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By Steven O’Connor, CEO, Fulham Reach Boat Club

On Thursday 24 September, Fulham Reach Boat Club (FRBC) is once again partnering up with ukactive to help deliver the Great British Week of Sport. In 2019 we were able to deliver a fantastic day of multi-sport activity with partners from Chelsea FC, SportsAid and London Sports Trust. While 2020 will inevitably be a slightly smaller affair thanks to all things COVID, we still cannot wait to have children from our local community on the water and experiencing the Thames in both a rowing boat and a kayak.

In normal times we are constantly able to see the huge importance of physical activity to young people. Clearly, there will always be a benefit to their physical health when sessions are delivered properly, but increasingly we are seeing demonstrable improvements in young people’s mood and mental health after taking part in physical activity.

In the world of rowing, we think there is an added mental health benefit of being out in the middle of the river. It could be the stillness, it could be being closer to nature, or something else altogether, but time and again we have young people telling us that being in a boat makes them feel good. One of the other pieces of feedback we receive regularly is that they find it nice not to have their mobile phone on them – which is not something we expected to hear.

One of the unique things about rowing is that it is a totally learnt movement. Everybody that steps into a boat for the first time has no idea what they are doing and when a single scull can be just 30cm wide, most people end up swimming at some point.

The upside to all of this is that a sport like rowing is a great leveller and so all of a sudden the ‘un-sporty’ children are now starting off from the same point as those who are normally on the first teams in football or cricket. As a sport, it gives immediate feedback to the participant as to whether they are getting the technique right or not, and progress in the sport is almost directly linked to the number of hours spent training. This can give a huge boost of sporting confidence to those children who may not be a natural when it comes to kicking or catching, but can find their flow when it comes to learning the technique of how to move a boat.

I know this because that is exactly what happened to me. I went through school basically unable to kick a ball in a straight line and as a result I was considered ‘un-sporty’. I didn’t really look forward to PE and certainly didn’t have any particular fire in my belly to go and achieve anything in a sporting sense. It was all thanks to a sixth former spotting that I was tall for a Year 10 student and giving me an opportunity to go to the boat club the next morning that I would go on to become a national champion, set up FRBC and have a lifetime in love with sport (but I still can’t kick a ball!).

We are excited to again be a part of the Great British Week of Sport and looking forward to welcoming more young people from our community out onto the Thames.

For more information about the Great British Week of Sport, including finding an activity or registering your event, click here.