Rowing, like most sports, faces the challenge of getting athletes involved as they move from intermediate to secondary school. A challenge that is quite unique to rowing is that pupils have never had the opportunity to experience rowing before secondary school.

In 2011 the ARA developed a unique way of taking the sport of rowing into schools. We have a fully outfitted trailer and eight rowing machines; the rowing machines connect to a projector; and racing software projects each machine as a boat onto a screen. Essentially, every pupil in the school ‘experiences rowing’; races with their classmates (average class size 25 pupils); results/times are recorded; and a class final decides the class representatives. The class representatives race off in a school wide final at the end of the programme (normally the end of the week). The environment is hard to describe in words – it is overwhelmingly competitive, inclusive, fun and engaging. You have to experience the excitement to believe it. Watch the video below to view the programme in action.

The Indoor Rowing Experience is delivered by Auckland Regional Performance Centre (ARPC) athletes. The programme offers these high performance athletes with the required skills an opportunity to use their passion for the sport of rowing to inspire a new generation of athletes. The ARPC athletes train in the morning and afternoons, so the 9am-3pm programme offers these athletes the perfect employment solution to match their intense training schedule.

The purpose of the programme is to allow a younger audience to experience rowing – to build awareness – before they enter their secondary school education. To date over 25,000 year 7 and 8 children have experienced and raced in the programme; and Auckland Region has seen a growth of over 20% in U15 rowing. Anecdotal evidence suggests secondary schools that use the programme to get more athletes interested in the sport find it incredibly useful.

The ARA want to use the programme to further develop relationships between the intermediate school PE co-ordinators and secondary school rowing directors. These relationships will streamline the recruitment process for secondary school rowing programmes; foster a larger pool of talented athletes within our country’s number one Olympic sport; and, most importantly, continue to offer a larger number of pupils the opportunity to experience rowing.