Having rowed at Star Club from the age of 13, I chose to continue in the sport at university level through rowing for the University of Nottingham boat club. Initially the change to university rowing was very odd for me, the way in which they trained was very different to that at Star, and the boat club was a cold 30 minute cycle from my halls! The friends I met at the boat club are without doubt some of my closest at university. Unsurprisingly it takes a certain type of person to understand why exactly you would choose to row at half five on a weekday morning rather than stay in bed having been out the night before! All of a sudden 9ams don’t seem so bad! Having taken a step back from the university rowing scene in this, my final year, the people I have met through the boat club are people I still see regularly, despite being less present at the club itself.
University rowing bought me more success than I could have ever anticipated, and in completely different ways. In my first year, the university first eight in which I rowed at 7, raced to win a silver medal at BUCS regatta in the intermediate category, a success which at the start of the year seemed completely unattainable. This success enabled us to represent the university in Malaysia at the Varsity Boat Race, an event we won in the closest of races, beating the Indonesian National eight by 0.2 seconds. Racing in Malaysia was a phenomenal, unique experience, the humidity and heat were like nothing I had ever raced in before, and the mandatory curry for breakfast was something I found less than appealing! The opportunity to race at that level however is something that I will always view with gratitude; Kuala Lumpur was an amazing city to explore. As part of UoNBC I was also a member of the committee, enabling me to see, and assist with the running of a boat club from the inside offering an opportunity to shape the future of the club.
Star club is somewhere I feel I really grew up. Rowing throughout my GCSEs and A-levels taught me a huge amount about balancing my work and sport, and being able to excel at both. I always found that training gave me a regular routine, through which I could maximise the use of my free time and get my work done, rather than faffing about and putting it off, as I probably would have done without that structure. I was fortunate to have a great deal of success while rowing at star, thanks to the fantastic coaching and support network the club was able to provide, and being around a group of dedicated, talented and like-minded girls and boys. The people I trained with became some of my closest friends, and many still are today. As a result of this training never felt like a chore, it was in fact the part of the day I generally looked forward to. As a young junior I found I really looked up to the older members of the squad, seeing them manage their training and studies enabled me to see just how doable it was if you wanted to make it happen, and from an early stage, I tried to emulate that in how I worked and trained.
The teamwork skills, ability to cope with stress and confidence I gained from being in such a setting has really defined me as a person, and would prove very useful in a future employment setting. The ability to set long-term goals, and identify the steps to achieve them is a skill I have found especially useful in my academic life. Often with deadlines and exams coinciding with important races it was vital that everything came together at the right time. Through having a pre-determined training programme I could manage my time effectively. Around exam times coaches were highly organised, finding out when our exams were, and ensuring we weren’t too tired from training whilst still performing at the highest levels, but that ultimately we were putting our work first. At the start of a new season we could meet with our coaches and discuss what we wanted to achieve by the end of the year both personally and as a squad. We could then identify what steps we would need to take to make this happen, a useful skill to have. I am truly grateful for the opportunities Star have been able to provide me with, and for its unfailing support throughout my school career and beyond.
Rowing and at times coaching at Star, enabled me to put in a successful application to be a camp counsellor in America for the past two summers at an able-bodied girls camp. I lived with and looked after 14 year old girls, and worked on boating, teaching kayaking, canoeing, rowing and sailing, and gaining my motor boat licence to take the girls tubing. Teaching rowing on the sunny lakes of New Hampshire was a far cry from doing so on the banks of the Great Ouse in the middle of January! In my second summer I was awarded ‘Model Counselor’ in the senior division for my work, something I feel I never could have achieved without the skills I developed at Star. My experience at Star has been formative in the values I hold today. At camp I was given the opportunity to work at a special needs week, perhaps the biggest challenge I have ever taken on, the week was truly exhausting, but without doubt one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences I have had.
The Connolly Foundation has also been a key factor in my successes at university and beyond. They have kindly supported me throughout my three years, and without their support I am sure that continuing my rowing career would have become almost financially impossible what with the cost of race fees, new kit, training camps, and my trip to Malaysia. I am hugely grateful for their continued support.
Having gained ABA in my A-levels in Biology, Chemistry and French respectively from Sharnbrook Upper School, I am now studying Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Nottingham, a challenging course, but one I find very interesting. In the future I am looking to study medicine as a post-graduate, with a view to becoming a paediatrician. I appreciate that a postgraduate Medicine Degree will be a huge further challenge, however I feel the dedication and determination I have developed through being a part of Star club has equipped me well to embrace my future endeavours.