Rowing – A Sport That Welcomes Everyone

summarized by David DeWinter
YouTube player


I encourage you to reflect and answer the questions that the speakers pose along the way. There are some great action items from this talk that all of us can do better to take forward with our programs.


Sally Colella – Diversity Consultant, Colella Associates
Barry Coleman – Diversity Consultant, Colella Associates

The 3-Sentence Summary

Diversity is a quality of a group that signifies that it has a variety of individuals, based on a number of different characteristics, some controllable, and some less so, like age, gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, location, income level, and experience. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about how well you make every member of your boathouse feel like they matter. Building an inclusive culture at our boathouses requires us to do our own intense reflection on what barriers at our boathouse make people feel excluded.

Supplementary Material



0:39 Anita DeFrantz Award goes to St. Benedict’s Prep.

3:10 Introductions

  • We started working with the USRowing board and staff last July on building and realizing DEI values.

6:16 Today’s theme: rowing is a sport that welcomes anyone.

  • Share ideas about what it means to put our DEI values into action?
  • Explore potential barriers to inclusion.
  • Investigate strategies to welcome diverse rowers to the sport.

7:40 Setting expectations:

  • Listen and engage with curiosity.
  • Reflect on your own experiences.
  • Expect this to be uncomfortable.

9:45 The speakers’ definitions for the following terms (More detail on the presentation slide)

  • Diversity: A variety of individuals
  • Inclusion: Actively wanting to hear from a broad range of perspectives
  • Dominant Culture: The dominant group around whom a society or organization has been built.
  • White Privilege: The existence of certain advantages based on white skin color; it does not mean white people don’t have disadvantages based on their individual experiences.
  • Assimilation: An impetus for a non-dominant group to take on dominant culture either by choice or by necessity (force, survival).
  • BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Acknowledges that not all people of color face the same level of injustice.


15:25 The “Dimensions of Diversity” wheel attempts to demonstrate different levels of diversity:

Level Examples
You Personality
Internal Age, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Physical Ability, Race
External Location, Income, Religion, Work Experience, Marital Status
Organizational Seniority, Work Location, Field of Work, Management Status

We sometimes use these levels or lenses to influence decision-making, even subconsciously. You have differing amounts of control over the different levels.

21:55 Exercise #1: What is in this model that surprises you?

25:09 The “Coin” Model of Privilege helps us see both sides of the coin when it comes to privilege: class, race, settlers vs indigenous people, able-bodied/disabled, sexual orientation, cis/trans, male/not male.

The speakers share personal stories on how they’ve experienced different sides of the privilege coin.

33:01 Breakout Session #1: Reflect on your own experiences.

  • When/where did you grow up?
  • What is one area of privilege in my life?
  • What is one area where I am not privileged?
  • How does privilege show up in rowing?

54:24 Participants shared their stories.

  • The term “privilege” can be off-putting for some. But everyone is privileged in some way.
  • Privileges to row: the ability to swim, having the money to pay for it, being able to care for your body as an athlete, boathouses near wealthy locations


1:03:23 What is inclusion? It’s about feeling that sense of belonging at the boathouse.

“I’m apart from this group” vs. “I’m a part of this group.”

Can I bring my best self to this environment? Or are things just happening without me?

1:07:35 Exercise #2: What are some ways you include? What are some ways you exclude?

1:08:53 Short Film: The Look

1:10:44 Participants share their reactions.

  • Windows closing: a physical barrier
  • He’s been judged all day; how does he not judge back?
  • Would we feel the same if this wasn’t a person of power?

1:18:03 Breakout Session #2: Reflect on your own experiences.

  • What are barriers to inclusion and belonging in rowing?
  • What actions is your boathouse currently taking to welcome everyone?
  • What strategies do you recommend your boathouse put into action going forward?

1:40:23 Participants shared their reflections.

  • Rephrase requirements like “you must pass a swim to test” to “we will teach you how to swim.”
  • Inclusion needs to be part of the culture. Every athlete brings part of that culture and can build on what’s already there.
  • Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to staffing–coaches and board members have to align with the culture.
  • Does rowing really need to be silent? Conversational rowing to build more camaraderie?
  • Music over PA systems gives you a chance to be inclusive.

1:51:18 How does tiered pricing work?

  • North Star Community Rowing – your income guides what you pay.

1:55:56 Exercise #3: What is one word to describe an insight or takeaway from today?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More to explore

Train Boat Movers This Winter

Coaches, athletes, it’s been too long! We’re starting 2024 off with a bang by upgrading RowHero in a major way. With these

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ready to be a rowhero?

Fill out the form below, and we'll be in touch within 24 hours on getting your team setup!