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Good Practice Case Study

Oundle Town Adaptive Rowing Club Developing an Adaptive Rowing Club

How do you adapt an established sports club to cater for all members of the community, including those who are less physically mobile? This case study looks at how Oundle Town Rowing Club, in partnership with British Rowing, the local county sports partnership (CSP), council and key individuals, including the coaches, successfully did just that.

Good Practice Case Study

Background: The Story So Far Oundle Town Rowing Club began back in 2000 when the head teacher of the local Prince William School successfully obtained funding from British Rowing to set up a community rowing club. At the time, few state schools were able to offer rowing to their students, and the area was crying out for a facility where youngsters and adults could have a go at the sport. Over the next two years, the club grew steadily, acquiring second-hand boats, receiving grants to buy indoor rowing machines and achieving Clubmark status. Over 10 club members achieved Level 2 coaching qualifications, and one received a British Rowing Coach of the Year Award in Participation.

In 2002, links were established with Spring Common special needs school where regular coaching support was provided by one of the club’s key founders, the Treasurer and coach, who only a year later was presented with British Rowing’s Coach of the Year Award in Adaptive Rowing. By 2006, Spring Common had moved its rowing programme to the club.

Partnerships are Key In 2006, further successes were seen when the club’s links with its local CSP, Northamptonshire Sport, resulted in additional funding being provided for a part-time community sports coach to run a junior rowing outreach programme to attract more young people into the sport. Through the close working between the two organisations, Northamptonshire Sport came to learn about the work that was going on with adaptive rowers and approached the club to expand this work further.

Subsequently, the club was introduced to Northamptonshire County Council’s Disabled Children’s Youth Service Coordinator who was running a series of youth clubs in the area for children with a disability. It was agreed that the club would take its rowing machines (also referred to as ‘ergos’) to the 10 youth clubs to introduce the young people to the sport without having to go out on to the water. The aim of the programme was to provide the participants with new experiences, whether that meant learning how to row independently or simply enjoy a boat ride for the first time.

Grants, Funding, Resources: Money, Money, Money The continued expansion of the club would not have been possible without a number of grants and funding provisions. Countless hours spent seeking out funding provisions and completing grant applications, in addition to effective working partnerships, paid off and saw the club being awarded money from the Rowing Foundation, Northamptonshire County Council (an Aiming High grant), Northamptonshire Sport, the Community Club Development Programme (CCDP) and British Rowing. These have enabled the club to purchase an array of equipment and resources, including recreational adaptive boats, floats, adaptive seats for boats and ergos, doubles boats, new ergos that are easier for everyone to access, a trailer to transport the ergos, and resources to have a concrete walkway put in place to make access to the jetty possible for all. In particular, the funding provided by British Rowing through their Explore Rowing and Project Oarsome initiatives allowed the club to purchase a number of boats, and the CCDP funding enabled it to commission the development of its own club building.

In addition to new equipment, the funding also enabled investment in key individuals at the club. For example, Northamptonshire County Council’s Aiming High grant was used to invest in key individuals in the Adaptive Outreach Programme, funding was obtained to train the council’s Disabled Children’s Youth Service Coordinator to be a Level 2 rowing coach in addition to training for youth workers who were involved as part of British Rowing’s Rowing for Young People programme. The close links that had been forged with British Rowing also paid dividends with the club’s development of 12 Junior Leaders1 over a two-year period and the acquisition of three Henley Stewards Scholarship coaches2 over a six-year period – one of whom currently works solely with adaptive rowers at the club and other clubs in the area to help develop adaptive rowing on a wider scale.

By 2011, the club was well established and set up the Northamptonshire Disability Rowing Association (NDRA).

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A British Rowing initiative for secondary school aged students to develop their skills to be able to deliver and plan rowing sessions under supervision. A British Rowing initiative for students working towards a sport-related postgraduate qualification who study part-time and coach part-time.

