Personal and professional development come harmoniously together for Globe Rowing Club coach George Prior, whose coaching development funded by Active Thames has helped more young people gain access to rowing.
Having finished his action-packed day coaching juniors and seniors at Globe Rowing Club, George Prior is driving back to his home in Essex when he picks up my phone call. There’s a slight echo as the phone connects to his speakers and then, we dive in.
The twenty-five-year-old joined Globe Rowing Club, based in Greenwich with another site in Newham, when he turned 12 years old. “I used to finish school at 4pm,” he explains, “it was an hour and fifteen minutes to training and training would start at 5pm. I was constantly sprinting to train stations so I could make it on time and be able to row – and not get told off!”
In many ways his now shorter journey symbolises the growing efforts to make rowing a more accessible sport. Growing up, George’s school didn’t offer rowing, but he didn’t let that stop him. Many young people continue to chase trains and buses to access watersports, but George believes accessibility is increasing.
“I live right on the edge of London, but I’m technically in an Essex postcode. If you wanted to compete and do well in rowing, there are a very limited number of places and clubs in our area, especially ones with the right coaching and resources. It’s wild. The club’s catchment area goes out to Lewisham and the edge of Kent and they are all in the same boat – they need to travel to Greenwich or the Royal Albert Docks. There’s no local access to it unless you do it in a school.”
A grant of £4000 from Active Thames has enhanced coach development at Globe Rowing Club. The initiative, led by the Port of London Authority, aims to increase diversity and inclusion in watersports. It has also supported people, like George, in their development as a coach.
From completing his British Rowing Level 2 to his first aid and powerboat course, Active Thames has supported George’s journey to club coach. Inspired as a junior when he was at Globe, when 18-year-old George finished school he moved to Melbourne for a year to train as a rowing coach. Returning to the UK, he studied maths at university; and spent his time volunteering and developing himself as a coach. His ultimate goal is to coach high performance. When he graduated, he jumped at the opportunity to work for Globe and has been a paid coach since September 2021. He has vastly benefited from the knowledge and the support of Globe’s head coach, whose role was funded by the charity London Youth Rowing.
“This season at Globe has been quite special. I’ve seen a different side to the club. I came through the programme and I know what it meant to get involved and have people put their time in me,” the coach, who teaches participants as young as 13, says. “It’s nice to feel like I can give something back to the club – this is what I want to do for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t grown at Globe. Being able to go back to Globe has been fantastic.”
From circuit training to on-the-water training in the summer, Globe Rowing Club offers a variety of sessions for all abilities, from beginners to high level of performance.
“If the kids want to achieve something, we’ve got programmes set up to let them achieve. Equally, if they want to just come and have some fun, then that’s also an option,” he says. “There’s a whole range of abilities at the smaller regattas and we don’t take anyone somewhere that they could be blown out of the water. We aim to go to events across the year that the whole squad are able to compete in.”
Being a coach is not without its challenges, however. Britain’s finest weather means training sessions often make the rowing conditions tough.
“The docks are always choppy. You get used to dealing with it but we had a couple of months where we really struggled to get out. We adapt the sessions – we do a lot of gym sessions and use the indoor rowing tank. We always try and gain something from the session on land if we can’t get out on the water.”
Despite it being their first race of the year, when the women’s Junior 16 squad won the Henley Women’s Regatta, it was an outstanding moment for the club and for George.
“We entered them thinking they might get through a round or two and they went and won it! Two of them are 14 and the other two are 15 years old. I felt very proud.”
In the current cost of living crisis, limited number of hours working has meant George has had to move on from the club to a full-time role. He takes with him confidence and knowledge; and strong memories of a Club that has stuck by him and made him who he is.
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Active Thames is a partnership programme in place to support the development of watersports on the tidal Thames and inland waterways in London, Kent and Essex.
With over 15,000 football pitches worth of blue space, the tidal Thames is a fantastic place to get active. There is also an extensive network of inland waterways, which provide even more space for people to enjoy, and perfect locations to gain the skills and confidence needed to take on the tidal river.