The Start of Another Season

The Williamsburg Boat Club gets back on the water for their Spring Season.


Photograph by Samuel Findley

The coaches, parents, and rowers all arrive at the boathouse to start off the new season.

Rowers from different schools reunite after the long winter break, some meet with smiles others with hugs.

“One, two, three, WBC!” and the first practice of the spring season is done. They started the day of practice by arriving at Chickahominy Riverfront Park. Boats from the previous season are reunited, friends from different schools catch up after the long winter break, and coaches seeing old and new rowers. “The rowers are excited, there’s possibilities and more variables than we can solve.” Says Tom Rooks, the head coach of the team, “I love going into it with a lot of unknowns and then just seeing who we are.”  For Rooks as a head coach, no two seasons are the same, “There are certain of values of our team that don’t ever change, but every season we’re writing a whole new story and seeing who we are.” Some of the teams values that don’t ever change, like the no rower turned away policy and as Ben Marks, a sophomore at Jamestown High School, says, “It’s a pretty supportive teams as long as you put in the right effort and work they’re all right there beside you.” But the parts that always change are, “The energy, and where the rowers are at physically and mentally.” Rooks says.

Rooks calls the whole team together to give a talk addressing the new rules from the EVSRA (Eastern Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association), the injury prevention, the new workout equipment given to use, and the plan for the season. After the conversation, the team split into their groups: returning boys and girls and novice boys and girls. When each group is finished with their conversations, they start a half mile run to a bathhouse in the park and back. When they are finished, they begin their dynamic warm ups, then they reconvene with Coach Rooks he shows them some of their new workout movements. Then, they split up into their boats, with everyone mixing together. And boat after boat is carried down to Gordon Creek, laid in, pushed off from the dock, and is moved out of the creek. The season is on.+++

Novice boys and girls after carrying down the dockside rowers learn which side they’re good on, and a few are good at both.

The boats are laid in the water and moved down the creek and out into the river, and the boats are full of conversation. Back on land the novice boys and girls, numbering only seven in total, are in the boathouse learning the technique of rowing on the ergometers, or ergs. After each novice put in around one to two kilometers (1/3 mile -1 1/5 miles), Coach Mike Cowden tells his novices from the fall season, numbering five of the total seven novices, to head down to the dock and set up the dockside rowers. Coach Cowden and the girl’s novice coach, Mary Lou O’Halloran, stay up at the boathouse helping the two new novices for the season. Soon they arrive down at the dock and begin taking turns figuring out each rower’s prime side of the boat, port or starboard.

Coach Rooks finishes the day with his final speech, then passes it off to Coach Matthew Zackary.

Soon the boats return and the novices take the dockside rowers back up and assist the return of the boats. After all of the boats have been returned to their racks, each of the coaches meet with their groups for a quick rundown of what happened and what’s going to happen in the upcoming weeks. When all the coaches were done Coach Rooks summons all the rowers together, expresses his excitement for the upcoming season, “I’m ready to go home and drink out of my Viking horn,” He says, “Filled with water of course, you know, you got to hydrate.” Then he passes it to the returning boy’s coach Matthew Zackary, and he calls the break, “WBC on three!” And everyone else joins in, “One, two, three, WBC!”