The London 2012 Olympic Games had a dramatic effect on rowing in Scotland with clubs across the country reportedly inundated with newcomers.
So busy did they become that Stirling and Castle Semple Rowing Clubs have only recently worked through their waiting lists generated after the London Olympics.
Scotland’s rowing clubs are now even better prepared thanks to Scottish Rowing’s Project Rio. Project Rio is designed to help rowing clubs capitalise on the effect of the Games by giving them the tools to attract and retain new members by a planned approach. Project Rio also ensures that clubs have access to better resources and support to help new participants have the best experience possible.
19 of Scottish Rowing’s clubs signed up to the Project Rio campaign, launched in April by future Olympic hopefuls Gavin Horsburgh and Emma McDonald at the Scottish Rowing Centre in Strathclyde Park.
Scottish Rowing designed the overall Project Rio programme, secured the funding from Awards for All and invested additional resources in PR support to promote the club activity throughout the year.
By producing resources specifically designed to be delivered by rowers who are not necessarily coaches, Project Rio's implementation has meant that club members can work with new rowers, while under the supervision of a coach, encouraging them to step up and have a go.
500 people 'Come and Try'
Project Rio features 'Come and Try' and Learn2Row sessions and will culminate in the fun-filled Rio Regatta on September 24. Five hundred newcomers took part in Come and Try events at clubs across the country and proved that people are keen to give rowing a try, and also that the clubs are well prepared to get them started.
The busy Castle Semple might appear to be a club not in need of new members. But, through a combination of advertising and word of mouth, they attracted 30 to their two Come and Try days. “The response was very positive with some people coming back for the second session dragging their spouses along,” said the club’s president Graeme Fletcher. “We had previously invested quite a bit of money into training boats and they were worth their weight in gold for these sessions. They allowed us to get everyone who came down out in a single and a double, which meant they got a real taste of rowing.”
It’s a similar story in the Highlands where Inverness Rowing Club had 20 people rowing during its Come and Try day. “We now have a full waiting list of both senior and juniors for our next come and try sessions which we now need to schedule,” commented the club's vice-captain, Robert Gordon.
Inverness has been running summer sessions for juniors which finish at the club’s summer camp when they can progress into full junior membership and take up the seats of the departing juniors who will be heading to University.
Elsewhere, Aberdeen Boat Club made a great start to their novice nights which run through the summer. Strathclyde Park Rowing attracted 16 newcomers and Stirling reported they had a fantastic morning with an above-expected 30 complete beginners turning up for their Come and Try event.
And Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club took things to extremes by inviting 180 school children from the east end of Glasgow to its week-long programme of Come and Try sessions.
Signing up to Learn2Row
As a result of its Come and Try sessions, Castle Semple signed up 14 people for its first rowing course with others interested in a Learn2Row course later this summer. Inverness ran a week-long Learn2Row session right after its Come and Try day, and of the six that took part it signed up five as members, increasing its senior numbers by 15%.
All 30 people who had their introduction at Stirling have said they want to book on the Learn2Row sessions in August, whilst the club is starting its junior Learn2Row course this month. And Scotland’s newest rowing club, Tay RC, is as keen as ever to get newcomers along. Tay's Learn2Row sessions are already up and running with eight people taking part.
“We are delighted with the turnout,” said one of the club’s founding members, Eoin Ryan, who was delighted with the turnout at last weekend’s Come and Try event at the spectacular venue, which is downstream of the Friarton Bridge on the south bank where they benefit from wide, sheltered waters. He continued: “The club has had a fantastic summer so far and it just keeps getting better.”
Rio and record breakers
A record eight Scottish rowers will compete in the Rio Games. This number influenced by Scottish Rowing's performance pathway which has focused on developing increasing numbers of young athletes for selection to the GB programme. If their performances at this summer’s Games encourage more people to give the sport a try then our clubs will be ready.
Speaking about the opportunity presented to rowing by Rio, Scottish Rowing’s Chief Operating Officer, Amanda Cobb, said: “After London 2012 we recognised the huge opportunity that an Olympic Games presents for rowing and we are determined to make the most of the Rio Olympics this summer. Project Rio is designed to help clubs attract and retain members through a planned approach and use resources to ensure new participants have a great first experience of the sport.”
For more information on Project Rio visit Scottish Rowing's Project Rio page.