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Olympic Rowers Teach LTA Development Camp

Posted June 5, 2015  Rowing

World-renowned rowers Ellen Minzner and Andrea Thies conducted an Adaptive Rowing Camp to improve fitness levels and refine technique on the Charles River in Boston this week.

In partnership with Community Rowing Inc. (CRI), Minzner and Thies, and a team of stellar coaches and coxswains, USABA hosted the fourth annual Adaptive Rowing Camp May 30 – June 3, 2015. USABA partnered with Community Rowing, Inc. to put together a program that included ‘learn to row’ instruction for beginners, drills and critique for more advanced rowers and informational workshops between sessions on the water.

“This was our first year at Community Rowing in Boston. Their facility is top of the line,” said Ryan Ortiz, Assistant Executive Director at USABA.
Minzner and Thies started the camp by teaching proper grip and positioning and finished the camp with a time trial race. Minzner is the Director of Outreach at CRI and Head Coach of the US Paralympic LTA 4+ team. “The growth of this camp has been impressive over the last few years, and we are proud to be hosting it here at CRI, where we are developing para-rowing at every level, from recreational to Paralympic excellence,” said Minzner.

Four of the 13 participants were Veterans of America’s Armed Forces. USABA works to enhance the lives of disabled Veterans and Service Members and to accelerate their rehabilitation process through sport, physical activity and recreation; as well as assist in the integration of those individuals back into their local community through a program called ‘Mission Vision’.

The participants ranged in level of rowing experience from novice to advanced. Army Veteran Jeff Henson (Heflin, Ala.) is an accomplished cyclist, having attended multiple USABA tandem cycling camps and participated in international races. “I wanted to try a new sport,” said Henson who started out in a barge and was rowing in an eight by the end of the camp.

Oppositely, Navy Veteran Don Balcom has attended multiple USABA rowing camps. “It was significantly colder this year,” joked Balcom. Participants were spoiled with a warm and sunny first day on the Charles River upon arrival but that afternoon, a storm system moved into the Northeast and tested participants’ stamina. Luckily, by the last day of camp, weather had improved and the group enjoyed a sunny send-off.

In addition to improving fitness levels and refining technique, the daily program consisted of educational workshops during recovery time on Sports Psychology and Nutrition. Aymee Suarez spoke on the importance of positive self-talk. Suarez taught the group to be aware of thoughts, shift negative thinking to positive thoughts and practice positive self-talk constantly.  Kelsea Gusk spoke on the importance of eating the right foods after work outs and during recovery.

The USABA Development Camp is an important step in the athlete’s overall experience. While about half of the participants were local, half traveled from across the U.S. Natalie McCarthy, Paralympic-hopeful, flew in from Seattle.  “I helped with the camp in Oklahoma City last year and really enjoyed it. It was important to me to be here,” said McCarthy. Each participant qualifies for the LTA (legs, trunk and arms) adaptive classification, which includes athletes who are blind and visually impaired, amputees, or people who have a spinal cord injury.

To learn more about next year’s Adaptive Rowing Camp, contact Ryan Ortiz at If you are local to the Boston area, visit to learn more about getting involved with Community Rowing Inc. programs.