Parents help school rowing team stay afloat during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 is raising lots of questions for high school sports. Will there be a season? Will kids miss their chance to play in college? The same goes for other activities like band, chorus, and choir. 

Some kids, parents, and coaches are dealing with the anxiety by taking action on the Palm River in east Tampa at the Plant High School Rowing Club. 

“I’ve been coaching 18 to 20 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Plant rowing coach Michael Smith. 

His sport, as well as football, track, and all the others, are virtually on hold as states, school districts, and schools try to deal with COVID-19.

“A lot of races were canceled,” said Will Hubbard, a Plant senior with hopes of rowing in college. 

Normal recruiting is out the window with college visits suspended. 

“I think there is a prevailing depression across our nation right now,” agreed Will’s father, Curt Hubbard. “And anything that can get our heads above water, so to speak, we’re doing it.”

To survive, they had go put away the large boats that hold nine people. There’s no way to achieve social distancing. They have to use single-seat boats, but there are only seven of them and dozens of kids in the club.

So team members and parents built an outdoor training facility at the boat house where kids can use mechanical rowing machines and weights to train and team build.

“I just really love the sport and you meet really great friends here. I started in eighth grade,” offered Katie Hall, also a senior with dreams of rowing in college. 

COVID-19 makes it feel like they’re rowing against a current, but team members and parents are upbeat.

“I think having hope for these kids is what we need,” Curt Hubbard said. “We’re going to make this season completely different and it’s going to be even better.”

It may not be the senior year they expected, but COVID-19 hasn’t put this team out of action.