Craftsbury coach, Karen Solem, is one of our sport's most innovative thinkers. She has made it her personal mission to connect and expand the international community of rowing; the publication of the Rower's Almanac was one of her first projects.
An accomplished sculler, Karen was the U.S. National Champion in the lightweight 1x, U.S. National Champion in the 500-meter dash in 1996 and 2000, Canadian Henley Senior 1x Champion in 1999, and Canadian Henley Senior 2x Champion in 1998. Karen has been coaching at Craftsbury for the past three years. CSC Associate Director, Marlene Royle, recently had a chance to chat with Karen:
MR: How did you start rowing and sculling? KS: I started rowing my senior year in high school at Walt Whitman HS in Bethesda MD in 1988. It was a first-year rowing program and one of the first junior rowing programs in the state of Maryland.
MR: What were your most enjoyable moments as a competitor? KS: Rowing for the University of Washington was a great experience. In 1992, we won the Windermere Cup, beating a Lithuanian National Team boat. That race in particular was memorable in that I experienced some of the race as if it was in slow motion. For most of the race, I have no memory of what transpired - I only recall feeling immense pain after crossing the finish line. It was definitely a race where I felt very focused and in my performance zone.
MR: How long have you been coaching? KS: My first official coaching job was as an Assistant Novice Coach at Georgetown Visitation in 2001. Though I don't currently have a regular coaching job, I enjoy teaching sculling to novices. In particular, I like to teach juniors and parents of juniors. It is fun to explain the sport to parents of junior rowers who are learning the sport through the experiences of their children. Many parents become interested in the sport after hearing their children's stories and come down to the river to experience it for them. It is really unlike any other sort of high school athletic event that one can choose to do and for that reason, many parents are curious to learn more about the sport.
MR: How did you develop the idea to publish the Rower's Almanac, start the Rower's Database, and the Rower's Marketing Survey? KS: The idea of The Rower's Almanac was born on a long drive back from a Speed Order in Augusta, GA in 1995. At that time, there was a dearth of information on the sport of rowing, and the thought was to put out a book, which provided information on everything from rowing clubs to regatta results to contact information for rowing businesses and rowing camps and schools. We initially collected data on rowing clubs from questionnaires that we mailed out. Once the Internet became more prevalent, we switched to collecting data via email. In 2005, we are launching a web-based database where all the directory information in the Almanac can be edited and updated in real-time. The database was a necessary evolution in being able to collect information efficiently from around the world.
Last summer, The Rower's Almanac conducted a National Survey of the U.S. Rowing Market in conjunction with Ballantrae Partners, a market research firm. The purpose of the survey is to start tracking trends in the rowing world, and to answer questions such as overall market size, size of the rowing population and other vital statistics that no other organization is collecting. We surveyed 1,065 respondents in 235 cities, 30 states and over 400 rowing organizations. Participants answered over sixty questions about their rowing experience, type of involvement in the sport, equipment usage and preferences, regatta attendance, coaching, and future purchase intentions. The survey was conducted at several national and regional regattas around the country, and online. The survey was structured as an Omnibus whereby rowing-related companies and organizations joined together to fund the survey and in exchange received exclusive rights to the results. The survey revealed dozens of key findings including the total rowing population in the United States and the total value of the U.S. rowing market.
MR: Do you have ideas for some new projects? KS: I am currently setting up a forum/message board called World Rowing Forum. (www.WorldRowingForum.com). The World Rowing Forum is a free message forum for the discussion of rowing, sculling, coaching and coxing. This forum is intended to provide a place where rowers from all over the world can exchange information and ideas.
MR: What are your favorite aspects of coaching and Craftsbury? KS: The camaraderie at Craftsbury is amazing. It is truly a wonderful experience to meet and coach rowers from all over the country and the world and learn a little bit about each individual during the week or weekend session.
The tranquility and peacefulness of coming to Vermont from a busy, urban environment is also a great quality of Craftsbury. I love the fact that you can park your car and never have to use it until you leave. Being a vegetarian, I also love the food!
You may contact Karen by email at Karen@rowersalmanac.com.