Good Practice Case Study

Key Successes The club has undoubtedly achieved many successes over the years. Below are some of the main highlights: creating a truly inclusive club for the local community (and those further afield who do not have access to such facilities) obtaining funding and resources, to provide easier access for athletes with disabilities, that also benefit non-disabled rowers

highlighting to club members the positive benefits of having an adaptive rowing programme and being more inclusive providing training for 12 club members to become Junior Leaders – a British Rowing initiative that provides individuals with transferable life skills

seeing athletes of all abilities training and competing

seeing an adaptive male cox obtain more medals than any other rower in the club

links forged with the local University of the Third Age, which uses the club’s recreational boats fortnightly for a minimal monthly fee

having a Woman Arms and Shoulders (WAS) rower taking part in the National Championship, which led to her being selected to represent England in the 2012 Home International at Llandaff.

Good Practice Case Study

The success of Oundle Town Rowing Club in establishing itself as a well resourced club for all members of the community did not happen overnight. It has taken many years of hard work to get it to where it is today. The club has identified the following four components as the key factors in its success to date:

1 Vision and leadership

One or more individuals who are a real driving force for the club – these individuals have a clear idea of the club’s mission and aims and have the passion and wherewithal to drive it forward. A key element of the club’s mission was an understanding of how important it is to develop coaches with the appropriate skills to work with rowers of all abilities. In particular, a key focus was helping coaches overcome any apprehensions of working with adaptive athletes. The aim was to ensure the coaches look at what the athletes can do, as opposed to what they can’t do, and measure success based on their progress.

2 Management and funding

The need for funding and resources is often ongoing, and the process of meeting this need is generally time-consuming and arduous. The success of the club has absolutely been in part due to its Treasurer and coach, who worked closely with the club’s Funding Coordinator, who dedicated days to seeking out funding opportunities and submitting bid applications. A key part of the club’s success has not only been accessing appropriate funding programmes but the way in which these resources have been well managed and applied to effect a change in the culture of the club.

3 Coaching workforce

Even with the most proficient coordinators and treasurer, a rowing club would not be able to function without its coaches. These are the individuals who commit hours of their free time to teach members a new skill that they might hone and work towards using in competition or simply use for recreational purposes. The club’s investment in its coaches has undoubtedly contributed to its continued success, with three club coaches being developed to work specifically with adaptive rowers in addition to the involvement of the Henley Stewards Scholarship coaches and the council’s Disabled Children’s Youth Service Coordinator.

4 Partnership working

Without close partnerships with local and national organisations to inject resources and assist with the club’s direction, it is almost certain the club would not be where it is today. Working alongside those with a similar goal (local council, CSP, schools, British Rowing) has helped to strengthen the purpose and mission of the club.

Where next?

The club has achieved a fantastic amount since it began in 2000, but it doesn’t stop there. Next on Oundle Town Rowing Club’s to-do list are:

• setting up an adaptive rowing mentoring scheme to demonstrate to local clubs how they can go about setting up an adaptive rowing club and reassure them that it is not as complicated or difficult as they might think

• employing the current Chair of the NDRA as a part-time Development Officer to drum up further awareness and interest in adaptive rowing among the local community.

NDRA’s Top Tips for Setting up an Adaptive Club • Make sure you have the right people involved: funding coordinator; treasurer; coaches; and key local and national partnerships.

• Grab opportunities as they arise, especially where funding is concerned.

• Don’t be afraid. It isn’t difficult, it’s just different. You might need to adjust your targets but the goal is still the same.

• Be prepared to reassure existing club members that the adaptive rowers are not the only people who will benefit from the new resources – in many instances, they will benefit everyone.

For more information on Oundle Town Rowing Club, see:


For advice and tips on setting up your own adaptive club, see the English Federation of Disability Sport website: or contact your local CSP:

Information is also available on the sports coach UK website:

© sports coach UK, 2012 Designed and produced by Coachwise Ltd. Images © British Rowing 90793:9

The Secrets of Success

Oundle Town Adaptive Rowing Club  

A good practice case study about developing an adaptive rowing club.