Meet The Gorse Boat Club coach, Abigail Finch

I learnt to row at school in Cheshire, aged 11. From there I went on to row at The King's School, Chester. I represented Great Britain as a Junior (aged 16-17) before going to University in Bangor where I had a (long) break from rowing, instead focusing on coaching and the development of the club there. I studied French at University and became a teacher, but always missed rowing and coaching and was delighted when this job opportunity came up. In August 2016 I duly relocated to Leeds to start my first full-time coaching job at The Gorse Academies Trust.

The vision of RowUK was, in essence, to introduce performance rowing to the north of the country and to ensure that what is traditionally seen as an elitist sport, was accessible to all. The Gorse Boat Club (TGBC) was the way in. Over the past 12 months, we've made huge steps. We have gone from no coach and no athletes, to one full-time coach, numerous volunteers and staff coaches, 17 coached sessions a week and 60 participants on a full training plan. As the club has developed, I have worked with PE staff at The Ruth Gorse Academy and have developed a Scheme of Work for indoor rowing in curriculum PE. This enables all students to have a go at rowing and for staff to identify potential. These students then go through a selection process over a number of months, allowing us to assess both ability and commitment. We now have a group of 30 Year 8s, 15 Year 9s and 16 Year 12/13s across two Academies. 

One of the biggest enablers for this club has been the support of staff and their continued commitment to facilitating the aims of TGBC. This has meant that I have been able to work towards our ultimate goal of developing world class athletes right here in Leeds. Our motto is just that; "Vernaculus Insignissimus" or "Home Grown. World Class". This reflects our aim to take students, and athletes, from Leeds, and provide them with the skills to go out and experience wider horizons and higher aspirations than they ever knew existed. It is absolutely central to what we do. This performance aim is only part of our ethos.

We believe we have a responsibility to prepare students for life beyond school, both physically and mentally. As a coach, I strive to develop the mental

and physical robustness of my athletes. This goal is supported both by TGAT and RowUK through initiatives such as nutrition seminars, compulsory physical activity each week, and the iRoW study facilitated by the University of Leeds.

TGBC has already competed in several races; a different world in itself. We have had huge success at two RowLeeds Indoor Championships and have sent boats to races all over the North West and North East. In early 2018, we will have 4 boats and 20 athletes competing at The Schools Head of the River and The National Junior Sculling Head in London.

From a coaching point of view, I have made my own steps. The connections I have made in Yorkshire, via introductions through RowUK and my own drive, have meant that I have been able to learn from the very best of the country's talent. It has become clear to me that the potential in Yorkshire is huge. RowUK’s links with the University of Leeds gives us access to Strength and Conditioning coaches and facilities, as well as academic studies. Furthermore, we have a fantastic support network, unrivalled stretches of water and the support of outstanding coaches throughout the region. The Gorse Boat Club could not have picked a better region in which to start this groundbreaking venture.

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