‘A Day for Them to Race’: The Past, Present and Potential Future of Club Crew

Cora Partridge

Since our founding in 1906 by Father Sill, a crew enthousiast himself, the Kent School Boat Club has had a consistent record of prowess on the river.

We are all familiar with the crew teams we see out on the river, but we might not know as much about the history of club crew. The Kent Clubs program, an old Kent tradition, dissolved around the turn of the millennium and has been reinstated just this academic year. In its prior incarnation, club rowing was a central part of the program. 

Originally Kent had only two varsity boats, and approximately four boats per club. At the time there were only three clubs, as the Skiffs were added when the girls’ and boys’ schools merged. The clubs system operated as a feeder to the varsity boats, producing many strong rowers. “There were a lot of guys who rowed club crew and then went on to do great things at college… and would become captains of an Ivy League program or a V1 program and then continue after that.” said Eric Houston, current head boys coach for the KSBC.

As the years went by, the Club Crew program waned, and evolved out of necessity. At races, most other schools had three boats, leaving Kent’s two varsity boats at a disadvantage. Several other sports were also introduced around the early 1990s. Kent built its own workout facility, and lacrosse–a much requested athletic offering by Kent students–drew away many rowers from the program. Club crew was no longer the feeder system it had been in the past, and a fourth boat was added to the varsity.

The question prompts asking: with the reintroduction of the Clubs System, can Kent expect a similar reintroduction of Club crew competitions? The answer is more complicated than one might think. Club Crew never truly died, it merely became something different: an intramural program. “There are so many other offerings out there, they just don’t support the numbers that could be a club program,d” said Mr. DesMarais, a regular intramural crew coach. 

It is clear that Club crew can no longer exist in the way it did many years ago, but things are looking up: ‘because of this year’s unique situation… more people ended up being exposed to and having the opportunity to row than in times past,” Mr. DesMarais explained. “We won’t know, until the time comes, whether we will have this many people in the fall again.” To conclude with a quote from Mr. Houston: “If there’s enough interest, we will find a place for them, and a day for them to race.”