An Interview with RowLeeds Volunteer Coach, Harriet

"You never know what you can achieve until you try."

Harriet is currently a volunteer coach on our RowLeeds Indoor Programme. As we recruit for next year's coaches (applications close 20th April or email if you are interested), we asked Harriet to give us a little insight into why she took on the role and what she has learnt this year. We are very lucky to have coaches like Harriet. Read on, and be inspired.

Why did you volunteer for the RowLeeds Indoor Rowing Programme?

Getting children into rowing not only benefits them in terms of their health and fitness, but it is also a fun outlet, promotes teamwork and in the bigger picture it provides young people with role models and transferable skills that will help them meet other ambitions. I think the idea of making the sport more accessible is fantastic and I wanted to be a part of the positive impact it would have.

I also anticipated that I would learn a lot from coaching, the experience will help me to finish university with not only a degree, but skills and an appreciation for volunteering that will allow me to stand out in the future.

What got you into rowing?

I started rowing when I was 14 at a local rowing club. I was lucky enough to learn in an environment where the primary focus was to enjoy it so I have always been able to see the fun in rowing. Since then I have had a number of inspirational coaches who have encouraged me to stick at it, but have also made some of my closest friends through rowing, and realise that the social aspect of the sport is the main reason I’ve engaged with it so much.

What skills do you think rowing has given you that make you a better coach?

The different types of coaches I have had has definitely gone a long way in making me a better coach. I have learnt that coaching is not one-size fits all, different people respond to different coaching attitudes and approaches, so it is important to try alternative things.

In rowing itself, I’ve learnt to never give up during an erg or a race, not only will I let myself down but also my team. Once I have a goal I am committed to seeing it through to the best of my abilities, and I hope this commitment is reflected in my coaching.

What do you find to be the most rewarding moments with your school?

Inspiring a curiosity and enthusiasm in the kids is the most rewarding aspect for me. As I have started building relationships with them all, their confidence grows and I get asked more and more questions about rowing itself, me as a rower and me as a student.

It’s also been rewarding to see the move from just being an indoor rowing club to being on the water. This is a really exciting step for a lot of them and I’m rewarded by the fact that I can be part of their rowing experience, help them learn, and help them to enjoy it.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a coach?

I think my biggest challenge is rooted in my lack of experience. These students are the first beginners I’ve ever coached, so looking back I often think I could’ve been more assertive about this, or I could’ve approached that in a more fun and engaging way. But every session brings new experiences that will better me and ultimately better the students, and I’m lucky to be learning all the time from a more experienced coach and the other uni students involved in the program.

What are your aspirations for your school club?

My club has already been extremely successful in the indoor rowing competitions! We are now looking forward to the on the water sessions. My current aspirations for the club are to make really enjoyable and engaging sessions that teach good rowing technique.

Looking on three years from now what do you hope your club members will have taken away from being involved in the programme?

I know a lot of people who started rowing as early teens and by the time they reached uni were “burnt out”, felt the training, the pressure and the commitment, was all too much. In three years time I would love it if all my club members were still rowing or at least interested in it! I hope that they realise that they can set goals for themselves, and meet them, not just in ergs but in their school work as well. I hope that they build long-lasting friendships with the people they row with, as I think the social part of engaging in a sport is really important.

What do you think the three key attributes to a successful coach are?

  1. A positive attitude

  2. Empathy with your students

  3. Ability to communicate technique effectively

What skills do you think you have developed as a volunteer coach which will help you as you enter your placement year/ final year/ first graduate job?

I have two more years of my degree left ahead of me and I think this opportunity has really helped me in many ways; firstly, learning the importance of organisation and planning. However, I have also learnt that not everything will always go how you want it to, sometimes a drill doesn’t work out, sometimes an essay is harder than you expect, and it is important to be flexible and open minded to new ideas and approaches.

Coaching has also helped me to be more confident in my abilities as a leader. Asserting myself and communicating effectively are just two main skills that I have improved upon during this program that will benefit me in the future.

If you could recommend one top tip for new coaches volunteering with RowUK, what would it be?

Enjoy this opportunity, the kids that you will work with are all so much fun. Find things that interest them; keeping them motivated and engaged will make the sessions more successful.

What is your club motto/favourite mantra for your club?

You never know what you can achieve until you try.

You can apply for a volunteer coach position on the RowLeeds Indoor Rowing Programme via the Leeds Sport website here: Apply Now

Want to find out more about coaching with us next year? Drop us a line at

Read more about the RowLeeds Indoor Programme.

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