Sunday, May 22, 2011

Through Rowing, New Confidence

Through Rowing, New Confidence


“I’M bored,” announced Shlomo Orenstein, 14, a seventh grader from Brooklyn, as he lay on a floating dock on the Harlem River on Thursday, picking splinters out of the wooden planks with his idle hands.

Moments later, his mood had changed considerably. He was seated in a sleek racing scull, those same hands wrapped tightly around a pair of carbon-fiber oars. He was rowing hard, sending the scull through the water.

He and a dozen other students from the Child School/Legacy High School on Roosevelt Island were at the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse, an oddly old-fashioned building on the Harlem River, accessible by a gangplank and a string of floating docks.

The students were put to work carrying long racing shells to the water. They gathered around coaches from the New York Rowing Association, a nonprofit group that runs rowing clubs, teams and programs and that is based in the boathouse. This program exposes students from the city’s schools to an activity often associated with Ivy League universities.

At the Child School, a charter school for children with learning and social disabilities, the students had been learning the basics and training on exercise rowing machines. On Thursday, they finally got out on the water in racing shells.

“Never step in the bottom of the shell, because it’s a thin fiberglass shell,” Anne Walsworth, the program’s rowing director, told the students before they boarded the wobbly vessels alongside the dock. And the oars, she said, are to be left floating in the water for stability.

Pairs of students were dispatched onto the river in quads, or four-seat vessels, and they sat in the middle, between two coaches from the boathouse.

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