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Row Boston gives Boston youth opportunity to discover rowing

Posted by Ryan Butler  October 17, 2013 08:54 AM

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Row Boston's girls' varsity team practices for this weekend's Head of the Charles. (Photo courtesy of Ariel Handler.)

Community Rowing’s Row Boston program began in 1998 out of Olympian Holly Metcalf’s vision to provide Boston youth with opportunities to progress in a tough environment. The program started with O’Bryant High School and has since snowballed into working with BPS kids from several other urban schools.

Now Row Boston has more than 60 BPS kids who row regularly.

Not to mention that its girls' varsity team gets a rare opportunity to row in the Head of the Charles this weekend.

“I’m really excited for the Head of the Charles,” said girls’ varsity rower Ayla Rich. “I’ve been rowing for over two years now. It’s hard work, but at the same time it’s almost kind of relaxing. I like the concentration.”

Row Boston, located on the Charles River in Brighton. is completely volunteer-driven. But that doesn’t mean these young rowers aren’t taught by the best. Boys’ varsity coach Drew Tennant started rowing at Cornell University, while girls’ coach Ariel Handler was a coxswain at UCLA.

“Row Boston actually started with O’Bryant and was specifically for girls at first,” Handler said. “Then we added the boys' program and we’ve just continuously added more and more schools.

“We’re in a program that teaches rowing but also helps with their academics, too. We have study hall once a week and we also take kids on trips to go visit potential colleges. It’s great.”

Transportation for the rowers is also taken care of.

“After school, we go and pick up the kids,” Tennant said. “We go all around in buses or vans. We pick up students from Latin Academy, Brighton, East Boston, and Snowden, among a few others.”

The teams practice weekdays from 3-5.

“Over the years, this program has evolved,” said Row Boston Director of Outreach Ellen Minzner. “I mean, it started so inner-city girls could find their voice through participation in athletics, and now we’ve actually seen one of our rowers get a full athletic scholarship to the University of Washington.”

The girls’ team is set to race around 1 p.m. Sunday on the Charles. Tennant is also rowing himself, as a part of the masters single event.

Rich could hardly hold back a smile when talking with Handler about the upcoming regatta.

“I can’t wait,” she said.

Ryan M. Butler covers Boston Public School athletics. He can be reached at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @butler_globe or @BPSspts.

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.