Who's excited about erging? The kids, that's who. Boston's Community Rowing brought back the YETI Regatta for the first time since 2019, filling the "Track at New Balance" venue (also used by the CRASH-Bs) with almost 1,200 middle and high school athletes from the Boston Public Schools for a loud and fun day of erg relays.
The YETI ("Youth Erg Trials International") event is the culminating experience for CRI's extensive outreach program to the Boston Public Schools. The event is staged as a series of erg relays, ranging from the 5th grade all the way through high school. The event is the real deal, right down to the CRASH-B style racing display on the scoreboard.
The energy level at the YETI is something else, though.
"The purpose of doing Yeti was to promote the sport of rowing in the city of Boston and Cambridge, and really try to bring all the kids together to get a taste of what the sport is about, and try and give them a gateway to this wonderful community of like strong, very successful and passionate athletes," said Alex Lynn, CRI's Manager of Youth Recreation Programs. "We've tried to use as a way to let people know, here's a great sport that everyone can try out, give it a go."
The program involves introducing rowing and erging to BPS students in the framework of their PE classes. CRI brings ergs to the schools, teaches the fundamentals of rowing, arranges transportation to the CRI boathouse so that the students can experience rowing on the water, and concludes with the jamboree-like YETI.
"We will typically talk with the school and ask them if they have access to sports, how can we support them, and if the opportunities we offer are something they're willing to do," added Javier Suarez, manager of CRI's Middle School programs. "If it is, we usually move forward with three things: it's having them come on the water, so they can have an on water experience; bringing the ergs to their school, so that they can practice what indoor rowing looks like; then we have the Yeti so that they also get that competitive aspect.
"So at this point, we asked 'what does this look like on the water?', 'what does it look like for you doing this on a regular basis?', and 'what does this look like on a competitive level?' We help them build that perspective, like, 'is this a sport that I want to join?'"
"My favorite part of this regatta is the fact that there's a level of friendly competition, as well as a sense of camaraderie from all the schools and teams visiting," said CRI's Lynn. "That's what got me hooked into the sport when I first started rowing, that level of partnership and just camaraderie. It really brings them together."
For the teachers and students, the event is more than a field trip. row2k caught up with a group of students from the Phineas Bates Elementary School in Roslindale as the event was ending.
"Rowing is brand new to most of my kids," said teacher Dom Wilkins. "I think it's hard to conceptualize sometimes, what the team aspect of rowing is like because you're on a rowing machine by yourself. The coaches who came to our schools did a really good job of reinforcing the teamwork aspect of it. They made sure they taught the kids that, just because you are a strong rower doesn't mean your team is going to win."
As always, the kids said it best.
"The hardest part is the middle strokes, where it's not the beginning, and it's not the end," said 5th grader Cullen (last name omitted due to age, eds.). You can't really go that far, unless you have someone help cheer you on."
"And it's better when you use teamwork, you guys rely on each other," added Cullen's classmate April. "Because when you guys help each other, you can get farther."
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