COVID-19: What Happens When Boathouse Doors Open?

On Monday, April 27, from within their homes, 51 leaders from the rowing community signed onto Zoom to take part in the most recent Boathouse Leadership Call hosted by the George Pocock Rowing Foundation.

This call focused on one central question: what comes next for the rowing community?

Invited to speak to the attendees were three voices from the community: Padraic McGovern, Director of Rowing Operations with the George Pocock Rowing Foundation, Chris Chase, Director of Youth Rowing with USRowing, and Andrew Purdie, Executive Director of the Indianapolis Rowing Center.

The tone of the conversation was hopeful but realistic. In a poll held at the beginning of the call, a majority of leaders felt their boathouse would be opening its doors, in some capacity, in June. Though, of course, this is highly dependent on local and state sanctions, which was an issue stressed by Chase on behalf of USRowing.

While many, if not all, boathouses are eager to open their doors it is imperative that the rowing community is cognizant of the climate regarding local and state-level mandates. In response to why USRowing has not, as of yet, released any guidelines for boathouses, coaches, and insurance holders Chase said it was a matter that was highly individualized between each boathouse and therefore difficult to map out in a one-size-fits-all approach.

In response to the discussions held during this community call, USRowing has said they will be releasing insurance guidelines surrounding boathouse operations. Most rowing clubs around the county hold insurance through USRowing and rely on guidance from the national organization.

However, Chris was clear that “guidelines are only as good as their interpretation.” USRowing is aware of clubs who are located in areas that are reducing sanctioned isolation measures and who have already breached local guidelines by inviting too many athletes to come to practice. Chase, as well as Greg Benning, a USRowing board member, cautioned against this, not only would it be unsafe for the local community, but it may result in a SafeSport investigation of the offending organization.

At the local level, McGovern and Purdie discussed what they were each doing at their respective clubs. Both emphasized the importance of keeping in touch with stakeholders and multiple levels of membership in their organization. This allows them to stay in tune with their membership and keep them updated.

After breaking out into small groups for discussions about what other boathouses are doing, the group came back together to discuss realities and barriers that are facing rowing during this time.

“The realities [at the moment] are certainly not pleasant,” said McGovern. “The economy of rowing depends on densely populated practice times and densely populated facilities and that is just not going to happen for a long time.”

Purdie and McGovern emphasized the oversight that will be necessary when sanctions begin to lift. Singles and family doubles will likely be what most clubs will be rowing in the near future, large boats will be pushed further over the horizon.

“Our careers have been spent constructing our organizations and services,” said McGovern. “Now we’re looking to deconstruct these things. There are a lot of stark questions that will change the sport of rowing for a long time.” The conversation needs to continue. Despite a very successful call with wonderful discussions, we do not know what the future holds for the sport of rowing, but it is clear that the rowing community is stronger together. We invite you to use the comment section below as a resource and space to continue discussing your ideas, thoughts, and questions. In uncertain times, our greatest strength is each other, we want to hear from you.

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