Edina High School student Jack Fruechte admits that he was a little unsure about practicing with Twin Cities Youth Rowing when he started a number of years ago.
He really hadn’t heard much about the sport at the time, and needed some prodding to show up. “My neighbor actually convinced me to go,” Jack says. “I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I ended up getting hooked right away, though, and I’ve been working at it ever since.”
So what exactly hooked Jack? Aside from the camaraderie, Jack says he enjoys the challenge. He likes the fact that at the end of the day, rowing requires a lot of hard work.
Wait—really? “Yeah,” he says with a laugh. “There’s something about working hard and seeing noticeable improvements.”
Jack has only improved since—a typical story at Twin Cities Youth Rowing. The largest youth rowing club in Minnesota, Twin Cities Youth Rowing features well over 150 participants per year, according to head coach Rebecca Newman. The club was founded in 2008 as a way to make the sport more accessible to youth, according to the club website. Rowing regattas consist of separate events, much like track and field competitions. The main difference between events lies in the difference between sweep rowing and sculling.
Newman says even though the program is active throughout the year, Twin Cities Youth Rowing sees the bulk of its participation in the spring, summer and fall. “We also work out in the winter,” Newman says. “It’s a good chance for everyone to stay in shape.”
Twin Cities Youth Rowing currently has students from 35 different high schools in the program, with the largest group of athletes coming from Edina and Minnetonka. Newman has been head coach with the program for the past two years. She says, “We have had a number of rowers go on to some pretty good Division I schools. It’s been really successful so far.”
Under the direction of Newman, the sport continues to grow. Newman has vast experience in rowing but doesn’t like talking about herself. She’d much rather keep the focus on the kids. “That’s what it’s about,” she says. “That’s our main focus.”
Jack says he enjoys the series of challenges that come with rowing. The sport allows athletes to set concrete goals and work toward those goals over a prolonged period. In that sense, it’s not necessarily about winning. Still, Twin Cities Youth Rowing does quite a bit of that, too.
Since its inception, Twin Cities Youth Rowing has had a number of teams reach national competitions, most recently sending a pair of boats—a girls’ boat and a boys’ boat—to nationals.
“Our girls’ program is very strong,” Newman says. “Our boys’ program is getting there. As a whole we’re in a good place as a program.”
While accolades are an important part of the program, it’s not Newman’s main focus by any means. She is extremely focused on the things that come as a byproduct of competing with the sport, the things that don’t necessarily show up on race day. “My main goal as a head coach is to build teamwork, responsibility, and excellence for our kids through the sport,” she says. “We want to live by our mission statement.”
And while she’s viewed as a leader in the program, Newman makes it clear she isn’t the only coach in Twin Cities Youth Rowing. The coaching staff includes Tom Grab, Justin Richardson, Sadie Adderley and Kersten Schwanz, among others.
“We work really well together,” she says. “It takes every single one of us to run this program.”
As the program continues to grow, Newman has long-term goals such as securing a boathouse. Twin Cities Youth Rowing calls Bryant Lake home, storing its boats outside, which can be a problem; Newman remembers a July storm that damaged a couple of the team’s best boasts.
“I’d like to get that boathouse built,” she says. “It’s about finding the right location and finding the funds. That would really help us as a program.
These kids work hard for this equipment, so to see that kind of stuff happen is really sad.”
In the meantime, continued growth and success in the sport pleases rowers like Jack. “It’s nice to see more and more people come out for the sport,” he says. “It’s not a sport people always think about.”
Learn more about the Twin Cities Youth Rowing Club at the website here.