"To see someone from home in the crowd supporting you - it makes you go for it even more – I’m sure that’s the same for every sports person. If someone you love is there it lifts you and makes you do your best for them."
Today, I met with Ellie Boam, a Boston Spa Academy pupil, RowLeeds Record Holder and Team North Rowing Athlete at the 2018 National School Games.
My role is different these days. Now, I seem to spend more time with Headteachers, coaches, sponsors and researchers than I do the young people on our programmes. This morning, however, talking to Ellie about her rowing experiences this year, I was reminded of how lucky I am to do what I do. Ellie is an inspiration.
When I used to coach full-time, one of the pleasures of working directly with athletes was simply watching them develop as people. You witness the highs and the lows and their growing self-belief. It brought back to me that, when I was a coach and teacher, just by giving a little bit more each day, by going the extra mile, I could make such a difference to a young person’s life. Young people forget no act of kindness or support. That’s an important responsibility, but it’s a privilege too.
I hadn’t met Ellie until this morning. I was very proud that one of our RowLeeds students had been selected to represent the North of England Team at the Schools Games finals in Loughborough, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to congratulate her myself.
Ellie talked about the rowing experiences she’s had this year, her appetite for trying something new, the friends she’s made and how she handles the ‘pressure zone’ of competition. Until she came to the RowLeeds Indoor Champs, she had only been on a rowing machine once. No coaching. No training. Nerves, yes, but no hesitation. Her teachers threw her into the competition and she won. Then she was selected for the North of England team. When she competed at the School Games Finals in Loughborough this August, she had only been on the rowing machine a few more times since the RowLeeds Indoor Champs in February. She loved every minute of it.
When I asked Ellie if, before she competed at the RowLeeds Indoor Champs, whether she knew she was a good rower, she looked at me puzzled. “I don’t know, until then I’d never had the chance to find out!”.
Enter a team to the RowLeeds Indoor Champs and let’s see if we can create a few more stories like Ellie’s. There’s no such thing as “can’t”.
When did you first try indoor rowing?
RowUK came to Boston Spa with rowing machines when I was in Yr9. I jumped right in and came first in the trials. I liked it but I had other commitments. I didn’t row for my school until a year later because I was too busy playing rugby and basketball and the RowLeeds Indoor Champs were the same day as my training. I play U18 rugby for Harrogate Rugby Club and U18 basketball for City of Leeds.
What was it you liked about indoor rowing that meant you kept training?
The atmosphere at the event - it gets to you. Everybody cheering and supporting you. You get excited by it and want to do well. It pushes you further to do more. It’s different to other sports because of the amount of shouting; it gets the adrenaline going. Also, visually, it’s so cool. You can see everything on the big screen and watching the race develop is amazing. You can see the positions change through the race, sometimes right in the final few strokes.
Your time at the RowLeeds Indoor Champs meant you qualified to represent Team North at the National School Games. How did that feel?
Nerve-racking! Mum and me were so excited when we found out I’d made the North of England team. We thought it was a massive opportunity – we knew something good would happen. My Mum and Dad were really proud and over the moon. On the car ride to the bus that took us down to Loughborough I was in the car having second thoughts thinking “I won’t know anyone, I won’t be accepted. I’m just from a little village in Yorkshire and they’re all from big cities like Sheffield and Manchester.” Then a group of girls from Newcastle came and said hello and we all got along so well. I ended up have so much fun with them, it was a massive experience. We shouted each other’s names during the race and we still keep in touch now.
How did you train for the School Games?
I trained at my gym during the summer holidays [the School Games finals were on 31st August and selection was announced in July]. I thought, “I might as well go on the rowing machines and practice my race distance.” I did that about three times a week. I put on my headphones to create a sense of motivation from the noise and atmosphere coming from the music – something like I imagined I’d feel on the day. When you’re not in the pressure zone you get in the