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Watching Rowing

Interview and writing by Ellen Kahan


People-watching is an idea born of sidewalk cafes on the first spring day or the early evening stroll favored by the citizens of Rome called the passeggiare.  We all enjoy the pleasures of watching others go about their lives and creating little stories in our minds. Maura, however, is more than a people-watcher; she is a particularly empathetic observer of others and has been studying members of the rowing community carefully.

Maura’s experience on the water was “limited to rather more sedate lake canoeing in New England.” But like many other non-rowers living in Seattle she has observed the teams on the Lake Washington and is “consistently impressed by the grit and determination that it takes to get out there at the crack of dawn and pull together with teammates.” More casual observers often say that the teams “make it look so easy,” but Maura recognizes the hard work and team effort required.  Watching rowers has given Maura a clear understanding of the teamwork required of them to be successful and sees that carrying over into their future. She explains it this way: “committing to a team will build character and resilience that will help the youth of today succeed in whatever life path they choose.”

By working with GPRF Board member Kirkland Barrett for several years she has witnessed the translation of those skills into the work environment.  There she and her colleagues have been challenged to commit as a team to difficult tasks that seemed impossible at the start but when each player brought his or her best, it paid off many times over.  

Without first-hand rowing experience Maura has come to understand the great value of this sport thanks to the Row to the Future Benefit Breakfast.  Student speakers who have found a pathway to rowing through the Row to the Future program are a traditional part of the Breakfast. By listening to a high school rower describe, stroke by stroke, their development of the same grit and tenacity she observed in those unknown rowers on Lake Washington she now knows what that really takes.  When a youth athlete speaks emotionally about the lifelong bonds created between team members struggling and winning together Maura knows why she and her colleagues have flourished in a work environment built on team effort.

Maura is committed to the Foundation’s work... “I love the idea of extending the reach and impact of rowing, particularly welcoming underserved and nontraditional team members into the rowing community.”  Thank you, Maura, for understanding the many gifts of rowing!

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