row2k Features
How They Weather in the Winter
Snow Quidditch
February 7, 2014
Amanda Milad, row2k

Winnipeg Rowing Club under snow

We all know rowing is magical, but are there sorcerers at your boat club? If your acceptance letter to Hogwarts got lost in the mail, or you couldn't quite find Platform 9 ¾, there's still a way channel your inner Harry Potter. Up north, at Winnipeg Rowing Club (WRC) in Canada, water is a commodity—ice plagues the river for half the year, so they have found they can keep winter training dynamic with a good game of Quidditch.

The WRC version of Quidditch was developed out of another winter game they had played for many years before Harry, Hermione and Ron were scribbled on paper.

"The former head coach Chuck McDermott stared a game called speedball, which essentially is Ultimate Frisbee with a ball, full body contact, and no rules," said WRC head coach Steven Taylor. "Lots of people used to play it, but lots of people also used to get hurt—junior guys loved it."

Since speedball injuries weren't entirely conducive to training progress, McDermott began to alter the rules to look more like a Quidditch match… on the ground of course. The current game is a cross between Ultimate Frisbee, handball, and dodge ball, with some extra running worked in to keep the heart rate up.

"You have to play it before you can really understand it," said Taylor. "If you're not a beater or bludgeoner and you are hit by a dodge ball, you have to run back to your net before you are back in the game. If you are holding the scoring ball when you get hit, the other team gets a free throw while you run back to your net. Built-in extra work, so while you're trying to score, you have to avoid the dodge balls."

Full rules here for those who are interested.

The Quidditch game is part of a larger winter training program run by the club that incorporates all the members; Saturday practices are club-wide events that consist of erg workouts or fun outdoor activities. The non-erg workouts range from running to cross country skiing to skating, and of course Quidditch. Don't let the fun workouts fool you, this club is fierce; their erg competition lasts nearly six months and pegs athletes of all ages against one another for the Winter Erg Series.

"We have club wide workouts on Saturdays where we alternate between different things," said Taylor. "Twice a month we do our erg series – it's a standard workout that everyone participates in, but you get ranked based off a percentage based on erg standards set by Rowing Canada. Everyone gets ranked and earns points, and the top three male and females (plus most improved) win a prize at the end of winter training.

"For example, If you're a junior woman and you win your category on a given day, you win three points; if you're in second you get two, and you get one for participating, but you're still getting compared with the senior and masters women."

The club's different programs—masters, senior, junior—all participate and factor the Saturday workouts into their winter training, so it's not additional volume of work; the rowers simply get points just for working out. Even the 2k tests are factored into the final scores.

The effort to unite the members that range from a youthful 12 years old to 80 years young is a focused one by the boat club. Taylor has seen the club grow and change over the years; he has been a member since the late 1990s and with others at the club wanted to bring back the community aspect they had felt when the club was smaller.

"The club hasn't had its own dedicated head coach in a very long time," he said. "When I was a junior rower and working up as a coach in the early 2000s, the club was much more group-oriented, and smaller. The past few years the numbers have grown and groups have become a little more closed off, so we're trying to bring back the community aspect. We're not just a school team, we're not just one type of program; we're a community and we're really trying to reinforce that idea and that tradition. It's about getting out - we have six months of winter up here; we're buried under snow. We have to do things differently or people tune out."

Despite the bitter winter--Taylor doesn't anticipate the ice to melt until May this year—people won't be tuning out as they battle for the top spot in the Erg Series, and of course, make time for a game or two of Quidditch.

Does your team have a great winter tradition? How do you stay motivated for spring? Write into row2k!


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