A Message from Steven Freygang
Earlier this week I notified the board of directors that I will be resigning from my position as executive director to accept an opportunity with the Woodland Park Zoo as their capital campaign senior manager. The decision to leave SRA was immensely difficult for me and my family. We love SRA and the opportunities this community has afforded us personally and professionally. However, with the arrival of our daughter this past spring Whitney and I have come to realize that the work-life balance and long-term career growth at the zoo will be a better fit for us in the years ahead.
We have an incredibly competent staff and strong leadership in our board. I have offered to remain available on a volunteer basis to assist with critical tasks while the board searches for an executive director, and I am confident that our rowers will not be adversely impacted by the leadership transition.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you over the past six years. I am VERY proud of what we have accomplished together, and I am excited to see SRA continue to grow and prosper under new leadership.
From SRA Board President Dee Walker
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to congratulate Steven on pursuing his next step in his career, and thank him for his leadership of SRA at a critical time. While we are sorry to see him go, we respect his decision and wish him and his young family well. During Steven’s tenure, SRA has blossomed into a nationally recognized rowing community, known for its excellence on the water at all levels and ages. A long-term strategic plan, highly talented coaches and staff, a new fleet, record enrollment, and fiscal health are among the many legacies Steven leaves behind. We will miss him.
The board has appreciated the transparent and productive engagement with Steven, particularly during inevitable moments that challenge the community, including the upcoming search for his replacement. In partnership with the board, we have already set in motion ways to ease the transition and help reduce any ambiguity for staff, parents, or rowers. I would like to share with you the following steps we are taking:
First, we are grateful that Anne Corley has agreed to serve as Interim Executive Director. Anne has a long history and deep knowledge of SRA having served on the staff for the past three years, and before that on the SRA board of directors, including a term as president. Together with the help of the professional staff, Anne will keep this complex and growing organization running smoothly.
Second, Leslie Moser will lead a search committee that consists of several board members and staff. We anticipate a great deal of competition for this role from national clubs and organizations, as well as local ones. As immediate past president of SRA Leslie knows well the values and competencies we are looking for, and will work with others to bring several finalists to the full board for final consideration. The search committee and board will work transparently, expeditiously, but thoughtfully to land a new leader worthy of this great, growing community. Please send any suggestions for candidates directly to Leslie by October 1. You can contact Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, I want to thank the professional staff and coaches for their continued focus and commitment to make SRA a great experience for hundreds of rowers. We want to make sure you are fully supported during this transition so you can do what you do best: go fast and win! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly or any other member of the board if you have questions or concerns.
Please join me in wishing Steven well, and thanking him for his stewardship of this great community. Thanks to him, and all of you, our best days are ahead of us.
SRA Stories: Kat Buckley
Being able to learn from and overcome failures was pivotal to Kat’s progress. By January, when she joined the team, the other girls had learned the stroke and language of the sport. For example, on her first day on the water, she had no idea what feathering the oar meant. Throughout her novice spring, Kat figured out the language and raced at Brentwood, where she transferred and finished her high school rowing career. Although Kat finished her junior career elsewhere, she considers SRA her big rowing family. She said, “Rowing really changed the entire course of my life because it led me to do an extra year of high school, go to a boarding school, and eventually get recruited to college to row. The SRA boathouse has been one of my main communities back home. It’s really fun to have a place to go back to to work out and share this sport with others. It’s especially exciting to introduce the basics of this amazing sport to middle schoolers and adults.” Kat said.
Currently, Kat coaches Learn to Row and Middle School summer programs. Her high energy and infectious smile can be seen around the boathouse all day, and instantly rub off on those who she coaches. The middle school participants love when she sprays them with the hose when the hot sun has been bearing down on them all practice long, and the adults enjoy her unwavering energy as she teaches the basics of the rowing stroke.
One of her favorite Sammamish memories was as a coach. This year a particularly windy day forced all the teams to stay on land. “All the Learn to Row classes combined and did a bunch of erg sessions and it was really cool to see all these people come together to do something that they didn’t know how to do before,” Kat said. “We did drills and a 2K test and the energy in the room was so exciting.”
When Kat began rowing in college, she noticed one big difference between her high school rowing experience and her collegiate one. At Sammamish Rowing Association, the temperate climate allows our teams to spend almost all year out on the water. Hamilton College’s location in Central New York means that all of the water is frozen throughout the winter, so they train indoors from Halloween to late March. Kat added, “It was a huge shock to spend so much time erging the entire winter at Hamilton. At Brentwood we barely erged. We only did a few erg tests. However, Sammamish land day experiences like Brentwood in a day and 5x5’ helped me deal with erg anxiety coming into Hamilton’s winter season.”
