Smyth’s career as a rowing coach on the upswing Down Under

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John Browne
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John Smyth’s love of coaching in rowing has led him to a new life in Australia.

John Smyth

Smyth has had a long and varied relationship with the sport.

He rowed for St. Bon’s, Pizza Hut, Academy Canada, Exit Realty and The Independent in the Royal St. John’s Regatta over the years. The 32-year old St. John’s native also rowed sliding seat as a 17 year-old in 1999 under coach Paul Power and went on to compete for the province at the 2001 Canada Summer Games in London, Ont.

Smyth’s sliding-seat career following the Canada Games consisted of a competing at Atlantic regattas, the Canada Cup in Montreal, the Canadian Henley regatta and the national university rowing championships.

“In the midst of all this rowing, I was also starting to develop a love of coaching,” said Smyth, who began mentoring high school rowers in 2000.

He both coached and rowed in 2007, also graduating  from Memorial University  that year. In 2008, he was asked to take on the role of provincial rowing coach.

Later, he got the opportunity to visit former Academy Canada crewmate Jeremy Ivey, who was coaching at the United States Rowing High Performance Centre in Oklahoma City.

“(Ivey) was working with national team coaches, developing future Olympians and coaching rowers headed to the under-23 worlds,” said Smyth. “I spent a week with elite rowers and my confidence grew. That fall, I continued to coach at St. John’s Rowing Club and travelled to the Head of the Hooch (a huge rowing regatta in Chattanooga, Tenn.) for a second year in row.”

During his last three years in St. John’s, Smyth taught physical education on one-year contracts at Bishops College, Holy Spirit High School and Prince of Wales Collegiate.

In 2010, he decided to put his teaching job on hold and began searching for a career in rowing.

“I applied for about 20 positions and was offered employment in North Carolina and California, but salary and visa issues were roadblocks in both cases,” he explained.

A friend who had recently moved to the United Kingdom for work then suggested he search overseas for coaching work.  So he visited Rowing Australia’s website, where he found a job listing an opening for head of rowing at the Rockhampton Grammar School in Queensland.

He applied and in December of 2010,  got the job.

Smyth said while this meant moving to a new country on the other side of the world, the transition went smoothy.

He admitted the first few days rowing in Australia were “a bit surreal.”

However, he added that rowing on an Aussie river and rowing a boat on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s is “fundamentally the same.”

Smyth said he talks to his students all the time about fixed-seat rowing.

“I try to describe it, but I think my words don't do it justice,” he said.

The other obvious difference is that there’s an opportunity to row year-round in Australia. The school rows for 11 months and takes a break from mid-December to mid-January.

What’s not to like about that situation?

Smyth agrees and he’s recently applied for permanent residency in Australia.

 

Brownie points

St. John’s Winmar Capitals player-coach Mark Healy had one word to describe the rebuilt diamond at St. Pat’s Ball Park: “Amazing.”  That was Healy’s reaction Sunday after his Caps won the first three games of the provincial senior baseball final against the Corner Brook Barons. He’s not alone in praise of the work done on field and the park in general. The extensive upgrade is in preparation for the Canadian senior baseball championships at St. Pat’s beginning Aug. 20... Newfoundland darts player Troy Hanlon is going to England in October for the world masters. It will be the seventh time he’s competed in the event. Hanlon, who is from O’Donnell's, St. Mary’s Bay, competed for Canada at the World Darts Federation’s 2013 World Cup in St. John’s... Looking back: the Cabot Street Juniors won the first Inter Street softball championship in 1967. The team included players such as Bob Keats, Dave Dewling, Don Perry, Bill Royle, Wally Clements, Gary Connolly, Mike Yetman and Larry Skanes. The St. John’s league operated for nine years (1967 to 1975), with Cabot Street winning seven of the nine championships. Other winners were Kellands in 1972 and Andrews Auto Supplies in 1975 with a team that included my brothers Jim and Randy Browne... A year ago,  I said the movie ‘42’ about Jackie Robinson would make Chadwick Boseman a star. Boseman is now starring as James Brown in Get on Up, currently playing in St. John’s...

 

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Bishops College, Academy Canada, Pizza Hut The Independent Canada Games Canadian Henley United States Rowing High Performance Centre Rowing Club Hooch Holy Spirit High School Prince of Wales Collegiate.In 2010 Rockhampton Grammar School World Darts Federation Cabot Street Juniors

Geographic location: California, Canada, Regatta London, Ont.Smyth Montreal Oklahoma City Australia Chattanooga, Tenn. North Carolina United Kingdom Queensland Aussie river Quidi Vidi Lake Australia.Browne Ball Park Newfoundland England Inter Street Cabot Street

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