I am a 76 y.o male who was severely injured in an automobile accident 40 years ago and am unable to bend my left leg and have limited use of my left arm. When I initially heard about The Adaptive Rowing program I was skeptical that I could actually get into a sculling boat or even row one. Joe Dobson and all the other instructors helped me overcome any doubt and I have been rowing for 1 1/2 years. It has had an incredibly positive impact on the quality of my life and physical well being and I look forward to each time I can row and glide quietly through the water. It is absolutely the very best thing that has happened in the latter years of my life and I will always be grateful to Joe and all involved for their dedication and determination to help people with disabilities.
I got interested in rowing (sweep) when I watched a segment in the news about the rowing club, I was going to join later (Capital Rowing Club). I was really excited about participating because it gave me a chance to show off the power of left arm (and leg) which I overcompensated for my weak right side as a result of hemiplegic cerebral palsy. At first, it was scary as I didn't know what to expect sitting in a boat with an oar and other people in it with me. Experiencing the rocking motion of the boat when some people (or was it me) didn't set the boat properly, I wasn't sure if I would end up in the water. I was the only physically disabled rower in my program. The coach and my fellow rowing mates were very supportive of me and a source of great encouragement. About five years later, coming to Sarasota, I had expectations of joining a sweep program as that is what I knew and was used to, I embarked on another new adventure in rowing, sculling. It was a slow climb to seeing any "noticeable" results. With sculling, I had to learn to row using both arms (and legs). Since one side of my body was much stronger than the other side, you could deduce from the laws of physics, that I would be going in circles rowing with one strong arm (and leg) and the other arm (and leg) more of a hinderance then of help. There were many instances where I just wanted to quit and settle for the sweep program, it was much easier. Well, after many weeks (and months) with a well-adapted (equipped) boat, I slowly gained strength in my right side in order to make a semblance of rowing in a straight line. It took concentration, effort, and discipline for me to arrive where I am at now. But, all this would not be possible with the individualized attention and instruction that I received from the coaches. It is a great feeling knowing I can row and actually getting the right side of my body to be productive, instead of relying on the supreme goodness of my left side.
Since learning to row four years ago with the then newly formed Sarasota Adaptive Rowing Program (SARP), I have managed to go to a level I never would have thought possible. Being able to get out year-round on the water, mostly on the Intercoastal waterway, has meant being able to watch the sun come up and enjoy the wonderful birds, dolphins and manatees that share the environment, getting a good healthful workout and the satisfaction of gaining proficiency in the activity. Additionally I have been able to compete at continually higher and faster levels within the adaptive and para rowing community. This has meant travelling to other cities: DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Chattanooga, St. Catherines, ON in Canada and even on the Thames River in England, in order to compete. Each place has been an opportunity to race against others with similar disabilities while creating friendships among athletes, many who have managed to overcome challenges far beyond my own. My knee and foot were permanently damaged as the result of a trampoline accident when I was 17. While we all race to win, it is on shore that we can comfortably engage in relaxed conversation and see past the disabilities that have brought us together.
SARP is such a program as we get together on Tuesday and Thursday mornings or more and can row at levels that are different for each person. The coaches identify challenges and solutions for each rower along with the larger support of USRowing. Joe Dobson Founder, Director and Head Coach of SARP has created an encouraging culture for the adaptive rowing program; one that allows for growth, for enjoyment and for appreciation of the strengths of each athlete while working within the parameters of the varying disabilities. With the safety of each person being of utmost priority, rowing with SARP has been a wonderful adventure.
The Sarasota Adaptive Rowing Program is extremely beneficial to all who participate. For a physically active 66 year old blind and hearing impaired woman who has sought activities that enhance my health and fitness, rowing uniquely fits that bill. It is difficult to find programs or activities that are accessible to anyone with disabilities. For me, being totally blind, this has been a daunting challenge. Everyone involved in the Sarasota Rowing Program has made me feel welcome and capable. I set new personal
goals and get plenty of support meeting them. Six years ago I was hit by a car while walking. The accident left me with intense debilitating lower back pain. The resulting new disability was especially hard for me physically. I started rowing to strengthen my
injured lower back and core muscles. Now thanks to rowing, both are much stronger and I've resumed my usual work outs.
SARP has given me the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to challenge myself physically and mentally. The exhilaration of rowing on a beautiful sunny practice day with absolutely calm water can only be topped by the confidence building experience of practicing on a cool or, to me, cold windy day. On a race day, under the capable guidance of head coach Joe Dobson and his competent caring assistant coaches, we challenge ourselves to increase our speed and beat personal records. When we do, I feel a different kind of exhilaration. I encourage anyone who is even a bit interested to try rowing with us. If you persevere and test your limits you can only become an all-around better person.
My primary MOS has changed from improving patient to caregiver. My son Mike's needs are greater than my own.
I regret the disappointment I cause Coach Joe, Coach Lindsey and Coach Jim who believed I could compete as an adaptive rower. Never have I met people so enthusiastic and dedicated to the life enhancement that rowing can bring to people with disabilities. Joe and Lindsey bring championship experience and love to teaching rowing to people with disabilities. Jim, Jimmy,Rich, Bob and others have mastered the skills. Jack and Bob are off on their own quests for victory. Betsy is our champion with bleeding palms of dedication, the BEST.
ADAPTIVE ROWING is great because coaches give their time, and donors and the Club give funds and equipment. It is great because adaptive rowers who compete and win, like Betsy, Jack and others prove it works; and, because all rowers come away with an appreciation for the beauty of the sport. Thank you.