Rowing is a sport where inequality continues to rear its ugly head. There’s no point trying to deny it – if we’re on a true mission to change our community and our purpose, then we need to be honest and confront the existing reality. So, when a program springs up with that single source of truth – the earnest need to reshape the demographic composition of rowing – we at WinTech & King Racing pay very close attention.
In the case of Stem to Stern (STS) – a program designed to eliminate the barriers to participation and to increase representation of all ethnic communities within rowing – we simply knew we had to get involved. The program was started in Milwaukee, WI at the Milwaukee Rowing Club and has grown to partner with numerous clubs across the USA with one simple aim – to open the sport up to anyone and everyone who wishes to be involved regardless of socioeconomic background.
Powerful stuff and the sort of thinking that would have been dispelled as unrealistic and wishful just a couple of decades ago. However, the sport faces an existential crisis – change or become obsolete and irrelevant to a younger generation who hold social and economic empowerment as a key cause. STS, led by Will Bott, have recognised this to not only be critical to the sports future but also to the prosperity of high-performance programs across the country. Their momentum has not gone unnoticed; in the fall of 2021, STS became a program of USRowing, the national governing body of the sport, helping to fuel this growth.
“It’s fantastic to have the support of an organisation like USRowing,” explained Will when we caught up with him. “From a fundraising perspective, they are backing STS with an operating budget which has allowed us to bring another full-time person onto our team. They’ve also given us access to an incredible team, across social media, curriculum, governance.”
STS focuses on the key barriers that prevent so many under-privileged children from partaking in the sport, including transportation, swimming lessons and club/equipment fees. “We provide access to not only rowing but also high-quality STEM educational activities, like robotics, Rude Goldberg machines, engineering concepts,” said Will. “In the past two years, the program has just exploded all over the USA to some of the most established centres in the country and I truly believe we’re witnessing a shift in how talent is sourced and developed at a young age”.
Will came to create STS after spending ten years at Milwaukee Rowing Club as a coach, initially to try and increase diversity and representation within that ecosystem. Realising quickly that what he was doing resonated with not only his own community but numerous other regions, he scaled and set STS the ambitious goal of creating 25 programs serving over 250 student-athletes across the United States by 2022. This is a target he has already achieved.
WinTech & King Racing have supported STS for several years, including donating two eights to the program this year alone. “Brent and I have had a strong relationship for a while now and a couple of seasons ago he called me, asking if I was planning to attend the US Masters,” explained Will. “At the time, I wasn’t considering it, but he said it would be a game-changer for STS, so I went along. It was a huge trip as it helped us develop our relationship with USRowing and ultimately become a partner to them”.
WinTech & King Racing sponsor STS and have provided the athletes with shells to row and train in. Both the eights handed over in 2022 were critical to the growth and development of STS in their respective locations (Milwaukee Rowing Club and Tacoma Rowing) and allowed the crews to gain legitimacy within their middle-school programs.
“As STS grows in various locations, supplying more children into the squads, the demand on equipment becomes increasingly onerous,” said Will. “WinTech & King Racing’s support has helped alleviate this and allow us to continue to bring in more kids to fill more seats in more boats”.
Will’s ambitions are bold; his aim is fundamentally to support his partner clubs as best he can and ensure STS plays a key role in providing access to the sport of rowing. At a macro level, it is no exaggeration to say that STS are changing the face of rowing – hopefully forever.
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