More precious than gold: learning Olympic values through rowing
The sound of laughing kids echoes across the water as former Canadian Olympians, Laryssa Biesenthal and Adam Kreek work with young rowers near Victoria on Canada’s Pacific coast for an on-water session with a twist.
Brentwood College School is a powerhouse in rowing performance. Beyond the fact that they are grateful for being able to get out on the water after months of pandemic lock down, it is what these young rowers are learning that makes today’s practice special. The focus is on fun and games to teach a lesson far more valuable than gold medals.
“We did the figure eight, a relay race, and a kind of ball throwing game,” says Oland, one of the rowers involved. Takeaways include, “Have fun, enjoy taking care of the environment and have a lot of fun with your friends.”
“Letting go of focusing on everything to do in the boat was a big thing,” says Carter, a fellow student. “I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in two weeks. That was also a big thing.”
“I would say the team work and communicating and competitiveness was really fun,” adds Anika, another student.
“When you take away all the commercialism and focus only on winning in sport, the Olympics are about pure competition, treating each other fairly, competing for the joy of it, not about money,” says Biesenthal, who serves as Brentwood’s head of rowing.
What are Row Values?
Using materials put together by World Rowing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Youth Sport Trust International, the lessons aim to help kids experience and learn values at the very heart of the Olympic movement.
The Row Values programme, rowing’s sport-specific version of the IOC’s OVEP (Olympic Values Education Programme) covers five broad values:
• Joy of effort;
• Fair play;
• Excellence; and
• Life balance.
“It was fun to watch these kids play,” says Biesenthal. “We didn’t coach them, we just let them play and self-discover. It is important to give kids more time to discover. Today’s youth want to be empowered to learn on their own. Through the games and OVEP we introduce what the theory is behind the game and then they go out and realise what happens when they try it.”
One example Biesenthal cites is the environmental lesson, which involves the students in cleaning up the waterway they row on.
“The water ways are mother nature’s gift to us,” she says. “When they’ve done that, they say, we never saw what impact we had.”
Biesenthal hopes that the programme can be introduced at schools across the country – for rowers and non-rowers alike. “I would love it in Phys. Ed. classes,” she says.
Getting more kids involved in such a programme could also grow numbers inside the sport and, perhaps more importantly, instil a life-long love of rowing.
“The more ways we can find for kids to get out on the water and be excited and play, the better,” says Biesenthal. “I want them to row from now until they are 80, not because they have a chance at a medal or a scholarship, but because they love it.”
For this first session, Creek and Biesenthal use more stable “Oar Boards” (stand up paddle boards fitted out for rowing).
“It took away the worry from the students that they might break our racing equipment,” says Biesenthal. With the success of the first outing, however, Biesenthal feels that moving into tippier boats for a future session could add a fun new challenge.
Find more information about how you can use Row Values at your club or school here: http://www.worldrowing.com/development/development-how-can-help