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The Finest Rowing Coaches Ever – Part 1

Steve Fairbairn

The historic sport of rowing is dripping in history and tradition, it has some of the oldest competitive challenges of all time, ranging from the auspicious Henley Regatta to the majestic Boat Race. Great seats of learning such as Harvard & Yale and Oxford & Cambridge have selected rowing to be the means for prestigious competition and the rights to bragging for the rest of the term or semister.

When it comes to rowing then the best way of learning is from past masters, and that is why so many great coaches have come from former great rowers. In this blog we celebrate the best coaches that have ever been connected with the sport.

Al Ulbrickson

Al Ulbrickson was the master brains behind the Boys in the Boat in 1936.  The Boys in the Boat is a book by Daniel Brown that celebrates the 1936 American Olympic rowing team. The crew of eight and their cox were all working class boys that galvanized a nation on the brink of war.

The story of the boys is a home spun success tale of farmers, loggers and shipyard workers who took on the best of the best and came out victorious. Up against the British aristocrats who regularly rowed for Cambridge and Oxford they overcame, and when it was time to compete against Hitler’s Aryan sons once again, they came out victorious. The effort the young rowers plowed into their work was inspired greatly by the dedication and leadership of Al Ulbrickson.

Steve Fairbairn

In the history of rowing Steve Fairbairn is a giant, this influential Australian rowing coach first found his passion for rowing at the legendary Geelong Grammar School. This captivation for the sport continued when he was at Cambridge University and he actually rowed in the great Boat Race on four occasions. Fairburn was not just a great athlete, he had a great passion for the technical side of rowing and introduced his own philosophical stance on the sport. Fairbairn’s career as a rowing coach was mostly centered around the great British rowing clubs; London Rowing Club, Thames Rowing Club and Cambridge University Rowing Team.

Harry Parker

If you talk about American rowing, then Harry Parker’s name would have to be mentioned. American rowing and Harry Parker go together like peas and carrots, and the two names are synonymous with each other. Harry will mostly be regarded for all his time at Harvard University, but before he took over the reins there, he was a great rower in his own right. Parker also coached the American national rowing team for twenty years, stretching from Tokyo in 1964 and fittingly finishing in Los Angeles in 1984. Parker epitomized the coach as a teacher, his rowers were not just athletes but persons who was just trying their very hardest to live life as best as they could.

In part two of this celebration of the best ever rowing coaches in the world we come across even more legendary teachers of the noble sport of rowing, including Harry Mahon from New Zealand and perhaps the greatest Olympic coach ever, Mike Teti.