Cherokee students take the oars

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Gym classes at Cherokee County middle schools are moving beyond ball games and running the track. A recent equipment grant worth $45,000 now has kids working out on rowing machines.

The Cherokee district was one of two in the country selected for the award from the George Pocock Rowing Foundation. The 20 Concept2 RowErgs (indoor rowing machines) and the accompanying Erg Ed curriculum launched at Mill Creek Middle and has begun a rotation to other middle schools. Each will get to try the machines twice during the school year.

Getting kids to row came from an idea presented to the district by Ann Carey, head coach of the Allatoona Rowing Association that’s been on the water for three years.

“We have an adult program with about 25 rowers of both genders and a competitive high school team,” said the Canton resident. “We’re hoping to start a middle school development team, so the idea is to introduce rowing to students who wouldn’t normally be exposed to it. In a classroom, we can reach all economic and diversity levels.”

The idea was welcomed by the district’s PE teachers, said Jana Redman, a Mill Creek teacher. “When we were asked about it, the answer was a resounding, ‘Yes!’ It’s a good fit for the middle school curriculum and a way to introduce them to the sport.”

Having the equipment provided was a plus, said Donna Ross, another Mill Creek PE teacher.

“We raise money for our own equipment, so the ‘yes’ was also a way to say we need more so we can do more stuff and offer more opportunities for students to learn new skills,” she said. “Rowing is a skill that can be used the rest of their lives through clubs and teams that compete.”

By having the machines in the middle schools, the largest numbers of students can get to try them out, Ross said.

“We reach about 900 kids a quarter,” she stated. “So it’s a great way to reach the largest majority of kids who have never tried rowing.”

Carey visited one of Ross’ rowing classes and observed first-hand the students’ reactions.

“They were really having fun,” she said. “They’re exposed to a lot of ball sports when they’re young, but rowing usually comes a bit later due to the size of the equipment. It’s been great to watch them learn something new something they can do through their adult lives.”

After the schools end their rotation, Carey invites students to attend an open house at the club’s headquarters on Lake Allatoona and to try out their new skills in the water. The turnout so far has been high.

“The students have told us they want more time on the machines, so we can tell they’ve been a success,” said Ross. “We’ve been thrilled with their performance and success. Anytime we can get something new added to what we’re already doing is an exciting opportunity.”

Information about Mill Creek Middle is online at Details about the Allatoona Rowing Association are at

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