members well as each rower was able to strengthen their technique and to get ahead on the spring season. The technical aspects that were learned will greatly benefit the team. The team will be able to move quickly through some technical aspects of the rowing stroke this spring and focus on getting faster earlier in the season. This was absolutely a most positive and wonderful experience for the Grand Valley Rowing Team.
Thank you to all the supporters, donors, and alumni that helped make this trip happen for the Grand Valley Rowing Team. Hopefully this memoir will serve as a testimony to the trip’s success. It was a most wonderful experience that will be remembered by all and will hopefully become as much of a tradition as the Spring Break trip.
Written by Rachel Truelove, Senior/President of the Grand Valley Rowing Team