London Youth Rowing has unveiled the Active Row project in Leeds, which will see the charity deliver rowing to people aged 11 to 18 in Leeds.
It is the first time the charity has ventured outside of the capital, and Leeds has been chosen because of the infrastructure already in place through Leeds Rowing Club and RowLeeds.
Rowing has a reputation of being an elitist sport, but London Youth Rowing want to change that. In London they work with children in some of city’s most disadvantaged communities.
Over the past four years, Active Row London has reached over 2,000 young people each year, helping them to be more active through indoor and on-water rowing.
The programme is focused on inclusion, with 49 per cent of participants being female, 69 per cent from ethnic minority backgrounds and eight per cent having special educational needs or a disability.
The aim is to take the sport into schools by providing indoor rowing machines and coaching support in at least 17 secondary schools across the city from September.
They hope to engage at least 500 young people within the first two years, and within three years, work with up to 30 schools in the area.
Yorkshire’s triple Olympic champion Andrew Triggs Hodge is on board with the initiative and eager to get young people involved in his sport.
“The perception is it’s a sport that doesn’t appeal to the masses, but once you break down the barriers to entry you can take rowing to the people, and doing so through schools is the best way to do that,” said Hodge, who learned to row at university having grown up in Hebden, near Wharfedale.
“There’s a lot of people out there who don’t even know they’re looking for a sport, they’re looking to do something to keep them active, and that’s where rowing fits in nicely.
“No one thinks it’s an option. What London Youth Rowing does is it builds the community around the rowing machine and once you harness that, it doesn’t matter what the activity is, it can transform the whole perception.
“These kids can then take the sport for themselves and rebuild it how they want to use it, and it’s exactly the transition the sport needs to go through because it is breaking down that perception.”
London Youth Rowing’s chief executive Matt Rostron added: “There is an assumption that rowing is an elite sport and what we’ve been trying to do in London is break away from that and create opportunities away from the traditional places that people go for rowing.
“Where is a good place that has an infrastructure if these kids enjoy the sport and want a pathway? Leeds Rowing Club has a Learn to Row site at Roundhay Park and that was interesting for us, because it gives us the opportunity to take a kid from an indoor rowing machine in a school to come and try it on the water in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
“The programme starts by building indoor rowing clubs in schools; before, during lunchtime and after school.
“What we’re not trying to do is find the next Andrew Triggs Hodge, but what we can do is get people to fall in love with physical activity and / or rowing.
“What we need to do is give them the opportunity to do so.”
The Active Row Leeds project is being funded by the Henley Royal Regatta Charitable Trust (HRRCT).
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