Long known as the domain of male Ivy Leaguers, the sport of rowing has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years as training programs and facilities have become more widely accessible. You’ve probably seen the boats gliding across Lake Woodlands: long, skinny things with two, four, sometimes eight rowers pulling lengthy oars in unison so gracefully, it looks easy.

It is not easy. Rowing at the competitive level is described as a footrace that begins with a 500-meter sprint, settles into running as fast as you possibly can for 1,500 meters, and finishes with another 500-meter sprint.

Enthusiasts praise rowing for the full-body benefits. Back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, biceps, lungs—they all get a workout. Balance, core stability, body strength and cardio endurance are the much-desired benefits. Not to mention the camaraderie of a team, Saturday regattas, and the possibility of a lifelong pursuit.

The Woodlands Rowing Club was first on the scene in 1989. Jim and Dee Hotop took over as directors after moving to The Woodlands in 2011. Dee suggests the only true requirement for potential rowers is the ability to swim. Though rowers are trained to stay in the boat, on occasion swimming is necessitated.

“We’re proud of our all-ages, all-levels program. There’s a place for everyone at The Woodlands Rowing Club,” Dee Hotop says. They should be proud! The club is 29-years-strong and still growing its recreational, competitive, and masters programs. Rosters for TWRC off-campus PE programs for CISD students and summer camps are also increasing. For rowers wanting to compete, Hotop stresses, “We don’t turn anyone away. We’re always looking for new talent. Always looking to grow our teams.”

It’s a commitment, for sure. Junior teams practice year-round, five days a week, with regattas some Saturdays. The results, however, cannot be ignored. TWRC has produced collegiate rowers for the likes of University of Texas, University of Massachusetts and West Point.

“Still, we’re very careful with our athletes. We want them happy and healthy,” she stresses. “It’s how we help them reach their goals. That’s our purpose. If we win races and acquire scholarships in the process, that’s great, but we help our members and students in so many other ways, too.” Ways like tenacity, confidence, teamwork—and fun.

Parati Competitive Rowing is the newest rowing club in The Woodlands. Mike and Jan Rosman established Parati in 2012 as a highly competitive, juniors-only club. In just six years, this club has qualified a staggering 39 boats to compete at the US Rowing Youth National Championship, including two bronze medal wins in 2018. After all, their motto is “paratus enin vitae,” which is Greek for ‘prepared for life.”

Students (grades 8–12) interested in rowing may take advantage of a free learn to row session at Parati. If hooked and ready to excel, they are invited to join a first-year novice team. JV and Varsity teams follow.

Jan doesn’t sugarcoat the commitment. “The training is rigorous: six days a week, forty-eight weeks a year; but that’s what it takes to develop world-class athletes.” Balance, however, is also key. “We’re together a lot, so we make it fun with lots of social activities and community service. Hard work is easier when you’re in the company of friends,” Jan stresses. “The whole development of our kids is our passion, our calling, our heart.”

That dedication is the bedrock on which collegiate rowers are built. Parati athletes have gone on to crew for the University of Texas, Duke, MIT, Boston University, Dartmouth, Villanova, Berkley and the Naval Academy, to name a few.

Both clubs gush over the contribution Woodforest Bank has made to their success. In 2017, Woodforest funded a boathouse at Northshore Park to be shared by The Woodlands Township, The Woodlands Rowing Club and Parati to store their equipment inside.

Rowing is a fulfilling sport that offers a full-body workout. Whether you’re looking to join a team or just do it on your own time, The Woodlands is a great place to discover a new passion.

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