Established in 1909 and located on the banks of the Waikato River is a club that has been an important and long-standing part of New Zealand’s sporting history.
Mercer Rowing Club has been providing excellence in rowing training for decades, producing many successful representatives, including former Pukekohe High School student, Eric Murray, who has represented New Zealand as a gold medallist winner at London’s 2012 and Rio De Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic games.
Learn to Row is the club’s free annual programme aimed at introducing and encouraging students in Years eight and above that attend schools in the wider Franklin area the chance to give competitive rowing a go and make some new friends along the way.
The Learn to Row programme runs for four sessions over four weeks with Mercer Rowing Club responsible for four school catchment areas, Pukekohe High School, Tuakau College, Onewhero Area school and Te Kauwhata College.
Programme recruiter, Paul Cato says this year the programme will take place during the first four Sundays of Term 3, starting with the basics of the boat and water safety.
“Learning about safety in and out of the boats is paramount, given we are on the Waikato River. During the first session we show them around parts of the boat, which we keep simple, as there’s a lot to take in. We get them involved in various activities, so they become familiar with things.”
As a non-profit, volunteer organisation, Paul says the club relies on in-house fundraising that covers costs with the programme, including upgrades and risk, like damage to any equipment.
“Rowing is a great sport that anyone can take up. Like any sport there are costs and commitments and Learn to Row is an ideal opportunity to try it out without the pressures of having to commit to paying fees and buying uniforms first. Our fees are some of the lowest around for rowing, we offer a fee payment plan and there are opportunities to further reduce fees with fundraising. We really want to make it available to everyone to give it a go!” says Paul.
He says rowing is an interesting sport and once a kid gets involved and completes their first regatta, its in their blood, and they’re hooked.
“It can be life changing for some too. During my five years with the club, I’ve seen kids who, to begin with, were a bit lost, and the changes I’ve seen in those kids over the years through rowing, has been remarkable.”
Working in association with Rowing New Zealand and Auckland’s Rowing Performance Centre, the club encourages and supports its students, recognising that rowing can take a fair amount commitment and dedication, but try to keep it as fun as they can.
“On the whole, there certainly is a lot of success. The kids have a good time but are not slaves to the sport.” says Paul.
Part of the club’s success is the dedicated team of volunteer coaches, including New Zealand representatives, the Henry family, Leanne Henry, a bronze medal finalist at the 1994 Commonwealth regatta in Canada and her husband who rowed to premier level that has helped boost the sport’s popularity.
During the peak of rowing seasons, coaches take kids out six days a week for two to three hours, before and after school or in the evenings that requires passion and dedication, an important part of rowing.
Paul says its also parents who are a huge part their children’s success in the sport, recognising that if parents are engaged and working together for the kids, it has a positive effect on their performance.
“We had a fantastic group last year (with Learn to Row) so we’re hopeful we can build on that and have it again this year. It all adds to the spirit of the club.”
With programmes like Learn to Row, the club is looking forward to its future, as they continue to work alongside its growing community as a proud Rowing club and are looking to recruit more rowing coaches.
The club is keen to hear from ex-rowers or experienced sports coaches who are willing to come on board, where they will be trained and mentored.
Paul says the level of commitment will be up to that person and the club is happy to accommodate them full time, part time or casual, whatever they can commit to.
Learn to Row 2018 is a FREE four session programme run over four weeks during the first four Sundays of Term 3.
2018 start dates: • July 29th • August 5th • August 12th • August 19th
*Students who cannot attend all the dates will still be accommodated, however the more they can attend, the better equipped they will be.
To register interest and for more info, contact Paul Cato on 021 912291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.