It’s easy to create a narrative around something that’s been about for a long time. History, tradition, heritage – they’re all buzzwords that share synergy with rowing as a sport for the ages and rowing as a sport that is primarily dominated by clubs and schools with generations of experience and know-how.
So, when someone new comes along with bold ambitions to shake up the status quo, we should really sit up and take notice. And that is exactly what we did when Riverside Crew burst onto the scene nearly three years ago. Born out of the fact that there was no rowing team at Riverside High School – which when considering the school’s moniker seems crazy – a group of parents harnessed their ambition in late 2019 to create a functional rowing team in early 2020.
“We were told it would be next to impossible to set something up in 15 months, let alone three,” explained Head Coach Dan Passarella. “Several other groups of parents who had tried and failed warned us that there was simply too much to do. We had no shells, no coaches, no launches, no rowers, no tools and no place to row and to top it all off, rowing is a Tier 3 Varsity sport – which means no funding from the school”.
Pretty steep odds but in the spirit of a sport that continually pushes us beyond what we would typically deem ourselves capable of, Dan and his team banded together to create Riverside Crew. “It was basically three months of eight hours a day, filling out paperwork and preparing for launch,” he said. “We needed to fundraise fast as every penny is donated by corporations or parents via a 501c3 corporation (non-profit)”.
Dan’s own involvement in the club was spontaneous – he had no real plans to coach the team during the planning phase but his prior experience and knowledge thrust him into the limelight. Three months later, the club had five shells, four coaches, two launches, 25 rowers, four toolboxes and a patch of dirt along the Potomac to put their shells.
Wintech and King were involved right from inception, committing to financing the club’s purchase of boats whilst they were bootstrapped to ensure the longevity of the community. “Without Wintech, we quite simply wouldn’t be where we are today,” explained Dan. “Their support has been nothing short of phenomenal. We realised pretty quickly that we wanted to go with a one-brand policy for boats and Wintech were the obvious choice, from a flexibility, quality, service and support perspective”.
To get the program off the ground, Riverside Crew required nearly $20000 in donations and hundreds of untold labour hours from Dan and his team of coaches and board members. “We believe in this vision of rowing for all,” said Dan. “My son missed out on the schools’ swimming team and was facing the prospect of heading to college without a sport he could call his own. I wanted rowing to be that for him – it’s the sort of activity where you can turn up, knowing nothing, and immediately become involved and feel part of the squad”.
For those amongst us with a penchant for dates, you will have noticed that the club’s momentum was building up a head of steam at the beginning of 2020 – weeks before a global pandemic put paid to all sport across the world. “COVID stopped us dead in our tracks,” said Dan. “We’d literally been on the water for four days and I remember being sat at dinner with our directors when we got the call – the school is shutting; all sport is suspended. At the time, I don’t think we quite grasped the severity of what was happening – our program was disrupted for about a year”.
The above makes the next passage all the more remarkable. Just over a year after setting up Riverside Crew, and mere months since training had resumed post-pandemic, Riverside crowned their inaugural season as state champions at the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships, They took gold medals in the Novice Men’s Eight and Four, alongside a silver in the Novice Women’s Eight.
The boys and girls raced to success in King shells and Dan has plans to substantiate his fleet with further orders as the seasons roll on. “Wintech have been amazing and so supportive,” he commented. “We’re excited to be on this journey with them”.
Rowing, as many will appreciate, is a sport that gives as much as it takes, both personally and professionally. “We’ve had a couple of kids graduate to top-tier collegiate institutions and there’s no doubt that rowing played its part,” said Dan. “That is one of the most rewarding parts about what we’ve done here. It’s a central tenet of our philosophy; rowing develops good people. If you can nurture a batch of people to become well-rounded and decent, winning will follow. It always does”.
Isn’t it time you tried this record breaking 4+ & 8+?
Book your demo today! Our value goes beyond that of just a great product for a great price.