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  • Diane D’Amico

Young Atlantic City Rowers Trade City Streets for Back Bay

Original story here:

Atlantic City, N.J. _ A cool early-morning breeze swept across the bay behind the Atlantic City boathouse. Rowing coach Joy Lynn Cress’s voice cut through the air as she prepared her group of young girls to board their boat for the morning’s rowing lesson.

“What do we never do?” she asked.

“Never let go of a floating oar,” came the answer in unison.

Out on the water, Cress kept up a steady patter: “Take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t be afraid to reach.”

As two rowers switched out of the coach’s boat to eight-person boat, program coordinator Joe Maguire, men’s rowing coach at Stockton, watched the smooth transition.

“We would never have been able to do that with them for the first three weeks,” he said of the young rowers. “Not one kid had rowed before they came here. Now they have the confidence.”

Building self-confidence is just one of the goals of Stockton’s inaugural Summer Youth Rowing Program. The free, six-week camp gave 33 middle school students from Atlantic City the chance to not just learn to row, but also to develop strength, self-confidence, discipline and teamwork – all starting at 7 a.m. four days a week.

The campers admit the early mornings are probably their least favorite part of the program. But none gave up and many said they’d be back next summer.

“It’s been fun,” said Savannah Days, 11, “I learned how to stay in sync. We rowed all the way to Ventnor.”

Asked to describe the last month in one word, the students yelled out “fun,” “hard,” “pain,” and “tiring.” But the most common word was “amazing.”

“I actually wanted to come,” said Angel Roman, 12. “It was exercise, something new to try.”

Ambrose Kurtz admitted he didn’t really want to come at first.

“But now I won’t want to leave,” he said.