Khalil Smith sits nervously on a single by the pontoon on a cold Monday in October. He reaches over to tighten his gate and cries out as his weight shifts his boat and him into the water. He clambers out and heads for the solace of a warm shower, today’s session being written off, still with the task of heading home all the way to Walthamstow – undeterred, Khalil is back on Wednesday to try again. It is characteristic of the commitment Khalil displays at the Boat Club.
Khalil Smith, 16, is a junior member of our Boat club, initially developing through our open clubs at the Royal Docks and Olympic Park in the summer of 202. Khalil joined LYR and found it to be an environment that suited his needs, enjoying the coaching style and facilities.
Khalil begun at our summer open club. Having rowed in the past, Khalil was familiar with the basics, but it was evident he’d suffered a confidence knock. Initially he struggled to get to grips with co-ordination and balance in the boat, capsizing occasionally. Through his determination and willingness to accept support and encouragement from his coaches, Khalil is now a competent and confident rower, capable of going out in a fine single or effectively working with other crew mates in doubles and quads.
On why he enjoys LYR: “Firstly the facilities: the water, the pod, the tank which help improve physically – as well as the coaches – they’re friendly and welcoming”
When term time for school rolled around Khalil quickly made the step up to our Boat club where he trains three times a week, every week. Khalil has shown his growth in maturity, remaining consistent with training, despite his travel time to the docks, completing A-levels and other commitments outside of school.
From his beginnings at the summer open club Khalil has developed personally as well as athletically. Initially he was very timid and shy in conversation. Now he is a well-integrated member of the clubs, bouncing off and joking with the other members of the club, and leading by example to the younger members.
“It’s helped me socially; I’ve got to meet new people”
Witnessing Khalil’s growth has been enormously satisfying. A very tall individual, we hope to put him through testing for the British Rowing start programme in conjunction with LYR, but above all we are interested in watching him further develop his life skills, becoming a confident young man capable of persevering through the many capsizes life can bring our way.
Jonah first interacted with London Youth Rowing in his previous school through our Active Row programme. After moving to an Alternative Provision, Jonah was delighted to meet us again when we began last year at his new school, Cavendish, through our Alternative Provision programme. I remember coming into the school for the first time in my LYR kit, and Jonah exclaimed “I know you guys!” when he came into the room.
Jonah is a young man bursting with energy, charisma, and personality. Coming into Cavendish and delivering sessions for Jonah always leaves me coming home with more enthusiasm and laughter for the world than I came in with. It has been compelling to witness the transformative effect that having a few rowing machines in the school has had on someone like Jonah. They provide an accessible, engaging platform for him to positively funnel his energy into, developing his determination, athleticism, and confidence.
Jonah is fiercely competitive. Himself and a few other students have developed their own mini rowing squad in the school, aiming to beat one another’s personal bests and training to be the highest-ranking member of the school at our National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships.
Jonah’s personality was able to shine during a recent SkySports documentary Aquaphobia that London Youth Rowing featured in. Jonah was interviewed and included in the documentary, where he discussed the benefits of teamwork he has learned through rowing. When asked what he liked about rowing, Jonah said
“We have funny moments, we have fun, its to do a lot with teamwork and that’s what I like I like working as a team to get things done successfully. I just love water sports."
Jonah’s ambition is to become a musician. I view it as a huge victory that we have been able to help Jonah develop key transferable skills through rowing to take into this life goal.
“I think my experience at LYR has helped me with my aspirations for the future in becoming a musician. The skills I’ve learned at LYR help you to become a musician as well. For example, in music you need to memorise things, be creative, and have rhythm to express yourself, and that’s the same way it is in rowing. When you’re rowing in a team you need to be in sync to travel faster and have good teamwork and communication in order to stay focused and concentrate to be persistent with it”.
Tami joined The Green School for Boys as a Year 7 student in Sept 2019. Tami has neurological and physical disabilities, which mean that he uses a wheelchair and a walking frame, he also has a visual impairment. Tami made the decision to row on the ergo from his chair, which means he is predominantly using his upper body.
In 2020, he travelled to NJIRC at The Copper Box Arena and was really pleased to row a personal best distance at the event. Last year, Tami had an operation booked in for 11th May, but wanted to compete, so he posted his distance at school the week before his operation. He is looking forward to getting back to training after his recovery period. I never cease to be impressed with the motivation of Tami to improve on his own performance, and his ability to retain and act on information given to him during coaching sessions. As an LYR Active Row school, we are really grateful to LYR for their ongoing support of SEND students and the ability to include them in a competition on the scale of NJIRC. Tami is looking forward to more indoor rowing, and hopefully having an opportunity to experience rowing on water!
Pete Banks - Assistant Headteacher
"Being able to represent The Green School for Boys and participate in the NJIRC competition is a massive achievement for me. It was a struggle at first as I had to train my upper body, and learn the correct technique of rowing. Despite not being able to train much this year due to COVID, I was able to beat my personal best from last year of 247 m and was able to set a new personal best of 256 m. I continue to look forward to participating in the NJIRC competition in future events, train harder and set a new personal best."
