Looking to grow the sport of rowing in The Bahamas, the Nassau Rowing Club (NRC) along with Sparks Rowing hosted a camp for local high school athletes who were looking to improve their skills in the sport. It was held at Lake Cunningham from December 26-30, 2021.
There were two aspects of the camp – a small boat camp and a coxswain camp. The small boat camp was for high performance and high skilled rowers, and the coxswain camp utilized local rowers in a boat to row while the coxswain trainees worked with the coaches and developed their skills. The coxswain is the person who does not row but steers the boat. Those athletes are the ears, eyes and brains of the boat.
NRC Coach KarriAnne Kulig said it was a great camp that also helped with sports tourism.
“The Sparks Camp is a great opportunity not only for the athletes who are coming in to visit The Bahamas but also for us as a rowing club because we are able to help support with our boats, show the beauty of Nassau and it brings in more tourism for our country. If we can support sports tourism in any way, it’s great for us. Everyone wins and we are happy to share our beautiful country with everybody,” Kulig said.
On hand on the final day was Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg. The minister thanked NRC for reaching out to persons outside the country for their assistance.
“… [U]se this facility in this country and this country as a place where they can come and train and give our young persons an opportunity to prepare themselves for higher education and scholarships at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I level,” said the minister. “Rowing is a sport that I think will do well in The Bahamas. I think it’s been a struggling one thus far and I believe this administration is willing to work along with the Nassau Rowing Club and its international partners to make sure that they find a home for them.”
Founder of Sparks Rowing Ryan Sparks was at the lake and encouraged more Bahamians to come out and be a part of the club.
“We celebrate the beauty of the outdoors,” Sparks said. “You do not have to have the equipment; you can come here and use the equipment. You do not have to know anything, and you can come here and learn everything that you need to know. It is not hard to ask us, so come on out.”
Sparks Director of Education Dave Payne said that the NRC has grown over the years and that going forward they are hoping to have bigger and frequent camps there.
Bowleg is willing to work with the NRC to ensure they have what they need so they can host international competitions like NCAA tournaments.
“We need to ensure that we assist this association with the facility and the necessary boats it needs to attract those type of investors here as relates to the NCAA, and also that they’re able to have qualifying tournaments and international and NCAA tournaments to take place on this lake here. I think sometimes a little investment and a little push, the dollar value that we will receive in return would be much greater than the money that’s spent,” Bowleg said.
Coming down to impart knowledge and instructions for the coxswain portion of the camp was gold medalist coxswain for Canada’s Women’s 8+ at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kristen Kit.
Also at the camp was Nick Acock from the Cambridge University Boat Club who was the coach of Bahamian Sophie Paine at Cambridge. Assistant Men’s Rowing Coach at Colgate University, Anthony Chacon, returned to The Bahamas for the camp. He ran NRC’s summer camp for five years.