It was only a few years ago that Sarah Schwegman was racing in the Head of the Charles—first for her alma mater, Georgia Tech, and later for the Riverside Boat Club. This weekend, she returns to the familiar setting—this time not as a competitor, but as a coach.
In late July, as the Radcliffe lightweight crew team finished up its final race of the year, former Crimson coach Lou Berl announced that she would be stepping down. It was with a mix of excitement and sadness the team learned that it would have a new coach for the 2015 season. Sad that it would be losing a cherished coach, but excited to start a new chapter in the Radcliffe program.
“Generally we reacted like feeling this was an opportunity for a fresh perspective, and that Lou had given us a lot of tools to move forward with,” junior co-captain Ruby Emberling said.
Sharing similar sentiments, the team welcomed Schwegman into the program community.
The coach is no stranger to crew or to Harvard. After racing for Georgia Tech from 2000 to 2005, she eventually became vice president of Georgia Tech Rowing. Then after a two-year hiatus following graduation, the Boston native continued her rowing career on the international stage, rowing with Riverside in several international competitions over the next six years, including the Head of the Charles, World Championship Trials, National Selection Regattas, and U.S. Rowing Elite National Championships.
In 2012, as her rowing days began to draw to an end, Schwegman began a move from boat to shore. She started off her coaching career training the sculling program at the Riverside Boat Club, being named named a trustee in the process. She quickly branched out, coaching the Charles River Scullers and masters rowing programs at the Cambridge Boat Club.
When she was not coaching the club programs, Schwegman was either working as a real estate faculty assistant at Harvard Business School or coaching younger rowers at The Winsor School. Under her instruction, the 3V and 4V teams won the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Championships.
This diversity of experience has bred a unique coaching style.
“Sarah is a very different trainer,” Emberling said. “She’s very systematic about how she coaches our technique, and I think Lou was more focused on getting us riled up for hard workouts and the more psychological and motivations aspect of the sport. But they both do each of those things very well.”
Though there was an initial adjustment period, it was clear from the beginning that both the rowers and the coach were on the same page when it came to setting goals for the year: continuing the momentum from a successful spring season, finishing the fall training prepared for spring competitions, and chasing another national title.
Right now, however, the focus is solely on the upcoming weekend. The Head of the Charles is a big stage early in her coaching career, but Schwegman takes the fact that her first race as head coach is the Head of the Charles all in stride.
“There is pressure, but there would be similar pressure for a first race of the season no matter the regatta,” Schwegman said.
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.