If you've just finished your last year of Secondary School Rowing you'll be in a really exciting time of your life - the world will be your oyster. But that raises the question about what happens next with your rowing? Globally there tends to be a real drop off in participation in most sports after High School, and that definitely applies to rowing in New Zealand. We think that's a shame, and really want to encourage every high school athlete to stay involved in rowing in some way post Maadi. Right now Maadi Cup no doubt seems like the biggest event in your rowing life, but there is so much more to be gained if you stay in the boat in some way...it doesn't need to be hardcore or elite, but try to keep your rowing ticking over for a couple more years and we guarantee you won't regret it. Here are a few ways to do that...and a few reasons why you should!
You want to make a New Zealand squad
This is the most obvious reason to keep rowing - but too many athletes just think it's out of their reach. What you'll quickly learn is that no matter how many races you won (or didn't win!) at High School...that doesn't mean a whole lot once you move into Club rowing. They say it takes 10 years to row properly, and for some of you, you won't get your strength, your endurance, or your boat feel until post High School. In fact, if you look at the top rowers globally - people like Mahe Drysdale - a huge amount of them didn't necessarily do amazing things at High School. We are lucky to compete in a sport where results come from hardwork...so stick with your goals for a few more years - Maadi is just the first step on the ladder.
If you're already at the top of the pile and in the selectors' gaze, then that's even better! Our big piece of advice would be to seriously consider a move to Karapiro over winter. You can still break into the system if you study and work elsewhere in the country, but you'll give yourself the best opportunity if you can be in front of the NZ coaches and athletes regularly up north. If you are at that top level now, then strike while the iron is hot - you've got your whole life to explore the world, but a limited window to be a professional athlete and row for New Zealand.
You want to get your University degree
After High School, often the first thing to tick off the list is your University degree. It's a great time - you'll meet new people, no doubt party hard, and come out the other end with a tertiary qualification. It's also somewhere that alot of people stop their rowing...as socialising and study takes priority. Well...don't let it. University Rowing is incredibly fun. Even if you are just in it for the social side of things, it's a fantastic way to meet new people in a new place, and the training can be as easy or as intense as you make it. Throw in the fact that alot of the Universities send crews all over the world, and it makes for some of the best memories at uni. Plus...it's a great way to stave off the fresher five kg that every new uni student seems to stack on!
You want to do an OE
More and more our first step post high school is to do an OE or work abroad for a year. Hat's off to you if you are thinking of doing that - it's a brilliant life experience. But again, there is no need to ditch the rowing, and in fact it's an easy way to make local friends that will show you around your new town as only locals can. Let's be honest, rowers tend to be good sorts, and that goes worldwide! Along with keeping fit and having a blast, you also might get to race in regatta's like Royal Henley in the UK... and if you thought Maadi was fun - wait until you see how awesome racing at some of those regattas can be. Be sure to use your rowing to your advantage. Lot's of places around the world will pay for kiwi coaches - from Camp America, to London, to Australia, our rowing pedigree is known, so keep rowing, and you might end up earning a dollar from coaching as well.
You've got a trade and want to stay in your hometown
Congratulations - you've just become the life blood of New Zealand club rowing! If you've set up shop in your home town, you've now got a great opportunity to become a leader in your club. While the uni students are off boozing, you can up your strength and get on the water every now and then over winter and get ahead for next summer. You'll make some great contacts at rowing clubs that will set you up for anything from jobs, to a place to live, so if you've only rowed for a school, don't be shy in heading to your local club now.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that no matter what your next step in life, continuing to row is a great way to enhance that step. Some of the closest friends you make in life will be made in a rowing boat, and one day they'll be the people who you visit all over the world. They'll help you in your career, make your travels more exciting and generally just add to your life. If you keep rowing you'll be one of the fittest people wherever you are, and you'll continue to have that great satisfaction that comes with a beautiful row. You'll also learn that there is something called social rowing out there in the world - so you can be as intense or as cruisy as you like in our brilliant sport.
Throughout our lives we have met lots of people that have rowed at school and not continued. They always look back at rowing with the biggest fondness and most say they want to get back in a boat now...but if you stop, it's that much harder to get back. So we like to think that you'll never regret continuing to row...you'll never regret a training session, but one day you'll definitely regret not continuing on for at least a few years post high school.
So from those of us who have been there and done that - wait until you are at least twenty before you decide to pull the pin on rowing - at least then you would have gained some mates, stayed fit, and found out what rowing post high school is all about. It's only two more years right?!