Next time you’re at the boathouse, be sure to find Kat and ask about her upcoming trip to Sweden, her family’s new kitten, or her favorite sport (rowing obviously!). We have a huge sumer staff and each and every full time and seasonal coach has worked so hard to make sure this summer has been an amazing time to row for new and familiar faces around the boathouse. Kat has done an incredible job instilling a passion for rowing in our middle school and Learn to Row participants. Thank you Kat and all of our other summer coaches.
SRA Stories: Kira Lewis
When it came to her favorite memory at Sammamish, Lewis struggled to pick just one. She did mention the boys she got to work with her Sophomore year of high school however. “I coxed this great race at the Tail of The Lake Regatta,” she said. “I started picking up some momentum on the team as I was improving. Next thing you know it’s spring and I’m in the lightweight 8. That group of guys was unprecedentedly fun to work with.” Kira believed their success came from their ability to learn and grow together. She added, “I think it was a really young group and all of us were a little unsure of how to make a boat actually go fast. So we kept joking about going fast which morphed into a super positive attitude. Without big egos getting in the way we could make a lot of the changes Dennis asked us to make and we kinda figured out how to make our boat move."
This summer Lewis was actually able to race in a Grand Prix that the Marymoor Velodrome hosted. She was able to race alongside incredible athletes in the elite women’s pack. “It was the biggest pack of riders I’ve ever raced with which was a little intimidating, not to mention there were world champions from places like Australia, Canada, and the U.S. Those girls are so fast and so strong it was an amazing experience to share my home track with them.”
Rowing is known to be a demanding sport. Often times those who pursue it at the collegiate level have little time for much else besides rowing and school work. Lewis certainly has felt that pressure, but has found ways to bring balance back to her life through thoughtful time budgeting during her breaks. She also is strong in maintaining an open mind. Lewis said, “Right now I don’t really know what the future holds for me in rowing. I’m planning on starting up again in fall at UW, but I’m going in with a pretty open mind. That’s the mindset I brought in last fall and I had an awesome year so I think that’s what’s going to work best for me. Whatever I wind up doing I know I’m going to have a good time doing it!”
Keep trying new things, Kira! Be sure to keep the SRA community updated on all that you achieve from spider eating, rowing, and beyond!
Paul Colvin is married with two daughters. One of his daughters began rowing during her freshman year of highschool. By her junior year Paul took up the sport as well. “I had an erg since early 90’s, and it sat unused for about a decade. Though I had used it a bit and knew it was a great workout,” Colvin said about his rowing beginnings. Once he was part of the team he was hooked.
Andy Roberts, like Colvin, had never rowed in his life before starting the sport as an adult. Roberts had joined Sammamish Rowing Association’s (SRA) Learn to Row (LTR) program in 2012 and had a huge group of great people in his LTR class. “I needed to do something competitive. I played soccer before, but my teammates kept getting injured,” he said. Like Colvin, Roberts had caught the rowing bug and stayed with SRA year after year, unlike many of his fellow LTR teammates who seemed to fizzle away.
Paul Meyer rowed a bit during his school years in the Netherlands, but wasn’t particularly looking to get back into rowing until his wife took it up. When they moved to the United States, his wife picked up rowing at SRA to stay fit. At the end of her Learn to Row experience, she introduced Paul to Jenny Proby and he eventually joined the ECM team. Meyer said, “it took a couple of years to get all the fitness back, but I'm happy I did it.”
Then there was Mike Fitzner who moved to Washington in 2004 from California. At that time, SRA offered winter conditioning classes that appealed to Fitzner. The crazy good workouts were matched with terrific coaching as Fitzner learned proper erg form during his initial time at SRA. However, other sports drew Fitzner away from the old boathouse for a few years before his return. “I introduced a colleague at work, Leslie Moser, to erging. She ended up doing LTR, and told me it was the best thing ever. She eventually wore me down to try actual rowing so I gave in,” Fitnzer said. He loved it and has put his entire focus on rowing ever since. He too commented on the fact that his LTR class seemed to dwindle out despite the strong sense of community and fun.
Just a few years back the men on the Evening Competitive Masters (ECM) were few and far between. Fitzner, Colvin, and Roberts are some of the men who have stuck around the longest to see the team really grow. Fitzner said, “Over the years we tend to lose people, the ones who stay are the ones who would do it for life.” All of the men agreed that while many LTR participants love rowing not all of them are ready for the commitment that comes with rowing.
Roberts commented, ““At our age and the time we row, life can get in the way. Rowing at 6:30pm at night is hard for some people.” Time, family, work, and other commitments can make it hard for people to consistently make it to the boathouse.
Fitzner added, “If you want to row competitively you cannot half-ass practice and the time commitment. You won't advance in your rowing technique and make better boats. That is going to weed out and frustrate people.”
