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Moving Ahead With Adaptive Rowing

In October 2014, the Erg Ed™ Program held its first fully adaptive indoor rowing class at Eckstein Middle School. Toni Bader, adaptive physical education specialist of Seattle Public Schools, helped coordinate the session with physical education instructor, Josh Hanson, special education teacher, Jodi Gedansky, and Interim Erg Ed™ Program Coordinator, Aubrey Fitzpatrick.


With optimism and excitement, Toni reported that this PE class of special education students had “100% participation and time on task”. Now, both Toni and Aubrey are working to bring adaptive rowing to PE classes across all public K-8 schools in Seattle. So far, they have worked with teachers at Orca K-8 and TOPs K-8.


Some teachers, notably, Mr. Lou Cutler from Pathfinder, have been making adaptations to the ergometers for their students for a couple years now. In her time as Interim Erg Ed™ Program Coordinator, Aubrey is invested in providing the resources and support that PE teachers need to make adaptations for all their students and special education classes. The program will now invest in some equipment to accommodate a wider spectrum of new rowers. Special Education teachers are invited to contact Aubrey with questions and interests.


Over the past five years, adaptive rowing has become a larger initiative of USRowing, the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States, but there is still a lot of work that can be done on a local level. Tara Morgan, a Seattle-based personal trainer, is leading the initiative to open up the sport of adaptive rowing in the Northwest called Seize the Oar. Right now, Tara is coaching a team that will be competing in adaptive events at NW Ergomania!, a satellite regatta of the World Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston hosted by the Pocock Foundation.


Tara’s initiative doesn’t just operate out of one boathouse, but takes a regional look at which boathouses suit different adaptive needs and works with as many of them as possible. When asked about how different boathouses should start to create more adaptive rowing opportunities, she provides some experienced advice: “Not every boathouse should offer an adaptive rowing program, but every boathouse or club can participate in adaptive rowing.” The reality is that not every boathouse can accommodate a large spectrum of adaptations, but every boathouse can be a part of the movement to create more opportunities for adaptive rowing in the region.


If you’d like to learn about coaching for adaptive athletes, how to MacGyver what equipment your program does have to increase accessibility, or help support this initiative, visit Tara’s website or come check out the Seize the Oar Team racing at NW Ergomania! on Saturday, January 31.


To learn more about Erg Ed™ adaptations and possibly host classes at your school, contact Aubrey Fitzpatrick.

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