Spotlight on Farnley Academy

"The long-term goal is to see one of our pupils at an Olympic games - aim high!"

In December 2018, Farnley Academy took home one bronze medal at the RowLeeds Indoor Champs. Three months later, at the March Champs, Farnley took home eight medals, including three golds! They are certainly one to watch! We asked PE Teacher, Ben Harding to share his secrets.

How pleased are you with Farnley's performance at the March Champs?

I am overjoyed with Farnley’s recent performance at the RowLeeds March Championships. It is a testament to all the hard work that our pupils have been putting in since the last championships in December, which is clearly demonstrated by the increase in medals this time around.

How are your rowers feeling after the event?

Exhausted! There were some extremely tired pupils walking around school on Thursday, however most of them still managed to attend our rowing club, which again shows their determination to succeed and improve with every opportunity.

When did you first start a rowing club at Farnley Academy?

Officially back in October although it took until around late November to really get the club going through some hard work from staff and pupils. It is amazing what you can achieve with a little encouragement and some advertisement.

What got you interested in starting a rowing club?

After discussing with Cheryl Rhodes, our Trust Director of PE about the success of the rowing programme at The Ruth Gorse Academy, I then met with Ben Cox, who inspired me that rowing could be a fantastic opportunity for any pupil who was willing to show some desire and commitment to achieve.

How does being part of the RowLeeds Programme help you?

We are immensely fortunate to have a dedicated university student and rowing coach who attends our club every Thursday with some innovative and exciting sessions for the pupils. It also allows us to be part of some great competitions such as the RowLeeds Championships, which are fantastic events for all involved.

There was a noticeable improvement in performance and podium positions from Farnley at the March Champs. What have you been doing differently since December?

Encouraging, persuading and praising! We have some wonderful athletes at Farnley and after December it was clear that we could achieve much more than a solitary Bronze medal. Since then we have seen some wonderful numbers attend each Thursday (sometimes 30+!), which has allowed pupils to develop significantly in that time. Also we have introduced rowing to our Health Related Fitness scheme of work, meaning that pupils have the opportunity to improve on their technique and fitness during lesson time. The pupils have been great at pushing each other on. This allowed us to select two squads for the recent championships and gave me a few selection headaches!

What are your plans in the next three months as you prepare for the final Champs of the 2018/19 Series on the 19th June?

We are in the process of submitting a bid to Sport England to enhance our rowing facility. This will allow us to purchase more rowing machines and educate our teachers. The benefits of this is simple; more rowing machines means more pupils improving and working simultaneously and educating teachers means we can develop the pupils at every opportunity. We want to beat our most recent medal haul, which will be tough but as a competitive school, it is an achievable goal. Ohm and add one more record to the current one that we hold!

What are your longer-term plans with rowing at Farnley?

To develop rowing as part of a fulfilling curriculum and see children aspiring to be part of the Leeds based rowing clubs outside of school. I believe that rowing can link nicely to other sports, in terms of improving muscular endurance, power and co-ordination; therefore it has multiple benefits on the body of a pupil no matter what age or size. It would be wonderful to create a legacy of rowing success over the forthcoming years. The long-term goal is to see one of our pupils at an Olympic games, aim high!

Do you have any advice for teachers out there who are thinking about getting more involved in indoor rowing?

Start a club, generate some interest, and dig in yourself. Simply show effort and enthusiasm and pupils will be interested. By joining the RowLeeds initiative you can attend some fantastic competitions and give pupils something to aim towards. Pupils and teachers can make some lightening progress by showing commitment and determination so it is well worth giving it a go. The weather can’t affect it either!

Interested in registering for the next RowLeeds Indoor Champs in June? Learn more

Read more about the RowLeeds Indoor Programme.

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