Tami - Year 8 student
Callum is a former LYR Globe Rowing Club athlete. He joined after Googling how to get involved during the London 2012 Olympics. He has gone on to represent Great Britain at the Coupe de le Jeunesse regatta, the Junior World Rowing Championships. He is now studying music at Cambridge University and made his Boat Race debut in 2019.
Rowing in a crew with my friends makes the sport fun and obviously my coaches.
I think I’ve learnt that I’m quite consistent, I get on with the job and I don’t really have off-periods. I’m consistently working very hard. I’d say I’m quite determined; I make my goals and try and achieve them. Rowing gives you a lot of self-belief and it makes us want to keep coming back to the sport.
I don’t think I had the same drive at school before starting rowing. I was really not on course; I was considering lots of tutoring in lots of my subjects. I started rowing and because of my teammates and the atmosphere at the club, it taught me to set goals. In rowing you have to understand how you are going to achieve a target. That’s the way I then started applying myself to school. I got organised, and I got a bunch of A*s.
Read about Callum's 2019 Boat Race debut.
Anna and Tida heard about rowing in their schools and learned to row through LYR beginner courses. Both have been active members of Thames Tradesmen Rowing club and continue to include sport in their lives.
Anna: I did rugby and swimming before I rowed, but rowing is different because it’s more of a full body workout and is an action packed sport.
Tida: I like being on the water, not in the water, so rowing is ideal!
Tida: I’d like to keep rowing at university and maybe do a coaching apprenticeship with LYR.
Anna: I’d also like to row at university and see where it takes me.
Anna: I can push myself, and be healthy and happy.
Tida: I can be committed to something, and I really can do it.
Tida: Time-keeping; you have to get to the boat house on time.
Anna: Team work; you’ve got be in time with one another, work together and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses
Leila heard about rowing in 2012 after her school advertised an LYR learn-to-row course. This lead to her getting involved in London Youth Games and eventually joining Mossbourne Academy Rowing Club. She has since been offered a rowing scholarship to study at the University of California, LA.
Rowing has taught me that you can push yourself further than you think you can, and that the majority of the time it is my head that holds me back not my ability. I think that I am mentally stronger since starting rowing and I’m pushing myself even further.
It will be hard but the rewards are great. You make new friends and get great satisfaction from achieving the targets you have set yourself.
After completing a learn-to-row course when he was 15yrs old, Sam signed up to row competitively with our programme at Mossbourne Academy. He went on to win a bronze medal at the British Junior Rowing Championships and in turn was offered a scholarship to study and row at the University of Washington.
I learnt a lot about time management and organisation. Rowing also taught me about hard work, perseverance and dedication.
Rowing helped me in deciding that I wanted to go to university and where I wanted to go. I will be involved with the sport for many more years now.
My rowing career would not have been half as successful had it not been for LYR. LYR were a great support to me throughout my time with them. LYR gave me countless opportunities to develop and succeed. Being a part of LYR allowed me to travel overseas, for training camps, races at the European Indoor Championships and the CRASH B’s Indoor World Championships. I have many memories and lifelong friends as a result of being involved with LYR.
Audrey started rowing at her school indoor rowing club, run by London Youth Rowing. After taking part in a local borough competition, she decided she wanted to pursue rowing more seriously outside of school and joined Fairlop Rowing Club. She has now been rowing for two years and uses her new skills and experience to coach her peers at school.
I’d seen it briefly, but I was more interested in athletics. Once I started rowing I found it really addictive so I carried on.
You can always push yourself so much harder. You can always do so much better. When you get off a rowing machine and see a better time, it motivates you to keep going and keep training hard.
I’m such a physical person, I can’t be sat still for too long. I have to get up and do something, so rowing helps in that sense. I’m able to use my energy productively. And then when I get home, I have to knuckle down and get on with my work. It’s a perk because it helps you completely get rid of any stress that you have before doing your school work.
I’m studying Design Technology, Physical Education, History, French and Latin for my GCSE’s. And, rowing is definitely in my future. At the moment I’m working through small competitions, but I’m planning on finding a university that balances rowing and academics.
I think teamwork skills are more useful than anything else. You have to learn to work together with the person you’re rowing with; everyone pushes hard together. It encourages you to do the same thing outside of rowing, it’s essential in every aspect of life.
I don’t think I would have got into the sport without London Youth Rowing. I defy the rowing odds! I’m a black, young teenager, who was originally interested in athletics. With London Youth Rowing introducing their scheme of work to our school, rowing was something I suddenly started to take a look at. When you go to competitions like the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships – hosted by London Youth Rowing – you can see the diversity they’re bringing to the sport. I think it’s helped people just get into the sport and have a go at it. If you don’t get to try, you’ll never know where you’re going to get. It’s hugely important to encourage diversity into different sports, no matter what the sport is. I’m really grateful that London Youth Rowing’s done that for me.
