Community rowing program launches from Mattapoisett Harbor

By Jennifer Heshion | Apr 22, 2012
Photo by: Jennifer Heshion Coach Carolyn McGonagle, third from left, says she wants the program to open doors for the kids beyond rowing.

Mattapoisett — When rowing coach Carolyn McGonagle and local parents were looking to start a community program in Mattapoisett Harbor, they knew they’d have their work cut out for them.

With rowers from all round the region, rented boats and no official name, McGonagle said they had one advantage - one of the most dedicated group of rowers she has ever worked with.

“This is really our first week, but it’s been fantastic,” she said. “We have a very passionate group of people, so it’s been excellent.”

The team includes local residents ages 13 and older, most of whom are high school students.

“They are such a great group of kids,” she said. “We have kids from different high schools in different towns, but they get along so well. I call them my peanuts. They’re a wonderful bunch of kids, and they are just loving it.”

The program, she said, can open a lot of doors for the kids outside of sports.

“We have ten high school kids, so we try to do more than just rowing,” she said. “We want to help them keep up with homework and visit colleges. I always ask them: ‘What do you want to do next?’”

McGonagle began rowing as a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and started coaching community rowing groups in 1998. She has since worked in Boston, and more recently, in New Bedford.

After leaving New Bedford, McGonagle said she decided to reach out to Mattapoisett Harbormaster, Horace Field and officials at Town Hall to start a new program based on recommendations from the local parents.

McGonagle also called upon her former coach at UMass to rent a few boats from the university.

Despite only being in the first week of the program, McGonagle said she has been thrilled with the reception the group has been getting from the town.

“Mattapoisett has been very welcoming,” she said. “If the water seems too bouncy, then we might have to figure something else out, but we’re just loving Mattapoisett right now.”

The program, she said, is open to “anyone and everyone with an interest in rowing.”

“For those who want to race, we can help train,” she said. “For those who just want to do this for recreation, then it can be for recreation. It can be for beginners, too. We’ve had some people join who have never been on a rowboat before. Everybody has to start somewhere.”

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