Coach Spotlight

Rick Butt


By his telling, Rick Butt's introduction to sculling was inadvertent- he even resisted it a bit. After running nine marathons in the '70's and early '80's, including four in New York and two in Boston, he was on competitive hiatus for a few years. His wife arrived home one day after going to a learn-to-scull lesson that Rick had declined attending himself. She mentioned: "I hesitate to say this Rick, but I think you'd actually like it." Eventually he did take up sculling, he did actually like it, and within a couple of years he won a Masters 1x gold at the Canadian Henley.

After he retired as a business consultant and chemical recycling entrepreneur, Rick began coaching the boy's varsity crew at Lyme/Old Lyme high school in Lyme, Connecticut. Eventually he would coach both the boys' and girls' varsity crews there to wins at Stotesbury and the Scholastic National Championships. Around the time he started at Lyme/Old Lyme, Rick also began to re-establish the Blood Street Sculls, a summer program that had, to a degree, lapsed. Rick is responsible for rebuilding the Blood Street program to its presently dynamic and largely self-sustaining state. Each summer program alum return from college to help coach the high school scullers who, in turn, help coach the middle school groups. In this way the program provides excellent coaching to aspiring youth scullers, while also giving them early coaching experience.

During the last year Rick has focused most of his coaching attention on two aspiring junior elite single scullers, Michelle King and Peter Van Vliet. Michelle won the 2004 U.S. Junior National Trials, and raced at the Junior World Championships in Banyoles, Spain. She finished tenth there, an all-time best for a U.S. single sculler at the Junior Worlds. Michelle also won at the Scholastic Women's 1x at the Head of the Schuylkill, and placed 14th in the Women's Championship 1x at the Head of the Charles earlier this fall. For his part, Peter won in the Junior Men's 1x at the Canadian Henley, as well as finishing second in the Scholastic Men's 1x at the Schuylkill, first in the Under-19 1x at the Green Mountain Head, and 23rd in the Championship 1x at the Charles, all this year.

A summer schedule previously knotted with coaching commitments loosened when Rick ended his tenure at Lyme/Old Lyme and Blood Street. He was finally able to make his way north to Craftsbury this summer: "I was never available to coach at Craftsbury because of intensive summers, but I always wanted to," he explains. After the long wait, Rick summarizes his time at Craftsbury in a few words: "It far exceeded my expectations," adding: "Something that's very unusual at Craftsbury is that people are so grateful for the coaching." Rick has kept in close email contact with several of the campers from sessions he coached. While attending the Craftsbury booths at the Head of the Charles and Schuylkill this fall he had a person-to-person chance to catch up with his Craftsbury scullers.

In coming years Rick plans to continue coaching and writing individual training programs, and to work more on issues particular to junior elite rowers. He wants to address the "now what?" gap he perceives in high-quality guidance and coaching available to rowers that transition between college sweep programs and sculling at the elite / national team level. At the club level he hopes to begin expanding opportunities for juniors, while at the same time relieving resource tensions that sometimes develop between juniors and masters club members. When he's at Craftsbury Rick will continue to be a great resource for junior campers negotiating the maze of college rowing opportunities, connecting these rowers with coaches and schools that match their needs.