Community rowing runs various programs for youth ages 12-18. These range from recreational programs, including partnerships with schools to run physical education programming, to competitive boys and girls teams.
Students need guidance in seeing how the skills they learn during programming apply to the rest of their lives; the connection may seem clear to you, but students often need help seeing it.
A sense of accountability to his or her team increases a student’s buy-in.
Be conscious and intentional about modeling; students are always watching.
How do you deal with student conflict to make sure there is a positive outcome?
In general, we haven’t had a lot of student conflict. The number one thing that we teach here is accountability, accountability to one another. The behavior could be anything, but are they being accountable for the program values that they signed up for? Are they being accountable to the other people in their crew that are having their practice disrupted? And we measure accountability in little ways, with excused and unexcused absences. The program norm is that you’ll have no unexcused absences and if you can’t have perfect absence, we say that an excused absence is called in advance, the student offers to make it up in some way, and it’s communicated in enough time to save the planning snafus for everybody.
We got [the accountability idea] from a sports psych intern who came to work with us a long time ago in the program. We had only a handful of girls in the program at the time, and the intern said, “We cannot address any performance issues until we get accountability.” So we got accountability groups, we broke them down into, “Okay, you’re going to be accountable to your peers in this group first. And at the end of the week, we’re going to see which team has 100% accountability. That means, even if no-one from your group is here one day, if all of you knew exactly where the other team members were and why they weren’t coming, and had communicated that with each other, you would still get a point for that day.” We started doing this with a little bit older kids, like 12 or 13, and it really did start to change. They would talk to each other in the hallway before they would come here. You know, people who weren’t necessarily friends. And that’s a really big thing. We tell them, if you need to miss a job or interview appointment, these are the same skills. Call ahead, say when you’ll be back, offer an alternative. We try and reinforce these things with kids all the time — it starts with just that one thing but it can go into so many different areas.
How do you think capabilities in teamwork and team building prepare students for life outside of the program (such as school)?
I think they help a lot because we really work on helping bridge the gap for the students, because we know that those transferable skills, they don’t happen automatically. You have to spell it out. We think it’s automatic that just because you give good effort in rowing you know how to give good effort [in other aspects of life]. But that’s just not true. We work with the coaches and take those moments to say, “Hey, I never saw you try that hard. That was amazing. Imagine how well you’d do on your project if you tried that hard.” So, little things like that, when kids do something that they hadn’t done before, we try to point it out. “Hey, you said at the beginning of the season that you couldn’t do a push-up and you just did ten! What else do you think you could do that you’re not doing right now? There are probably so many other things.” So we do train the coaches to try and take advantage of those little moments and point out the transferability. And that’s part of our training when we train our coaches, we train them how to make sure we get toward 100% accountability with these kids, and that those life skills that we expect the students to get, that those are not automatic just by rowing. The coaches have to elicit those and make those connections to do that.