The Long Skinny Boat Camp: Next generation of Manatee County rowers take turn at the oars

Next generation of Manatee rowers drills, developsteamwork at The Long and Skinny Boat Camp

jajones1@bradenton.comAugust 8, 2012 

FORT HAMER -- A demanding 90-minute row on the Manatee River, lots of military style calisthenics, plus pushups and sprints.

The Long Skinny Boat Camp looked a lot like boot camp with drill instructor Trish Jackson, Palmetto High School rowing coach.

Demanding, yes, but fun.

For many of the 21 middle school and high school students drawn from across the county, it was their first taste of rowing.

The consensus: It's a lot harder than it looks.

"The object is to teach them teamwork, and hopefully they will fall in love with rowing like we did," said Todd Chastain of Palmetto High School, one of the camp counselors.

Exactly, says Jackson, who admits to getting some of her firmly encouraging ways from her Marine Corps father.

"We are hoping to pull from all the middle schools," she said of the next generation of rowers.

Jackson dreams of the day when all the high schools in Manatee County have rowing teams.

"How awesome would it be to have all the high school teams in the county on the river racing?"

she said.

For now, Palmetto and Southeast are the only schools with rowing teams, but Manatee High is expected to have one this year.

Palmetto and Southeast will each have varsity and novice squads this year, and Jackson envisions natural rivalries blooming.

One of the objects of the Long Skinny Boat Camp, in addition to getting campers accustomed to the sculls and working those muscles, is to get them out of their comfort zone.

Such as being told to drop for 30 pushups, race to the rest rooms, do a belly flop off the dock, or quack and move like a duck being chased by a wolf.

It's all part of building teamwork, trust, and opening communication between the campers, Jackson said.

A natural teaching point for the camp is Olympic rowing in London.

Jensen Newhall, who recently graduated from Palmetto High School and hopes to row for the University of South Florida, said Olympic rowers epitomize perfection: "They have everything down perfectly."

Lovett agreed: "They look like one person rowing."

The two-week camp wraps up 11 a.m. Friday at the Fort Hamer Rowing facility when campers put on a mini regatta for their parents.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1

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