SPARKS Summer Rowing Camp

In August, two students from The GORSE Boat Club were awarded a bursary to attend the SPARKS rowing camp. This camp, run by an American company, and coached by Cambridge University Boat Club coaches and athletes, gave the students a fantastic insight into the wider rowing community and the opportunities rowing makes available to our young people.

Gabi Swaine, TRGA Y11:
“In the morning, after breakfast, we would drive to the Ely boathouse for our on water sessions. Each day we had three 1 hour sessions with a 20 minute break and a long lunch. During these sessions I rowed in an 8+ and we were taught to sweep, first focusing on technique then building up to continuous rowing. The coaches were very helpful and accepted each athlete at the level they were and worked with us from there. Furthermore, the coaches I interacted with were very experienced, many coming from Ivy League universities. We would have one on one sessions each day discussing performance and admissions, but they were optional. On the last day we did some short races against the other boats in the t-shirts we made the night before.

The camp was fun, challenging and educational. Throughout the week I learned a lot about university addimission processes in both England and America. Typically, we would listen to a talk about admission processes at lunchtime and in the evening; these talks consisted of information on the standards for different types of universities and the differences between UK and US admissions. These talks were interesting and engaging as we were given extended periods of time to ask questions. The camp focussed heavily on rowing at University, so as someone who is interested in going on to further education at a university, this was very interesting for me.
Each evening we would meet with our PL groups, these were smaller groups with an assigned member of staff. We would talk about how our day went, do icebreaker games and activities such as t-shirt designing and advice giving.

Usually we would eat breakfast and dinner in the hall at the College where they had many options, and a serve yourself/ buffet style set up. On the Wednesday evening we went to a 3 course formal dinner in the hall which was enjoyable and a nice change.

Our typical schedule went like this: each morning we would have to be ready for breakfast at 7:30 am to then get the coach to Ely at 8, then we would stay there in till 5 and get the coach home. Then we would go for dinner, talk about admissions, meet with PL groups and head to bed at 9:30pm before they came to check our rooms at 10pm to ensure we were ready for bed.

My favourite thing about camp was getting to have 1-1 conversations with coaches and learning to sweep. My least favourite thing was that we didn’t have much time to socialise with the other students so I didn’t get to know as many people as I expected because we often spilt into PL groups during free time.

Overall, camp was a great experience and would benefit almost all the other rowers throughout the trust, particularly athletes who wish to row at university or have potential to get a scholarship, as its a good place to be scouted. I think The Ruth Gorse Academy and The GORSE Boat Club should definitely help send more rowers to this camp because it taught me about opportunities that I didn’t even know were there and it opened up my mind to what university life could be like.”