Letter to Parents - October 2007

Dear Parents of Case Crew Athletes:

Hello. My name is Doug Rathburn. I graduated from CWRU in 1997, was a member of the rowing team, and now am president of the team’s alumni organization. I write to introduce you to our organization and thank you for supporting you sons and daughters as they participate in what I consider the university's greatest extracurricular - the rowing team.

As you may know, parents' greatest fear is that their kids will not do as well academically because of the rowing time commitment. I look at my own roommates from college and how successful they’ve been – one’s an MD now at Ohio State after winning a prestigious full ride to med school from the Navy, another is a computer engineer outside Boston, one’s a retired Google millionaire (he was the lead engineer on Gmail), one’s a lawyer that had a full ride to law school, and another is an economics professor at U. Illinois-Chicago. We all rowed, won medals and held officer positions yet still managed to balance it all and achieve our dreams. From more recent years, we have graduates in PhD programs at Berkeley and Columbia and a Churchill Award winner who got a free ride at Cambridge and captained one of the college crews. Free time not spent on hobbies, sports or activities in college is rarely replaced with more study time, and there is a high correlation between a well-rounded college experience and success after graduation. One of the core functions of the NCAA is to track academic progress of student athletes, and rowing and fencing are in a perennial battle for the top sport in the nation for average team GPA and GSR (graduation success rate). For example at Ohio State the GSR for women's varsity rowing is a perfect 100 score while the men's football team achieved a 53.

Team alumni created the Spartan Alumni Rowing Association (S.A.R.A.) a few years ago to help support Case Crew and offer networking opportunities for current participants and graduates. As you may be able to gather from the dues athletes pay and their own fundraising efforts, the university provides little financial backing for the team. In fact, the coaches are entirely volunteer to the point where they are explicitly prohibited from even receiving gas reimbursement for travel to regattas. This is in sharp contrast to other University Athletic Association club programs (CWRU’s athletic conference), where coaches receive salaries and students receive substantial financial assistance toward equipment purchases.

You may know that your son or daughter sells concessions at Cleveland Browns games to help raise money – I did it ten years ago and they’re still doing it now. A new four-person shell is $12-20,000 and eights can top out at $40,000, and it’s taken the team about three years of Browns games to raise enough money for the four they're looking at buying this winter. Our group of alumni, friends and family try to fill the void as best we can, with everything from professional advice for students to regular fundraising. Rowing alumni come to Cleveland in both the fall and spring to meet with and race with students. We also have raised thousands of dollars for the team, allowing them to make prompt purchases when boat parts break. This summer my wife and I donated a two-person shell to the team; I'm pleased to note that athletes have won gold in it both times it's been raced this fall. We have terrific rowers in this program, so this support gives them a real chance to realize the results of their hard work.

I am not writing today to ask for money. We all know how expensive a college education is, and I understand many of you stretch just to manage tuition. Instead I ask for backing of other kinds. Specifically, your student-athlete depends on your support to be successful in class, life and in the boat. When I raced, my parents sometimes came to regattas to cheer me on - it meant the world to me. Even seemingly small gestures make a huge difference. I know from my own parents' experiences that they didn't always know what I was talking about when I called home with news of a new "erg" personal best or successful "seat race." But I called not for their rowing expertise, but to share my glee and hear their encouragement. Whenever you listen - to good or disappointing news - please know how much it helps.

Meanwhile, we are trying to add parent resources on our web site: www.SpartanAlumniRowing.org/SARA_parent.html and seeking parents interested in working with other moms and dads for regatta support and information sharing. Please take a few minutes and visit the site. Any thoughts regarding what you’d like to see added or questions you may have that aren’t answered would be appreciated.

The team has two more races before the end of the season - Boston, MA on October 20 and Columbus, OH on October 27. We work very hard to keep the web site up-to-date race reports, results and photos. Even if you are unable to attend in person, I encourage you to visit the web site.

Thanks and best regards,

Doug Rathburn
Spartan Alumni Rowing Association





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Last modified: October 12, 2007
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