Meet Madison Bannon.

What is your rowing background?

My grandmother is a lifelong rower from Holland and the Three Rivers Rowing Association boathouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was something of a second home to me growing up. My parents held their wedding reception in the hall and I was notorious for occupying all of the ergos with my Barbie collection. I started rowing under the direction of my grandmother at the age of 12 and competed through high school mostly as a sweep rower in the girls 8+ and 4+ with the occasional foray into the 2x and 2-. My high school women’s 4+ was invited to compete at the Head of the Charles Regatta, a first for our school alongside powerhouses like Stanford, Ohio State, Wisconsin and others. I began coaching novice corporate teams from the coxswain seat over the summers in high school and when i entered university in Washington DC I got my first opportunity to coach juniors for a local club team and a local girls high school. In 2013 I moved to Seattle, Washington where I met a man named Mike Merta who was a long time rower in the infancy stages of founding a club on the Duwamish River, a polluted and forgotten industrial site running through an underserved neighborhood called South Park. In my 2 years in Seattle through fundraising, crowd sourcing and grants I was able to start a youth program that grew to 15+ local kids strong, the masters program doubled and we grew out of our “boathouse” (a shipping container) into a second container that’s now bursting at the seams. Since Seattle I’ve been living in rural Swaziland where unfortunately there isn’t enough water to sustain a rowing program so I’m very excited to be in Johannesburg and on the Wemmer Pan doing what I love with a really dynamic group of people!

What is your training philosophy?

My training philosophy is kin to my youth development philosophy. I am an educator at my core grounded in Positive Youth Development. I set high expectations for my teams and believe in their ability to achieve. I look to our strengths first, as individual rowers and as a team and utilize the strengths of one to teach away the weaknesses of another. Every teammate has their important role to play on the team and can teach as well as they can learn. I believe with the right opportunities and positive environment every rower will rise to the occasion of their individual goals, if you believe you can do something, you will want to accomplish it and you’ll work hard to get there. My job is to create that environment and opportunity for each rower to realize their full potential. For something concrete and practical- I like to do a lot of drills to make every stroke the most effective it can be, we do a lot of “jumpies” to keep our thighs strong, and I don’t like to see any nonsense or funny business in or when holding boats.

What are your plans for juniors and the U23s?

My plans for the youth this year are their plans. They’ve told me they want to dominate at SA School champs and especially to beat VLC. Some of them have set their sites on setting new national 2k record times, some of them have National Team dreams. As a coach I plan to facilitate every available practice, challenge them to be their best, design training that builds their strengths and makes their strokes as effective as possible and believe in them all the way to the end. My personal goals are to make us more effective at the catch, crisper on and off the dock, and fit enough to turn our epic starts into epic wins.

Can you give us a training tip?

Find something, anything good in a rowers stroke and celebrate it. Complaints, while a valid emotional release are heard only from the plank position: “The Complaink”.

What do you think about rowing in South Africa?

It’s wonderful to be introduced to South Africa’s rowing field. I’m noticing a lot more emphasis on small and sculling boats, I imagine this has a lot to do with all these tiny lakes. It’s wonderful to see the sport growing in its accessibility and diversity and I hope to be able to contribute in this field. It’s also wonderful to meet so many masters who remind me of the masters rowers in the states: their kindness, non-aggressive athleticism, passionate about the environment, tons of academics, disproportionate number of piercings…rowers are rowers the world over.

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