An Inclusive Vision for the Future of Masters Rowing

summarized by David DeWinter
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Marlene RoyleCo-Founder at Faster Masters
Rebecca CaroeCo-Founder at Faster Masters, Entrepreneur and Global Advocate for Masters Rowing

The 3-Sentence Summary

Masters represent a significant opportunity to grow the sport for rowing, but their needs are so varied that it can be a challenge to attract and retain masters at your club. Many masters want at least one of the following, so consider them when designing your programming: quality equipment, a training program to follow (even self-guided), a social atmosphere to meet similar people, and masters-specific education on how to age well in the sport. Be transparent about your policies and expected behaviors, and when in doubt, ask your rowers for feedback on how the club can better serve their needs.


Inclusivity for Masters

2:49 Inclusivity is about making it easy to stick with rowing.

3:24 5 Key Things that Masters Want

  • Speak with one voice nationally
  • Grow membership and participation
  • Have more regattas, different race formats (coastal and flat water)
  • Have more social events
  • Get coaching

5:04 Inclusivity is a challenge because there are so many different types of masters, from complete beginners to Olympic medalists. They want many different things: to race, to train for fitness, to enjoy the outdoors, to be social in a team setting, and to make new friends.

6:46 A new definition proposed for “masters” for this talk: anyone over 18 who doesn’t race 2k.

Running a Masters Program

7:01 People choose masters rowing to age well, improve lifestyle quality, manage setbacks, and celebrate the day.

8:52 More details on what masters want:

  • Boats & oars suited to the needs of the masters, not just hand-me-downs
  • Advice on technique, a program to follow (can be self-guided), peer to peer coaching (experimental)
  • Similar people to row with
  • Fun things to do on land and on water
  • Communication and education – specific to masters athletes

13:04 Considerations for a new masters program: scull vs sweep, adapting equipment to people (mobility and weight), safety, the pathway to grow, how rowers are assessed, processes for new rowers, etc.

First impressions are very important to make people feel welcome. Ask for feedback.

Coaching Masters

19:36 Many masters want to understand the WHY in addition to the HOW.

22:11 Masters have a lot more self-talk (generally negative) than children, which makes learning more challenging. Coaches should encourage rowers to view their movements without value judgments. (Did I do this correctly? Yes/No, not Good/Bad)

24:45 Seek feedback often.

25:35 Focus on one thing at a time. Do drills at least 3 different times throughout the practice.

Broadening Appeal

28:06 Consider different training times, different groups of people, and be flexible.

31:21 Masters appreciate self-serve tools to manage their interaction with the club: membership, boat reservation, training program, drill instruction. Reduce friction to getting on the water.

32:18 Consider how new rowers would experience your boathouse. Can people tell where they need to go? Is it a clean and pleasant place to be? People make judgments very quickly.

35:05 Make rules, expectations, costs, and benefits of membership very clear. Protocols should also be clear (e.g. cleaning boats and oars, wiping tracks, what can you adjust in the boat).

38:39 Expectations around rower behavior should also be clear:

  • Transparency around club policy/strategy reduces politicking.
  • How can you lower friction for your members doing what they want to do?
  • Etiquette on land and on water so teams can work together

41:20 What is everything a rower needs to know in order to go on the water by themselves? Make sure this is clear.

43:36 Think about special opportunities like camps and clinics you can set up at your club. Rowing vacations and trips also have broad appeal.

Learn to Row

46:53 Great fundraiser for your club. People can try rowing without making a long-term commitment to see if it’s fun.

49:02 Dropouts can be mitigated in a few ways:

  • Price of their class is discounted from their club membership they decide to join.
  • Ask people whether they intend to keep coming after their second or third lesson.
  • Encourage members to volunteer during learn to row so the new rowers get a picture of what it’s like as a member.

Case Study: Aviron Knowlton RC

50:33 Big challenge: very few people would graduate from learn to row to become members. Canada also didn’t allow a learn to row program due to COVID-19.

52:10 Solution: create a new rower membership. Included insurance, introduction to the club, and one private lesson. Grew from 10 to 50 people in 2021. It reduced the friction of joining learn to row as a required step before figuring out what to do next. 90% retention rate.

54:55 The singles have pontoons because it’s not common for coaches to be out with the rowers.

Case Study: Tyred Swans RC

56:50 Challenges: Shared boats with juniors (weight mismatched), want to grow headcount, buying new equipment

59:17 Every club has its challenges in growth. Don’t think you are alone.


59:38 New ideas for rowing events (not just racing):

  • Scrimmages – within your club or outside your club
  • Shandygaff picnic (Cambridge Boat Club)
  • Mixed (junior, senior, novice, and masters)
  • Parent/child events, mixed pairs
  • Coastal boats for picnic/overnights
  • Jamming (mixing rowers from different squads for leisure rows)
  • Regatta provides boats

1:04:21 The Masters Rowing International Facebook group

1:04:53 The namesake of Tyred Swans

1:05:26 Contact info for Rebecca and Marlene


1:06:31 Ideas for balancing competitive vs enjoyment rowing? Some masters at my club feel like second-class citizens for not racing.

Having different training groups with different goals and allowing rowers to move between those groups depending on their individual priorities can help.

Have a range of options for masters rowers at your club. Not everyone wants to race.

1:08:11 What if a program doesn’t want to pay a coach?

You can buy a program and do self-directed learning. Find the individuals who do want coaching, rally to raise money for that program/coach (in person or virtual)/camp on a limited basis, and see if the results can influence your board to move more in that direction.

1:11:38 Ideas how a younger female coach can better coach male masters athletes who can be resistant?

  1. Don’t waste your time trying to coach someone who doesn’t want it.
  2. Explain the expected behaviors and boundaries before getting on the water. Include expected behaviors for people who want coaching vs don’t want coaching.
  3. Ask members what they want to work on today.

1:14:45 Enjoy yourself!

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