Open Water Rowing is not an elite sport. Rather, it is an alternative sport. As schools and elite sports clubs focus more and more on winning, often at the expense of the players, Open Water Rowing puts those players first. The training and competition offered through Station Maine is strict, but not rigid. We believe strongly that Station Maine exists for the kids, not the kids for Station Maine.
We train first as ambassadors, with the understanding that years from now nobody will remember who won and nobody will forget who acted like a jerk. Every rower is given the opportunity to race in every contest, even if it means extra heats or mixing crews from "opposing" teams. We train to pull the very best oar we can pull, not simply to smoke the competition. Crews who have crossed the finish line are encouraged to cheer on those who lag behind.
We believe that sports should be about fun, fitness, teamwork, and community. The skill of pulling an oar is secondary to the skills of leading, following, cooperating, setting goals, and working very, very hard towards those goals. We do insist on commitment, but with the understanding that family outweighs rowing. Our goal is experiential education, encouraging kids to be fit, happy, aware members of society.
Having said that, training is rigorous. Practice is three days a week after school, and Saturday competitions from late September through November. Competitive rowers swear off drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and soda for the duration of the racing season. We row three miles a day and run one mile. Mental acuity is obligatory. Push-ups are assigned for missed commands, poor seamanship, carelessness, arguing with the cox, and any number of other infractions. These are viewed not so much as punishment but as consequences. Rowers are honor bound to report their push-ups at the end of the practice and are encouraged by their crew-mates as they complete them.
Not all competitions are about speed and strength. Each community is responsible for its own contest. Safety drills, seamanship, slaloms, and other games are encouraged.
Mindful of repetitive stress injuries, Juniors compete in shorter sprints and slaloms occasionally during the racing season. While it is very important for them to see how races are conducted and to learn the ambassadorial skills necessary to successfully compete, major physical feats and long, hard rows can wait until their bodies are more fully formed.