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Friday, March 27, 2015

Will the sport of rowing ever be safe from stereotypes?

TO THE KID WHO HOPES HE “WON’T GET JUMPED BY A BUNCH OF STUDENT AMBASSADORS” - recently a local kid wrote that he wanted to help his buddy out (recruiting our rowers) but that he didn’t “want to get jumped by a bunch of student ambassadors.”  Come on now, what are they going to do, smother you in their cuteness?  I mean, have you guys seen my Student Ambassadors?  They're adorable.  And brilliant.  And hard working.  And athletic.  And commmunity-minded.  Maybe they'll jump some common sense into you.


The Student Ambassadors are the certified members of America Rows and Swims Newburgh, an official affiliate of America Rows, the inclusion branch of USRowing, the national governing body of the sport of rowing.  This I know because I am the founder and Director of America Rows and Swims Newburgh.  We provide rowing scholarships for underserved youth in the City of Newburgh to have an after school swim club and row for the Newburgh Rowing Club.  In all honesty, we have dealt with a LOT of prejudice over the years and it is disappointing every time I see it rear its ugly head again.

Our Student Ambassadors don't have the mentality, much less the time or the energy to "jump" anyone.  I keep them super busy and that's not a mistake.  There is NEVER a shortage of things for them to do, and their biggest challenge is prioritizing all the academic, athletic and community commitments I give them.

Little known fact:  if accepted into the program, I have our Student Ambassadors sign 4-page contracts in which they promise, among other things to behave themselves; to swim twice a week at the Hudson Valley Bluefish Swim Club; to come to rowing practice from 3 - 5 times a week; to refrain from negative social media; to keep their grades up; to refrain from drugs and alcohol, and to put in 100 hours a year of community service.

Everyone in this area and in local government knows the term “Student Ambassador”.  Our kids are the ones out there collecting food for the Salvation Army, serving Thanksgiving Dinner to the homeless, delivering presents to the needy during Christmas, ringing the Kettle bell for the salvation army, collecting clothes for hurricane and typhoon victims, shoveling show for the elderly all winter, cleaning and boathouse from top to bottom when asked, providing free swim and rowing instruction, volunteer lifeguarding and more.  When it comes time to fill out their Be Recruited college profiles for them, I usually run out of room they do so much.

We have 30 certified Student Ambassadors from ages 8 - 17.  They are white, black, Latino and Pacific Islander.  They go to public school, have scholarships to private schools worth up to $45,000.00 per year, and attend faith-based schools.  Our Student Ambassadors don’t have time to “Jump” anyone, if they even knew how to do such a thing.  They are too busy rowing, swimming, studying and achieving.  The average GPA of our middle schoolers, all of whom live below the poverty level, is a 95.
 
So if by "jump" you, you mean overwhelm you with their cuteness, their awesomeness, their brilliance, their athletic ability and their huge hearts then OK be worried.  But if you mean that one of the above pictured little kids is going to jump you like a thug in a back alley, then you must have us mixed up with some other group.  We are scholar athletes, mostly black and brown, but our weapons are our minds and our hearts.  I suggest you open your heart before it's too late.  Esse.

Have a great day, everyone and, as always Remember to Count Your Blessings!  Wish me luck as I take some of our varsity  Student Ambassadors on a road trip overnight to Boston, for the USRowing National ID Camp on Sunday!  

For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit www.LoBiondo.org (photo of the silly Tweet and some of our more adorable Student Ambassadors)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lessons from a Crew Mom

LESSONS FROM A CREW MOM - In life, as in #rowing, there are some basic survival rules for athletes, coaches, and parents.  This is my annual welcome to Crew Season Blog, which I started in 2013, the year I had the distinct honor of being featured as one of the “Crew Moms of the Year” by USRowing, thanks to then NFA Varsity rower Frankie Maurice.  Flash forward to Crew Season 2015, I am in my fifth and nowhere-near final year as a Crew Mom.  In addition to being a crew mom, I am a Programs Director.  I am the founder and Director of America Rows and Swims Newburgh, a not for profit organization which runs a free Water Confidence Clinic and a swim club; and provides scholarships for underserved youth to row for the Newburgh Rowing Club.  I also just completed the USRowing Level 2 Coaching Clinic, together with Frankie, I mean, Coach Maurice.  



I’m not the only one who has been busy.  Since graduating High School, Coach Maurice has gone on to row for Jacksonville University, and his Freshman 8+ won Dad Vale, the national college rowing championship, in 2014.  Big Coach couldn’t be prouder of all his proteges, too many to name.  As for all of us, I’d say we’re just getting started.  That being said, here are Mrs. Lo’s Top Lessons from the Sport of Rowing, which started last week, and which can be applied to pretty much all areas of life:  

5.     FORCE YOURSELF TO REST.  Parents, remember when you had babies and they told you to sleep when your baby sleeps?  The same thing applies to the sport of rowing.  Athletes AND parents, get to bed early and nap when you can because you will be up anywhere between 4 am and 5 am for morning practice, and then you have a whole day of school or worl.   You know you’re a rower/ crew parent when you look at the schedule and get excited about a 7:30 am Coaches and Coxswains meeting because it means you get to “sleep in.”

