Monkton Bluefriars Newsletter 2016
2016 Make it Count

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2016 Make it Count  Matt Wells

The 2016 Rowing Season‚ôs tag line was ‚úMake it count‚Ě and the rowers at Monkton have certainly done that. It is hard for me to summarise or condense Monkton's 2016 ‚úMake it count‚Ě rowing season. It has been one which has seen success and disappointment at every level. Winning is important but so is losing; learning how to lose is one of the biggest lessons we can learn in life. When we don‚ôt win and the disappointment clears, what do we do next? How do we learn from our mistakes, get up and move forward? I feel very proud of the Monkton rowers this season - every one of them has success stories but each of them has had to overcome a personal challenge, a point at which things went wrong and they have learnt what to do to come back from disappointments.

When I started at Monkton in 2013, I laid down a strategy for the next five years, and within this there were actionable waypoints. The positive for me is that we have either matched or bettered these way points through the four years so far. We have had successes in all year groups, at all levels and across the genders. There have been some significant highlights throughout the year in what has been a very positive year for rowing at Monkton. We have had our most successful

National Schools Regatta for some time with 8 crews making final spots, one of which went on to win a silver medal. We had 41 students racing at National Schools which, when you put it into the context of the population of the school, is 12% of the school. This is an easy target to achieve but when you consider that all the crews who competed were competitive at semi-final level this is a big change.

We have had Olivia Caesar (J16 1x ‚ď year 11 single) winning a silver medal at the Junior inter-regional regatta then going on to win her first international vest at the GB vs France match as a spare.

In June this year we had to split the squad up with three regattas happening on the same day. We had crews at Marlow, Women‚ôs Henley and Stratford Regattas which proved very fruitful for all concerned. It reaffirmed my philosophy that rowing is more than just winning medals. One of the best bits of this year that I will take away was when crews were being cheered along the length of the Stratford course by a line of Monkton students.

The depth of concentration which is often missing from the classroom has been present on the river and in the gym, with students really wanting to do well. It was a fantastic change. I have enjoyed seeing the students faced with challenges both physical, social and mental and having to work their own way around them. I am sure that although these challenges are tough they will produce some exceptional students in the future.

The variety of competitions which we have participated in this year has been vast - from invitational 2nd and 3rd boat races on our home course to national competitions on the 2012 Olympic course at Dorney. We boated over 75 students at the Avon Spring Head of the river race in various boats which is 20% of the whole school.

Both captains this year have set fantastic examples of how to lead; they can walk away from their leadership roles with their heads held high. Hannah Street (girls' captain) won the Prince Kassa prize for her ‚úoutstanding contribution to Monkton Sport‚Ě which to my knowledge is only the second time that a rower has won the trophy (please correct me if I am wrong.) Hannah has not only led by example as to how to win gracefully and how to respond to setbacks and losses but she has also been effective in encouraging our new intake of girls at year 9 which includes some very competitive sports women. Max Leflaive-Manley has really sold himself to rowing this year. He has immersed himself in the captain role and was often found after he had completed his own training cheering on the junior squad members and showing them how to look after the equipment. For this reason he was awarded the ‚úTom Mildinhall ‚ď contribution to rowing‚Ě award at the sports' dinner this year. Both captains have laid the gauntlet down for outstanding leadership to the new captains: Martin Ninov and Sofya Zakharova who will no doubt want to improve the club further, as is their nature.

This year we have also piloted a Learn to Row scheme in which all year 9 students have had the opportunity to learn to row during their academic timetable. This obviously isn‚ôt another training session but more of an opportunity to experience rowing. We had an excellent response from the students and it has given all budding sportsmen and women the chance to experience our great sport. We have had all of the year 9 rowers in singles as well as in their normal crews.

At the regattas this year we have had some fantastic parental support lead by Mr and Mrs Caesar (Olivia‚ôs parents) who have not only set up the #MonktonRoar which has inspired all our crews but also set about bank clearance at Saltford. This support from parents is invaluable for all our crews. This year it has ranged through everything from being psychologists, nutritionists, caterers, equipment managers, team support to professional boat de-riggers.

Driving away from all the regattas this year everyone is exhausted, none more so than the coaching and support team who facilitate all the students' success. Our Boatman team is led by Andy Talyor who has been the rock of the club in his usual unflappable demeanour with no challenge too daunting for either him or Mike Smith. The coaches have been fantastic this year and have had as much fun as the students themselves. It is a shame to be losing our outstanding year 9 boys' coach Pete Curran and our senior boys' coach in Amanda Bowden. Both will be missed in the Boat Club, but we take the opportunity to wish them success in their future endeavours. Anna Broekman has continued as the club's most successful coach this yea;, however Simon Brown, Emily Day and myself might change that next season ... not that any of us is competitive.

For me what has been impressive is seeing the confidence which the students have in their ability and each other. The cheering for each other on the bank is fantastic and they all want success for one another and ultimately for the School. We leave the 2016 season behind, safe in the knowledge that the fundamental building blocks of Monkton rowing are strong: built on respect and a very strong work ethic. #WeAreMonkton

Matt Wells

29-Jan-18 at 03:52:51