(Posted in The Houston Chronicle on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 Read Article on http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/woodlands/news/article/Woodlands-rowing-team-builds-confidence-college-6289027.php)
Fierce rain pellets break the usually calm surface of Lake Woodlands, but that doesn’t stop the small fleet of scarlet row boats from completing their race across the water.
In the boats, about 40 high school athletes, sporting matching scarlet tee shirts, set a rhythm – crunching knees to chest while lifting the oars and then forcing them back through the water in a burst of power propelling them forward.
For some of the members of Parati Competitive Rowing, the rainy hour on the lake is just one of 20 or even 30 hours they will spend training for the sport in a week. And for them, the hard work has paid off. Six of the rowers qualified to compete in the USRowing Youth National Championships in Florida June 12-14.
The club, one of just a handful of rowing clubs in Greater Houston and the only all-youth group in the area, is in its third season and has already sent more than a dozen kids on to row in college, many on scholarship.
Parati is the brain-and-sweat child of Mike and Jan Rosman, two Woodlands residents who volunteer their time to coach throughout the club’s active five-days-a-week, 50-weeks-a-year schedule. Mike Rosman, who was a Big Ten wrestler in college, picked up rowing when he moved to The Woodlands and decided that he wanted to pass on the coaching and mentorship that he benefited from as a young athlete to the next generation.
“You have to train your whole body … push it to the limit, going full blast,” Mike Rosman said, explaining the intense combination of cardio, core, legs, arms and mental strength rowing requires.
But it’s about more than the physical benefits and challenges the sport offers, Jan Rosman added. The coaches and parents want Parati to be a character-building opportunity for the teens, teaching them responsibility, teamwork and tenacity.
For the three co-captains, Audrey Brown, a senior at Oak Ridge High School, Amy Smith, a senior at The Woodlands College Park Academy of Science and Technology, and John Puzz, a homeschooled senior, Parati has provided a chance to develop leadership skills as well as a camaraderie with the rest of the team.
“We require a lot from our captains,” said Jan Rosman.
Brown, Smith and Puzz are responsible for motivating their teammates, leading practice and taking care of the equipment – no small responsibility, considering the boats can cost as much as $10,000 each.
“I try to lead by example,” said Brown. “If (the rest of the team) sees you doing something, they’ll follow.”
Puzz explained how rowing transformed his confidence and made him the athlete he is today.
“I was one of those kids that was scared to compete and fail,” Puzz said. “I would feel like I was going to throw up before a race.”
Now, Puzz is heading to Nationals after securing a gold medal at the USRowing Central Regionals in early May.
“He’s the kind of athlete that goes 120 percent,” Mike Rosman said. “He runs against the cross country guys and lifts against the football players.”
But even apart from the physical and social benefits of being a part of the team, being a competitive rower can give a student a leg up when it comes to applying for college and scholarships.
Puzz, Brown and Smith will all be attending college with rowing scholarships next year at Oklahoma City University,University of Tulsa and University of Texas, respectively, and they had their pick from colleges trying to recruit them.
“Princeton called three times,” Smith said, adding that MIT and Stanford University also contacted her.
“Prior to Parati (my daughter,) was thinking of only applying to University of Texas, Sam Houston State University andLonestar Community College,” said Pete Dolan, father of freshman rower Katie Dolan. “Now she wants me to take her to visit Stanford, CalTech and MIT this summer.”
The Rosmans hope to continue to grow the team and encourage local teens to push themselves to reach for higher goals. They are in the process of working with The Woodlands Township to build a permanent boathouse and rowing facility to replace the storage containers that currently house their equipment in the parking lot at North Shore Park so that they can expand to include even more rowers.
Parati Competitive Rowing, a team for youth, grades 9-12, based in The Woodlands, practices at North Shore Park and on Lake Woodlands five days a week. For more information, visit paratirowingthewoodlands.org
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