Coach Spotlight

Barbara Corrigan

20.Apr.2007

How'd you get involved with sculling or rowing?

I got involved with our sport as an undergraduate in University of Oregon's club in 1991-1992. My friend Stephanie asked me to join the team with her because she didn't want to join alone. We often rowed a wooden boat for practice and our club had not yet upgraded to the wildly popular new "hatchet" bladed oars. We ran many stairs, were enthusiastically introduced to the Model A erg, traveled to Lake Natoma in Sacramento for spring break training and raced a windy, lovely course at Opening Day in Seattle. The season culminated in the sort of result one would expect from a novice crew at the 1992 Pacific Coast Regional Championships. I have fond memories of being on the team, and had a really great experience.

What keeps you in it?

The people. Rowing continues to transform my life because of the wonderful people in the rowing community. I fit the stereotype of a single sculler: things have to be just so for me. Tom Paul, my partner, also a single sculler, and I laugh at ourselves we're the sort who prefer their medium coffee in a large cup, with just a little bit of milk, not cream, and definitely no sugar. But even with our particularities, or maybe because of our peculiarities, I couldn't ask for a more intelligent, sensitive, interesting, all-around attractive group of people to know especially single scullers. The community among single scullers, and particularly Black Fly Scullers, is growing, and it's amazing to be a part of that.

Tell us more about the Black Flies, the Black Fly regatta and the future of rowing in Waterford.

The Black Flies are a group of scullers from all over the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Southeastern Canada. We are, simply, scullers who race the Black Fly Regatta. Tom designed the regatta to be a club regatta by asking participants to pay a membership fee to belong to the Black Fly Scullers (membership benefits of which entitle the individual to participate in the club's, you guessed, it, club regatta).

The Black Fly Regatta is a (approximately) 4 mile long regatta for single and double scullers that is held at the sculler's mecca (also known as the Comerford Reservoir), on the Connecticut River, Waterford, Vermont. The regatta is held on the last Saturday of June each year. This year it will be held on June 30, 2007, and you can check out more complete details here. [Ed. Note: one can get a sense of the event by checking out the '05 results, complete with the poet laureate's contribution at the bottom of this page.]

We want to build a boathouse in Waterford and develop a community rowing program that includes competitive area high school programs, area youth and adults. It is our vision for all of these groups to have equal access to rowing and boathouse privileges. We are not alone in that vision which is nice, but now have some competition for funding and support from an area high school that wants to start a rowing program with its own boathouse.

Do you have a particularly inspirational Black Fly motivational story?

The Black Fly Scullers have grown quite interested in the future of the bodies of water we row on. I wrote an essay that reflects my interests and it is linked here.

I know you ski and instruct downhill skiing as well. Do you see much crossover between skiing and sculling?

Balance, the classic athletic stance, agility, and core strength are just a few of the dynamic physical characteristics the sports share. These similarities are hardly limited to the physical, though. I'll avoid getting long winded here and share my views with interested campers I meet this year. If only we had an infinite amount of time to perfect the sports we love!

Winter time training: erg or skis?

First, get a heart rate monitor. Then, use both skis and the erg, though make the skis cross-country. The erg is primarily for testing, and for low intensity, high volume work, then strap on the cross country skis for your intervals. Switch to downhill skis on a day off and for fun.

Vermont is a fantastic place for training for the wide variety of activities you can draw on. Almost as great as a medium cup of coffee in a large cup, made of 100% recycled material and 100% bio-degradable, and produced by companies that treat their employees and the environment ethically the world 'round...

What's the most common error you see people making in the boat?

I have to echo Gary's interview from the last issue...not relaxing, or not relaxing enough. Many things stem from this and it is a very, very common problem in sculling, particularly in the single. As Tom told me once, "scull well and smile." That was some of the best advice I was ever given, and so Tom shares it with you through me.

Best moment in rowing (either as a coach or participant)

Best moments as a coach thus far...

...the thanks of a Florida woman who was there with her three friends, one of whom was being treated for breast cancer at the time...

...receiving an honorary family outing t-shirt for coaching a fantastically warm, friendly and fun family...

...teaching a very gifted high-school aged athlete how to move the boat effectively and watching him return as an intern...

...helping a talented intern get his feet underneath him in the single and then coaching along side him at Craftsbury the following season...

...and having more to look forward to with some good fortune.

As a participant...

...coming back to practice with the U of O team to eventually stroke our novice 8+ at '92 Pacific Coast Championships after my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer...

...the return trip to Magazine Beach at the Head of the Charles in 1998. I was relieved, completely immersed in the moment and enjoying the paddle back as I reflected on all we had accomplished to get there...

...winning the stargazer lily at the Black Fly Regatta in 2003 fastest time of the day, baby, and what a beautiful day it was...

...stroking our double to a gold medal with partner Linda Hall at the 2003 Canadian Henley after puncturing our hull on the way to the start line...

...and knowing there are still more to come.

Best rowing disaster story?

The best one I have is not one of my own, and I'm pretty sure the people involved can laugh about it now, so here goes...

After days of anticipation, at the Head of the Occoquan, the Annapolis Rowing Club's Men's Novice 8+ nervously counted down the minutes to the start of their inaugural race. Fierce determination seeping from every pore, they valiantly shouldered their shared burden down to the docks. The docks hummed as nervous crews buzzed and quipped, shed flip-flops, slurped water bottles and waved goodbye to loved-ones in the gold light of a memorable October afternoon. "One foot in, and down!" cried the as-advertised experienced, though tragically over-confident coxswain, and all eight, in harmonic convergence, obediently and uniformly lowered precious corporal hosts onto seats. If only one or more of the crew might have questioned authority, even for a moment! They knew something was wrong when the boat began tipping, precariously, irretrievably, to port. They never shipped their oars out! Their slow-motion roll into the river, right at the dock, was inevitable.