Joel was one of three LYR Apprentice coaches in 2016-17 who applied through the Coach Core scheme. He was born in Ecuador but moved to Spain as a child where he rowed as a junior athlete to a national level. After studying in London, he joined LYR Globe RC to satisfy his passion for rowing and quickly realised he wanted to be a coach. He successfully completed the apprenticeship with a recognised qualification and a year’s hands-on experience.
I signed up to Coach Core to use a year to give back. Along the way I started to understand that all the opportunities I’ve had, have been down to somebody else paving the way. Coach Core is the perfect opportunity to honour the sacrifices others have made for me, when they saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. And all this gratitude is what inspired me to do this apprenticeship. I always take pride in what I do and I want to leave behind a legacy. What better way to do so, than to be involved in a course that qualifies me to coach for a charity whose whole purpose is to facilitate rowing in less privileged communities?
I will have completed my apprenticeship, and aspire to be a full time rowing coach for LYR. I also want to continue to develop myself as a coach, learning from others within and outside of this company.
Jakub was in Year 10 at St Michael’s College in Bermondsey when he took part in the 2017/18 Breaking Barriers programme, including a work experience placement with programme partners CVB (Tideway East).
Breaking Barriers helped me with English. My communication skills have improved. Now, if I were to go to an interview, I wouldn’t be as bothered about meeting new people and interviewing. It’s good that it’s not teachers [delivering the mentoring sessions].
I heard about this opportunity through Breaking Barriers, when during one of the [mentoring] sessions the opportunity came up and I took it.
During rowing, I learned how to work as a team and how I can push myself beyond my limits because I never knew I would ever row, and this increased my confidence, which makes me less scared to try new things.
During my work experience, I worked with the Legacy team, Commercial, Procurement, Finance and Design. Through work experience I learned how people deal with pressure, learned key skills relating to all teams, so mainly Excel skills, as finance requires it a lot. I also learned how to talk to people through mentoring and work experience, which prepares me for future life. I learned how work isn’t as scary as people make it look like, because with Finance and Procurement, there were so many funny moments I just didn’t expect, which made my work experience really fun.
Zaid was 15 years old and a student from Tower Hamlets when he was involved in the Breaking Barriers pilot programme.
Before the Breaking Barrier sessions I was someone who would usually get nervous around strangers and my communication skills were only strong when I was surrounded by my close friends. Once Breaking Barriers had started I slowly started engaging in open conversations with different employees and this helped me become more confident around people who I had never met before. The sessions have helped me develop different life skills such as teamwork, leadership, time management and communication skills and now I am confident that I can take these skills along with me and use them to face any projects or tough challenges that lie ahead!
Breaking Barriers has now opened up many opportunities for me and has helped in guiding me into the right direction as I aim to reach my aspirations in life. I am privileged to be doing a week’s work experience with Tideway and I have just done the EPIC training course, I’ve visited the Chambers Wharf construction site and I have met many different employees along the way!
David was introduced to rowing through school PE sessions, run by LYR at a local boat club. After a month, he decided to join LYR Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club. David has been an active member, giving up his free time to volunteer at LYR learn-to-row courses and training with the intention of competing at national events in the future.
I started rowing because I wanted to try a new sport. I just find every part of rowing fun. But I especially like how you learn something new every time you go on the water.
Although I’d never expected this before, I think rowing has made me realise I’m a bit over-competitive! I’ve also learned about perseverance and patience in the short time I have been rowing.
I hope to be part of a university rowing team and row nationally or even at an international level. If you’ve not started rowing yet, you really should!
Emily started rowing with LYR at UL boat club after a learn-to-row course in 2014. The LYR squad moved to Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club, where she rowed and competed for the club for a further three years.
My teammates and my coaches made rowing fun everyday, because not only did they all motivate and inspire me, but they created such a friendly atmosphere in the club!
I have learned what limits I set myself, and how to push those limits. And, when things haven’t gone as I had hoped, rowing has taught me resilience and determination.
Julia started rowing at her Active Row indoor rowing club at school. She rowed for LYR Globe Rowing Club juniors and was offered a scholarship to row and study at the University of Tulsa, USA.
I think that rowing is just a really good community sport. I find that I can interact with people easily...I've improved by confidence levels in talking to people...I’d like to go to the Olympics. But if not, I’d like to always be tied into rowing somehow.
I feel a lot of people think rowing is a rich white person’s sport. Once you’re inside the community it’s really not thought about, but a lot of people look at it from the outside and think ‘I don’t want to do that.'
LYR encourages participation in rowing regardless of your background. I’d like to see people able to get a grant or a sponsorship...that would be really good.
Each year LYR produces an Annual Review looking back at the impact our programmes have had for young people in the previous 12 months. You can read and download the reports for recent years below.
Charity Number: 1122941. Company Number: 06243293. Royal Docks Adventure, 1012 Dockside Road, London, E16 2QT.
Tel: 0203 356 7178