Rowing coach John Hill from Oxford, England was teaching one of his adult beginner classes when he first heard about New College’s rowing team, New Crew SRQ, from a New College Foundation member. One Zoom call later with Founder and Head Coach of New Crew, thesis student Antonia Ginsberg-Klemmt, and Hill was scheduled to come to New College from Feb. 4 through 14 to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to students: to be coached by someone who has worked at the international level. For Ginsberg-Klemmt and Hill, this collaboration means more than just providing an exciting opportunity for New Crew—it means laying the foundation for a greater and more inclusive rowing presence for all college students in Sarasota.
Hill himself was an adult beginner once, who first started rowing at 35. Now, 30 years later, he professes a passion for teaching people “from scratch upwards.”
On the other hand, Ginsberg-Klemmt is a local who rowed all throughout middle and high school. She explained that one of her motivating factors for attending New College is that Sarasota is the rowing capital of the world.
“We’ve hosted the national championships, the world championships and the Olympic trials,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said. “Harvard, Yale, Princeton, colleges and Ivy Leagues from around the United States come to Sarasota to row. For me, I figured, why is there a gap in collegiate rowing in Sarasota? There’s elementary, middle, high school, masters and elite postgraduate rowing, but the only thing that was missing was collegiate. I figured New Crew would provide that space to host it.”
Not only were these ambitions realized, but New Crew has since expanded to be a cross-college alliance team through their chosen venue of Nathan Benderson Park. This alliance includes State College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design and potentially University of South Florida’s (USF) Sarasota-Manatee campus in the future.
Ginsberg-Klemmt said that it is now a matter of building an inclusive and long-lasting rowing culture, as both Ginsberg-Klemmt and Hill acknowledged the intimidating reputation rowing has.
“It starts off with a reputation of being exclusive and elitist,” Hill said. “That’s its reputation. There’s nothing about the sport that is exclusive, in fact it’s quite the reverse. It’s just that the equipment and the facilities and the opportunities are normally for private schools.”
“But the sport itself, everyone in the boat, it’s the opposite,” Ginsberg-Klemmt continued.
Ginsberg-Klemmt also expressed the belief that a strong rowing team has the potential to increase both student enrollment and retention.
“If we’re considered the Ivy League of the South, as the honors college of Florida, why is there no rowing team?” Ginsberg-Klemmt asked. “Because I know all Ivy Leagues have crew teams, that’s just a fact. So I figured if we make this change, I can almost guarantee that the enrollment and retention will increase at New College.”
Since Hill’s arrival, Ginsberg-Klemmt reported renewed interest and excitement both among returning New Crew members and new, interested students.
“I have a small handful of Ringling students showing up, and already, that for me is huge, because they are showing that they want to be part of this community regardless that it’s outside their home university or institution,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said. “It doesn’t matter what school you come from or your background, when you’re sitting in that boat and you have that New Crew logo on your chest, you represent something different. Something that you’re proud of, and it’s something that I’m really proud of.”
“A lot of people conform to the traditions of rowing, because it is an ancient sport in elite institutions,” Hill continued. “But on occasion, there are opportunities to write history and to initiate traditions, and I feel that that is an opportunity here.”New Crew practices at Nathan Benderson Park every morning on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., weekends from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. College students in the Sarasota area can submit an interest form in order to apply.