Dividing the Crew

Hockaday rowers have all but “sailed” through two extremely trying seasons of changes in coaching, practice location, scheduling and even the team they row for.

Hockaday’s crew team faced the danger of being torn apart last August, following the sudden cancellation of the fall season due to the departure of the Hockaday coach Jules Slim. Forced to leave Hockaday and seek out crew clubs around the metroplex, 14 girls found a new home at the Dallas Rowing Club, where they were able to reunite as an unofficial Hockaday team.

Over the past two seasons, the Hockaday rowers developed a loyalty towards their new team members and coach at DRC while continuing to compete with Hockaday spirit, often sporting Hockaday paraphernalia at regattas.

The reinstatement of the crew program at Hockaday this fall, with new coach Nick Harding who brings years of experience from stints at Oxford University and the California Yacht Club, left Hockaday rowers uncertain of the future of the crew team.  The split between girls remaining at DRC and girls returning to Hockaday would divide the team they had rebuilt at over the past year.

Juniors Pascale and Anna, partners in rowing a double boat, decided together to stay at DRC, as they felt a close bond to both the coach and the club, as well as non-Hockaday club members.

“We had established a team and wanted to stay with that team,” Pascale said.

While crew members felt a connection to DRC and to their coach Slim, the schedule of the Hockaday program is more compatible with Hockaday students’ lives. Senior and Hockaday Crew Team Captain Emily decided to return to Hockaday after a year at DRC based on the more convenient scheduling.

“When I found out the crew program was starting back up, I was excited because the scheduling was a lot easier,” she said. “I loved rowing for DRC, but this makes senior year a whole lot less stressful.”

Rowers who returned to Hockaday, including junior Charlotte, did not take their decisions lightly.

“It did take me a long time to decide where I would go,” she said. “It’s still an adjustment period.”

With returning Hockaday rowers now divided in half between the school team and the club team, the main concern of most girls is how each team will be affected by the split. Rowers returning to Hockaday express an even greater concern at this smaller pool of athletes, as the Hockaday team does not have a base of members from other schools, as the team at DRC enjoys.

“Honestly, I do think it will hurt us,” Charlotte said., “We lost some great athletes to DRC…it will be interesting for sure to compete against people you trained with.”

As a result of the divide, Harding has designated the greater part of this year as a reconstruction period for the Hockaday team.

“I think this season, or both seasons, are just going to be about rebuilding the school rowing program,” he said. “We are going to get a lot of enthusiastic younger girls, and it takes time to teach people to row, so I am not so preoccupied with results at the moment.”

Harding also understands that there will be an adjustment period to his style for rowers returning to Hockaday.

“They’ll probably despise me to start with, but then they may get used to my worst,” he joked.

Hockaday Athletic Director Tina Slinker has already seen more success in the transition to a new coach than she originally expected, and thus she expressed confidence in the restoring of the crew program.

“Coach Harding does a great job,” she remarks. “One of the first things that he did this summer was to go out and meet the DRC coach and they have made [the program] more of a partnership.”

Hockaday girls also convey optimism in the rebuilding of the Hockaday crew program.

“Now that we can row Hockaday’s boats, we have increased loyalty to the school,” said Charlotte, “so hopefully we will rise to a higher standard.”

Although many of the team’s talented rowers have chosen to remain at DRC, Emily also remains confident in the ability of all rowers, both at Hockaday and DRC, to rise above the challenge.

“Between Hockaday and DRC, we all have good coaches, good programs, and good rowers,” she said, “So we’re pretty much in the same boat.”

– Hailey and Blaire