Bethan Walters: moving from student to club rower
Bethan Walters rowed at the University of Reading and after graduating and starting work as a trainee solicitor, now rows at Tideway Scullers, one of the most successful clubs in the country. She made the final in elite pairs at Henley Women’s Regatta, placed tenth at WEHoRR, won a silver medal at Ghent Regatta and a pennant at Scullers Head. An impressive rowing CV for a club athlete.
Student athletes are nurtured in an environment of structure and support. Free gym membership, discounted physio sessions, top level coaching, nutrition seminars and academic advice are some of the benefits available to university rowers at Reading.
This system of support, alongside the camaraderie of a student boat club, ceases to exist to a large extent after graduation. Costs can no longer be subsidised and there is a delicate balance between a club having the finances to provide resources necessary for the club to perform and keeping membership costs affordable. Whereas rowing could fit around academics at university, as a trainee solicitor working up to 14 hours a day at times, how do you find time to keep up with a training programme?
Bethan Walters at four racing in the Tideway Scullers School eight at Henley Royal Regatta in 2018
For Walters it is about keeping sight of why she rows and the transition from university to club rowing is easy if you can keep in mind why you are doing it. Rowing provides an outlet from her hectic work life, time to herself and an opportunity to forget about her day in the office and focus on something she does just for her. Kieran Clark, the women’s squad coach at TSS, has been fundamental in the success of the Chiswick-based club and understands well that it isn’t always possible for the whole squad to train together.
Whilst working on a big case at the beginning of the year, it became very difficult for Walters to make it to organised sessions. Clark agreed that as long as she continued training on her own and submitted scores like everyone else, she could still be in contention for crew boats. Whilst she faced the unpleasant reality of solo ergos, it was all worth it for Walters. This kind of self-sufficiency is vital as a club rower. University rowers at times can be a bit spoon-fed; they have everything organised for them whereas club rowers have to take initiative to excel.
Bethan Walters (4th from right) with the Tideway Scullers School women’ss eight at Henley Royal Regatta in 2018
Ultimately, it is ambition that drives people to continue rowing to a high level after university. When Walters was told she could row faster as a club athlete than she ever had before, that was all the encouragement she needed. Most rowers at some point face late nights and solo training, but this just makes the squad stronger.
“At TSS there are so many people who are excelling in top careers and still succeeding in rowing. Being surrounded by such inspirational people it’s impossible to not feel like you can push on that bit more each session,” Walters told WEROW. Utilising each club member’s expertise is pivotal to success; for example, those with a background in nutrition have given talks at TSS. The best results come from making the most of each individual’s talents.
Article by Molly Shaw
Molly Shaw learned to row at Sudbury as a junior during which time she medalled at Brit Champs and NJIRC and represented the Eastern Region at JIRR. After illness put a stop to her competitive rowing at university, Molly has since qualified as a coach and begun writing more widely, having started a blog in 2015.