Rowing against the current: the journey of pararowing development in La Plata, Argentina
Two out of three categories in the sport require adaptations to be comfortable and to optimize rowing performance, and that is the first obstacle a developer finds when trying to start pararowing. As these adaptations are often individually tailored and must be crafted from lightweight materials to avoid any unnecessary weight in the boat, the material can be very expensive and requires people with skills and knowledge to work with it and make molds.
Argentina is one of the countries where pararowing is still growing. One of the main thighs being the challenges in the availability of material and the necessary adaptations required to expand the sport across more clubs. Additionally, it is important to consider that discrimination within certain clubs serves as another impediment, denying athletes with disabilities. Although discrimination has to be addressed to make it clear that it is not tolerated in any circumstances, having no access to resources should not be a valid reason to not take paralympic athletes in their clubs.
In 2010, Club Regatas La Plata, one of the 46 rowing clubs in Argentina, introduced pararowing as a category within the rowing team aiming to achieve high sport performance. Going past the different opinions that can pop, few of them coming from limited exposure to Pararowing. Nonetheless, the project persisted, fostering success in this field requires a lot of commitment from the institution and the professional working. Human barriers in the development of pararowing are unfortunately common; however, the crucial aspect is to assemble a group of individuals willing to continue working despite these challenges.
As pararowing witnessed growth, the main challenge was manufacturing the materials that were non-existent in the country. To be able to do that coaches and athletes worked together to explore methods for creating adaptations, prioritizing the comfort of the athlete in the boat. Over the course of ten years of development in that club, they created various types of materials and specific adaptations both in boats and in the rowing ergometers, using different materials that were available.
In order to keep the development of pararowing in Argentina and also in countries facing similar challenges, it is very important to have a dedicated team of coaches and volunteers, a space where everyone can express their ideas freely and feel content. Another thing to keep in mind is growing a community to help support during activities or fundraising in times of need. However, addressing material shortages should be mainly by partnerships or sponsorship to ensure a proper execution.
An alternative approach, one that works better and blends together the community, the fundraising, and the team to be able to manufacture the materials to adapt the boat, is bringing these concerns to a school or university with design or engineering programs to present the needs as a project for the students. This not only helps get the material in need, but also helps create a sense of community and promotes pararowing in places that other ways may not reach. The fundings can come from the schools or sponsorships that are going to be easy to find if presenting a collaborative project with an educational institution.
Applying these methods to be able to get the materials in need the team of Club Regata La Plata has welcomed nine individuals with various disabilities, five from whom have been part of the Pararowing National Team in different international events. Although the club no longer has pararowing athletes, the approaches have transcended to the athletes at the national team, specially to the two categories that require tailored equipment to compete effectively, and also to clubs around. The coach who is responsible for the development at the club, alongside a club rower, collaborates with other clubs that express interest in pararowing. They work together and give them assistance and resources to make it easier for the activity to get started.
About the authors
Author: Brenda Sardón is a pararowing athlete pursuing a degree in Humanities and Social Sciences.
Collaborator: Juan Esteban Rivarola, developer of pararowing at Club Regatas La Plata and former assistant coach at the National Team. Degree in Physical Education.