4.    REPEAT AFTER ME:  NO.  You are only human.  You can’t do it all.  Pare it down to the basics.  Athletes:  you have to get to practices and meets and study.  You won’t have time for a part time job, sorry.  Parents, your priorities are getting your kids there, getting them lots of protein and carbs and earning a living.  That’s about all you will have time for.  Wearing makeup, having socks that match, these are luxuries to indulge in after crew season.  When someone asks if you can help with the Whozeewhatsit Committee, remember what we learned in our Drill:  Just say “NOOOOOOOO!”  Great, now try that at full pressure -- sorry, wrong blog.  

3.    FOOD DOESN’T HAVE TO TASTE GOOD TO BE NUTRITIOUS.  Parents, unless you spent the winter canning, preserving and freezing, you are not going to have time to make dinner every night.  Lucky for you, all of your friends are now crew parents and you’re all in the same boat (pun intended).  Your friends are your cooking tools -- the deep freezer, the crockpot and of course the pasta pot.  Athletes:  you need a lot of extra protein and plenty of carbs at all the right times.  We know you’re sick of pasta but it’s the best way to carb up.   Remember, your coxswain friends have to stay under 130 pounds (110.5 for females) so let’s put it all in perspective.

2.    PUT THE “FUN” BACK IN FUNDRAISING.  It’s part of the sport.  Since there’s no chance to go pro, this is not a “money sport” meaning no corporate sponsors, meaning there will be lots of fundraising.    In addition to morning practice before school and pickup from afterschool practice, not to mention the actual crew meets you will be driving hundreds of miles to, cheering at and cooking for, many crew parents across the country simultaneously have to fundraise to keep the team going.  From car washes, to bake sales and spaghetti dinners, to just plain opening up the checkbook, it can be relentless.  Think of it as another form of bonding.

1.    GET OUT AND ROW!  My #1 piece of advice is to get into a Learn to Row class for adults and get out on the water in a crew shell.  It was not until I got out on the water and started rowing that I made the connection – why athletes would ever put themselves through all the work and self-sacrifice for this sport.  I started in a rec single, then started rowing with the kids.  Finally, my Rowing BFF came into my life and we formed the “Therapeutic Double”  (so named because the act of rowing is therapeutic, and out on the water we can and do talk about anything).  We even started competing last fall season.

It was my oldest son, now in his high school’s freshman team, who encouraged me to get out there and try it, and I am so glad that I did.  Our favorite is Recreational Rowing in the summer.  The craziness of sprint crew season is over.  Kath and I grab a double.  Literally.  (We share a double with middle schools boys creating an ongoing rigging crisis that requires us to carry tools at all times.  And when I say “us” I mean Kathe).  We get in and row.  My Rowing BFF’s kids get out and row.  My youngest, Michael, who started sculling at the of 8, gets in and rows and we know a Joy that maybe only very few people in the whole world know.  How many people know the Joy of rowing in a crew shell, and getting to watch their kids row at the same time.  It’s the kind of Belly-laughing, starts in your toes and makes you feel like Christmas Day Joy that I can’t even explain.  No matter what happened during the day, getting out there and rowing with your kids is simply Joyous.  This is different from the painful, lactic acid for the last 500 meters, kill-me-now kind of sprinting of racing season.  But that’s the beauty of rowing.  It truly is a sport for life.  It is, as all rowers know, the best sport.  And the Newburgh Rowing Club is the best rowing club, with the best coaches and the most beautiful Boathouse.  The boats, well, we’ve got a lot of them.  We actually have quite a fleet, about 45 at this point.

The joyous summers and the more rigorous falls are the reason I do what I do, and why I work so hard to bring this experience to the Student Ambassadors, who currently make up a significant portion of the Newburgh Rowing Club.  I hope other parents will take advantage of the opportunity and get into recreational rowing too.  For all the coaches out there, God Bless you for all you do, you are the reason our kids are skilled, safe, victorious and sometimes happy.  We forgive you in advance for forgetting our names, waking our kids’ boats, and asking us to run to Dunkin Donuts at 5 am for you.  Athletes:  you don’t need a pep talk, that’s why you have coaches and coxswains, just remember to thank your parents and coaches once in a while.  And remember, we don’t really care about the medals (although we’ll frame them nicely) we truly do just want you to have the time of your lives.  To all the seasoned crew parents out there:  revv your engines, it’s go time.  And for all of the rookie crew parents out there:  hang on, ladies and gents, and get ready for the time of your lives!

Welcome to Spring Crew Season 2015, everyone, and have a great day!  <3 Mrs. Lo

www.lobiondo.org