Maura Conron has been a graphic designer, painter, coach and teacher in the Boston area for over 10 years and lives with her husband and 6 year old son. She grew up in a variety of places including Michigan, Vermont, Italy and Massachusetts and went to school at Brown University and RISD. She has coached at Craftsbury the past five years.
CSC: How did you start on the water? What attracted you? What's your current balance of your time between coaching and getting behind an oar yourself?
Blame my mother. While growing up in Vermont, I saw some rowing of the Montreal Olympics on TV and really liked the whole idea of the sport. We moved when I was in high school and my mother took me to the Men's Eastern Sprints. I was smitten and started rowing at Brown University - having been recruited while standing in line to register for classes because I was tall and athletic. I then learned to scull during the summers while in college. Initially the wonderful Brown boatman, Butch, would push me off the dock and say "come back dry". Albin Moser (Brown rower, coach and major figure in Narragansett Boat Club) was my first sculling coach and what a great way to be introduced to sculling. I currently coach private sculling lessons and do that a la Craftsbury - from my single. Some of my scullers ensure me a good workout! I get out 1-2 x week otherwise as well as do cross training.
CSC: What event or result has had the most meaning for you as a competitor? And as a coach?
As a competitor, racing with my college team at the Eastern Sprints and later on as a master sculler - no particular race, but for the sheer adrenalin of it all. As a coach, there are several, but two come to mind - when Brookline High school won the first Massachusetts State Public Championships (I was head coach/varsity girls) and when one of my CRI fours (junior women) won a medal at the HOCR. Definitely chuffed.
CSC: Why stick with rowing? It's a hard, uncomfortable experience. What keeps you in going with it?
Yes, rowing is hard, but also very enticing - once you get that taste of speed, flow and balance, it's hard to resist. I'm also an artist in a studio without heating. Perhaps that says something too.
CSC: Speaking of discomfort, you are the Coordinator of Crash-Bs. How long have you been involved with Crash-Bs? How'd you get involved? The event has seen a lot of changes over the years, what should we be watching for next year or five years down the road? Where to after the event outgrows the Agganis arena? The Garden?
I've been with the CRASH-Bs for 6 years and it's a great group of people to work with. A friend on the board asked me to join - also giving me a convenient excuse for not competing in the event. It's been fun to meet all sorts of people who compete at the CRASH-Bs for a variety of reasons including those who are elite rowers, those battling cancer, family groups and some who want a fresh challenge.
Lots of changes to come, including increased overall in the participation of the sport, generally better fitness and more visibility. One of the things that is interesting to see is the number of non water rowers who compete at the CRASH-Bs - several have won their respective divisions. There are several initiatives to get people into shape - some designed for school kids, others for adults. The British have some interesting programs to get formerly non athletic people involved and have had some success with that. While rowing on the water has certainly experienced great growth over the past 20 years, it looks like some of the indoor initiatives may draw further participants - partly because you're not limited by having a body of water nearby.
The Garden would be interesting, though perhaps not so many spectators as for the Celtics, especially after this year.
CSC: What's the most common mistake you see athletes making?
Pulling too hard when they are not ready and not being relaxed enough when first starting out in the sport. For the first, suggest rowers keep their feet out and really work on ratio using various drills (cut the cake, square blades). For the latter try to encourage people to have fun. Then there's the drill of rowing with the tongue out which helps to relax the jaw and neck muscles. Do that with pinkies off the handles and feet out really makes you relax...
CSC: What's the best thing about coaching at Craftsbury? Biggest difference from coaching at home?
Obviously the location is one - I grew up partly in Middlebury, Vermont so it's a bit like coming home. The big draw for coaching at Craftsbury is learning from other coaches and meeting all sorts of interesting people who come to row. There's such a variety of backgrounds and approaches to rowing. One year I coached a woman who I had worked for while in college as part of my student employment. We hadn't seen each other in 20 years.
CSC: your art and design work. You've done work for CRASH-Bs, G-Row, "A Hero for Daisy" in the rowing world, with lots of other clients as well. How do you see art and rowing fitting together? Or is the attraction precisely because they engage different parts of you?
There is definitely a connection. Both art and rowing require self discipline and a certain mental (both analytical and intuitive) approach if you want to achieve a higher level. Both can be done either independently or collaboratively. There is also a certain pride and enjoyment in the process as well as the execution. I recently completed a public commission about the Boston Marathon which pushed me in a new and challenging direction. New admiration for runners and while I had a brief moment of thinking of training for a marathon, I came to my senses. And yes, I do look at the river, landscape and clouds while I'm on the water, but not while rowing hard.
CSC: Why the wildebeest in general? And why wildebeest rather than the gnu?
Wildebeests are rather quirky looking animals - they've been described as being created by an ill sorted committee. I've a long time interest in biology and particularly African wildlife. Wildebeest just rolls off the tongue.
Best tip for HOCR/the Charles River: be assertive through the Weeks Footbridge and have fun racing down the course. When not racing or training hard, check out all the wildlife that has returned to the Charles - the black crowned night herons that come in the spring look like little undertakers from a Dickens novel.
Manny Ramirez: Glad he's gone or wish he'd stayed? Neither one way or the other on this. Nomar I definitely regret his leaving.
Favorite workout: not erging, though to be fair I do have an erg at home and use it well during the winter.
Best Shell: I'm biased - my beloved Filippi single
Best blades: I'm still testing some out.
Last time you puked from an erg piece: in college while on the Gamut erg - I did learn something in college
If I weren't a rower, I would've been a... there's life beyond rowing? Seriously, studying animal behavior in the field, perhaps Africa.