Katelin Snyder (USA) on Giving Back
What does “social responsibility” and “giving back” mean to you?
Youth development is not only crucial to the global growth and sustainability of rowing, it is my social responsibility as a woman in sport. I have become increasingly aware of the hurdles we face with regards to gender inequality and female leadership in athletics, and the obstacles our society faces with regards to adolescent women and body image.
How has your involvement in rowing influenced the ways in which you give back?
I am fortunate to be part of a sport that celebrates strong, empowered women; and a team where female bonds are formed through the blood, sweat, and tears of collaboration and REALLY hard work. To me, giving back to the community is about helping young women buy into the idea that being fit and strong, building muscle, working hard, and sweating hard is fun and cool, and just as feminine as any other activity.
How has giving back affected your relationship to sport / your goals as an elite athlete?
Coaching middle school and high school novice girls is one of the greatest ways I have been able to fulfill my social responsibility to the next generation. Teaching young women to row gives me the opportunity to build a team that values physical and mental toughness, and believes that being feminine is about being strong, powerful, and relentless.
While imparting these ideals onto a group of 13-14 year old girls, I am constantly reminded of my own goals as an elite athlete. Be stronger, be more relentless, be a better teammate. Watching young women lift each other up and celebrate each other’s successes reminds me to do the same.
What lessons from rowing and sport have helped you?
Rowing is such an incredible team sport – in the boat we are only as strong as our weakest link, but I am learning that as an entire team, we are only as strong as our weakest link. As a coach, I am able to see how the whole team is set back when one person doesn’t finish a workout, or starts walking on a run. Taking a stroke off is easier when the girl next to you takes a stroke off. I’ve been able to watch these young women become exponentially tougher when they are accountable to each other, such that the whole team is greater than the sum of its parts.
Have you had any setbacks? Has your involvement in sport influenced how you deal with these?
We learn from each other and at the end of the day, whatever I “give back” to the rowing community, they “give back” to me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to “give back” but doesn’t know how?
I highly recommend coaching to anyone who wants to give back but does not know where to start. When young women are empowered to be strong, fit, muscular, and tough, they develop confidence that spills over into school, body image, and relationships with family and friends. For novice coaches, there is no “formula” for teaching adolescents to work hard and become a team. The sense of “where do I begin” can be daunting and overwhelming, but I believe that passion and spirit speak louder than experience when it comes to coaching learn-to-row. Energy is contagious, and anyone who brings authentic excitement to practice can impart his or her ideals in a strong and enduring way.