It’s true that it takes a certain type of person to stay committed to the sport. All the men agreed that they don’t just row- rowing is a part of them. Fitzner said, “My friends have no idea how difficult this is,” to which Roberts added, “but they all know you row.” Despite the dedication it takes to be successful in rowing, these men along with all of our other members, see their dedication as totally worth their time.
Slowly but surely the ECM team has seen growth in the amount of men on the team, as well as its competitiveness. Fitzner, Colvin, and Roberts have simply attributed that growth and development to the strong community and time. Colvin said, “I can’t say I’ve actively recruited anyone- it’s a hard sport to recruit for. If people show up you hope they are having a good time and have that desire to work hard and stick with it.”
Meyer said that Colvin and Roberts were incredibly encouraging during his entire time on the ECM team. He said, “To me, Paul and Andy have been a constant in the time I was with ECM. A couple of years ago, ECM sent a Men’s 4+ to the Head of the Charles Regatta. That was not a completely ideal journey (we had to replace one of the rowers at the last minute), but it set the stage for what is possible. This ignited the initial ambition and it has only grown since.”
Roberts added that they lead by example. “We are working our asses off and have fun while doing it, and people see that. Having people come in seeing we are succeeding now and seeing we started out where they started out is a big factor in having people stay.” All of these men came to join ECM through the LTR program. It took time for them to be at the level they are now. They remember how hard it was in the beginning and that memory reminds them to encourage new members as they embark on their own rowing journeys. The men agreed that when they see someone with athletic potential come up through LTR they encourage the individual to stay.
Coach Lee Henerson of the ECM team talked about the team growth as well. “It has been exciting and rewarding to watch the team over the years. The thing that I preach is to own your experience and there’s a core group of guys that have bought into that. Paul [Colvin], Andy, Paul [Meyer], and Mike have definitely bought into that among others. These rowers have been through the ups and downs and thick and thin. We’ve been able to build up through the LTR ranks and that core group has gotten stronger.”
Henderson added, “The group has continued to grow and buy into the ‘own your experience’ philosophy. They run workouts together and make it fun. A cadre of guys have been coming together all of July. The improvements we’ve seen are a result of that philosophy.” Henderson also attributed team growth to the intentional targeting of better racing opportunities. ECM has begun adding bigger and bigger events to their racing schedule such as the Head of the Charles Regatta. The increase in exciting racing opportunities has correlated to increases elsewhere in the team.
Those increases were in numbers and competitiveness. Fitzner said about their progress as a team, “we have rowed splits this year we never thought possible. In contrast to other crews or other crews from other clubs, we don’t have anyone who rowed collegiately in our men’s eight. We all started novice year here at SRA.” All of them agreed that their favorite SRA memory was this year’s Opening Day. Fitzner said, “our rowing then was so good it felt like the season was over for me, as I didn’t think this experience could be topped. We came in second place even though we went in with no expectations. It was an awesome race out of the gate. The whole 2K with the boats and yachts on starboard side, with the noise, and the way the boat felt- it was perfect. Stars aligned.”
Their progress over the years has been due to many factors; hard work, dedication, patience, and an incredible support group. They’ve talked about the tremendous impact that excellent coxswains like Amy Shotwell and Lia Roberds have had on their progress. Fitzner, Colvin, and Roberts all agreed that Roberds’ coxing skills and dedication to them has made all the difference in many of their practice and races. They trust her to help them get the best practice in possible or race their best race, and say she provides a unique benefit in that she acts as both a skillful coach and coxswain when in the boat. Coach Henderson mentioned that Shotwell has been instrumental to the team for years and having Lia around to coach and cox is an incredible benefit for the team.
With their recent success and incredible progress the men now feel like they belong. By that they mean they feel that they are finally good enough to be worthy competitors with fellow SRA teams, local crews, and even national competition. Henderson said, “I believe having multiple strong competitive teams within SRA just makes for an overall healthier program. It gives options to athletes that I find exciting.”
However, rowing prowess isn’t the only strong part of the team. Their bond as a group has grown too. Roberts said, “One of the best things about ECM are the things we do outside of the boathouse. We do a rowing camp at Lake Samish. It’s such a great way to start the new year. We get such great bonding, rowing, and the very spartan cabin accommodations add to the overall experience. It makes ECM a unique place!”
Colvin added, “We have fun together. The first and third Thursdays of the month we drink beer as a team and hang out.” Meyer also loves the third Thursday beers as well as the team's Christmas party.
Strong bonds, incredible work ethic, and years of patience and determination have paid off for the members of the ECM team at SRA. Fitzner finished with, “It’s a great time to be in ECM right now. We have a great group of guys,” which Colvin agreed with.
“And a great coaching staff,” Roberts added quickly, “Lee, Dennis, Lia, Matt- all of them.”