GVYRS Middle school league 2021 is a big success
Maddi Holmes often finds herself in a sea of middle schoolers – quite literally - in the middle of Elk Lake. Maybe that’s why she has decided to teach high school when she completes her B.Ed degree at UVic
October 28, 2021
“It’s about meeting them where they’re at and making it fun,” Maddi says, of the one of a kind program in BC. “It’s been great to be able to focus on their growth and development needs and take some of the pressure off of performing – it’s all about having a fun experience.”
Maddi started rowing at Royal Oak Middle School herself and as one of only a handful of kids in grade 8 included in the fall high school rowing program, she felt pretty intimidated and isolated. “When I became a coach in the high school and club programs, it struck me that these kids deserved a richer experience. We have been able to create a safe, fun, introduction to the sport. They can show up and just be themselves at the lake.”
“Our biggest barrier was always awareness,” Maddi shares, “the Olympics really helped build awareness and now we want to build off of that.”
Maddi, along with other veterans of the high school league (Miki Chantler, Izzy Edey, Griffin Thomas, Sierra Inglis, Greg Sedun), and support of the Claremont Secondary School Rowing Academy, designed a middle school rowing league and welcomed over 80 kids from Bayside Middle School, Royal Oak Middle School, North Saanich Middle School, Pacific Christian School, Glenlyon Norfolk School, and St. Michaels University School. A ‘no program’ group hailing from a combination of Cedar Hill Middle School - Victoria, BC, Gordon Head Middle School, and Lakeview Christian School was also created to bridge the gap until greater teacher and student engagement can be achieved. The goal is to involve all of the middle schools from across the Greater Victoria region.
The educational approach weaves through the program in multiple ways. Everyone is learning! Mentor coaches float around the tarmac during practices to support 40 new grade 11/12 “coaches in training” as they navigate equipment care, coach boat maintenance and operation, and the principles of teaching new rowers the basics of rowing in a fun and creative way. Rowing BC has helped ensure that these new coaches have gained their Learn to Row qualifications. Of those new coaches, most row for their high schools and bring a level of leadership to their school teams, experiencing rowing from both sides of the coach boat and reinforcing the cultural values and expectations of the sport, the club, and the league. Finally, the middle school league is providing kids who enjoy the VCRC summer rowing camps a natural pathway into rowing with their school friends and teaching them that they can be friends with their competitors.
I asked Maddi what she thinks has been the greatest success so far:
“The best part about this program is that kids are making friends during the summer outside of their schools and then waving to one another across the water from their school crews during the fall league, it’s an amazing community builder!”