British Rowing |

Rowing with young adult care leavers

Many young adults leaving care are not involved in organised sport. Yet they often face a range of physical and mental health issues that would be helped by the activity and sense of belonging that club-based sport brings. Yare BC Welfare Officer Ariane Hoppler describes the programe her club devised to help meet this need.


In line with British Rowing’s commitment to provide access to rowing to a more diverse population, Yare BC decided to launch a new rolling programme aimed at young adults from communities with disadvantaged backgrounds.

For the first round of the project, the club liaised with Norfolk County Council to create an offer for young adults leaving care.

“We know from research that physical activities – especially outdoor ones – can significantly contribute and improve mental and physical health. “Ariane explains. “In addition, we hoped that this club-organised activity we hoped would allow these often-marginalised young people to see themselves as part of a wider, diverse community and eventually feel a sense of connection and belonging to the club community.”

Project Structure

The project consisted of seven sessions for six people. The small group size allows the project leaders to support the participants on a one-to-one basis, and this worked well.

The first session involved taking a rowing machine to wherever young people meet. In this first round, we met the young care leavers at one of their regular sessions with their youth worker.

This session was followed by a taster at the club, enabling the young people to make an informed decision about whether they wanted to join a Learn to Row course. The Learn to Row course consisted of two full-day sessions and three half-day sessions.

During the Learn to Row course, the group moved swiftly on to rowing in a range of boats – singles and crew boats – including learning all about boat set up, safety on the water and boat maintenance.

All sessions were organised and led by a coach and the club welfare officer, and were supported by a youth worker linked to the group of young adults. A dedicated group of Yare BC members helped out with all of the sessions. This allowed the young people to get their first impression of what it means to be part of a rowing club.

The sessions included how to use a rowing machine and understanding its importance for developing rowing skills. The leaders introduced the young people to a virtual training using an app and to yoga, mindfulness and stretching to support their rowing experience.

At the end of the course all of the young adults have been offered a chance to join the club at a discounted rate for 18-25 year olds of £10 a month.

Throughout the project the young people were involved in deciding how they wanted to engage and progress. They were also consulted on the new reduced membership rate and the club took their advice on affordability.

Feedback from the participants

“We are happy to report that this first round of the project was a great success from start to finish,” Ariane says.

All participants gave the course a 10 out of 10 based on their experience. The group also fed back that they thought the structure of the course worked well.

They were all overwhelmingly positive about each aspect of the course. Perhaps surprisingly, the young people loved the rowing machine as a tool that allowed them to follow their own rhythm, and to challenge themselves without needing to be in competition with others whilst still taking part in a group group activity. In particular, the young women who hadn’t done any physical activities for a few years really enjoyed the rowing machine.

Mental health benefits

The young people also felt that the project significantly improved their mental health:

  • “It felt calming and beautiful being in nature“
  • “Improved my sleep”
  • “Felt a lot more energetic”
  • “Felt a lot less anxious than I usually do.“

Other benefits

  • “I have been pushed out of my comfort zone to learn something new – without this opportunity I would never have learnt these new skills”
  • “Meeting new people – the club members – has just been great “
  • “I am really proud that, although I am afraid of water, I challenged myself and I am proud of the achievement”
  • “This gave me the inspiration to try something I would never have done otherwise.“
  • “Really helped me to make better use of my time and learning new skills and gaining more confidence.“

Participants’ view of the programme overall

  • “I enjoyed everything so much – everyone was so friendly and supportive“
  • “I have now overcome my fears and will never give up on it“
  • “Really loved doing the course and want to continue to do more rowing“
  • “It was insightful, motivating and supportive“
  • “It was amazing to have this experience first-hand with people explaining everything by breaking things down and not piling it all at once“
  • “The whole experience has been so enjoyable and so valuable for me and given me a great sense of achievement“
  • “The club members have been so patient and the coach was so supportive and patient“
  • “It was so much fun and the location was so peaceful and beautiful – have never experienced anything like this.“

The club’s perspective

This has been the first outreach project for Yare BC and everyone supporting this course has been impressed by the impact it had on the group of young adults.

Club members enjoyed sharing their knowledge with the young people – a new community.

“Overall, this has been an extraordinary experience for the club and through the feedback from the group, we’ve realised how many different ways rowing at the club as a community can contribute to wellbeing – both physical and mental – for young adults,” Ariane reflects. “Several young people will now join the club and continue to row with us. They have also agreed to help with our next group starting in March 2024, which we’re all really looking forward to.”

She concludes, “Big thanks go to our amazing coach Shelagh and of course the dedicated group of members supporting this project on a volunteer basis with patience and kindness. This course would also not have been possible without the fantastic collaboration and support of the Norfolk County Council participation youth worker.”