Rowing historically is not found as a have Public School program, making it difficult for city youth to be involved with the sport. Even with club programs (school or community-based), rowing is a very expensive sport. One boat can cost as much as $30,000 and it’s not uncommon for high school teams to cost over $1,000 per year per athlete. This price does not include transportation and race expenses or the cost for weather appropriate workout/race clothing. With these high expenses it is rare to find urban kids active in the sport. First Row is unique because it offers the high quality coaching and equipment at no cost to the athletes. Transportation, race fees and some workout clothes are all paid for thanks to our generous funders like you!
First Row aims to diversify the sport of rowing in Pittsburgh by including female students from Pittsburgh’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The lack of athletic programs for women in the urban population places these girls at risk for future health problems experienced by minority populations. First Row meets four times a week during the school year. During this time we work toward reducing participant’s risk for lifestyle-related diseases by helping them increase and maintain their physical activity level. Rowing also teaches them how to approach and handle complex tasks and projects which, in turn, helps to increase their self-confidence as they experience improvement in the sport and in their overall fitness. This combined focus on an active lifestyle along with learning life skills in a team setting, position the girls for future success in the Pittsburgh community.
The First Row season runs Monday through Thursday starting the second week in September and ending the last week of May. Before going on the water, athletes undergo swim lessons given by a certified instructor at the Sarah Heinz House. Each girl goes through a series of instructions to increase their comfort level in and around the water, and to help them pass the TRRA required swim test. We do lessons in October and in February for new athletes joining the team. Every girl must maintain her membership by attending practices regularly and demonstrating her dedication to the team at practices and races.
We specifically focus on diversity and inclusion of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with limited access to athletic programs. The schools we recruit from are chosen based on the demographics of the neighborhoods served, the connections to the schools and the feasibility of providing transportation. All schools serve economically disadvantaged minorities in Pittsburgh’s urban neighborhoods and are located within five miles of TRRA’s Training Facilities. Currently, we offer transportation to girls attending Perry HS, City High, Northside Urban Pathways, CAPA 6-12 and University Prep/Milliones. We are constantly working to provide transportation to more schools. Although the focus is to recruit at-risk girls, all girls interested in attending the program are accepted. Enrollment is open regardless of academic standing.