First-year women’s rowing coach Jason Read is, in the physical sense, an atypical rower.
Standing at 6-feet tall, Read is relatively short for a rower. All throughout his career, he has had to work a little bit harder to compete.
“I’m a lot smaller than most of the guys I row with, all through out high school, college, and on the national team,” Read said. “I have to do things like stretch a lot to be as long as the other guys. I have to go really hard all the time. I have to be relentless in the pursuit of excellence.”
Read, who graduated in 2003, was part of a squad during his senior year that became one of the most successful teams in program history and also in the nation. The team made its mark after finishing 5th in the National Collegiate Championships in 2000.
“We dug deep, and we were on a mission to do whatever we could to do the best that we possibly could,” Read said of his Temple team. “For the seniors in the boat, we wanted to go out in a bang.”
Despite being undersized, Read has participated in two Olympics, leading the U.S. men’s rowing team to its first gold medal at the Athens summer games in 2004.
“To go to Athens where it all began, in such a historic city, and to win a gold medal, was absolutely incredible,” Read said.
Read has been a staple of the U.S. national team, helping them win its only gold medal in history at Athens in 2004. Not only did they win, but the world record they set of (5:19.85) still stands today. For Read, competing in Athens was a surreal experience.
His international career hasn’t lost any steam since. Read recently returned from Mexico, where the U.S. won a gold medal at the Pan America games on Oct. 19. His national teammates chose him as the country’s flag-bearer, representing all U.S. teams for the opening ceremonies.
“I was very humbled and shocked,” Read said. “Walking in to a brand new soccer stadium, with 55,000 Mexicans going absolutely bananas, was simply awe inspiring.”
Being chosen for such an honor and representing his country holds a special significance for Read. As chief of the Amwell Valley Ringoes Rescue Squad in New Jersey from 1999 to 2008, he was one of the rescue responders that went to ground zero on Sept. 11.
“The absolute worst part of the human experience was witnessed that day,” Read said. “That said, the best part of the human experience we got to see in respect to the volunteers and the outpouring of support all over the country.
“That’s what’s inspiring, and that’s what I dedicated my rowing to,” Read added. “That’s what I use as my motivation.”
Read returns to a program at Temple where he made history. This year marks the 25th anniversary season of the women’s crew team, and Read said he plans to initiate a new system to revitalize the program.
“I’m employing, in order to meet our requirements, what’s called the four pillars of high performance,” Read said. “The four pillars are alertness, agility, adaptability and alignment. Those four things are critical for any organization’s success.”
Overcoming the challenges of not fitting the standard look for a rower, however, helped form his style of coaching. Read said that instead of basing his decisions off speculation, he looks for something more in his athletes.
“Whether you’re the smallest person on the team or the biggest person on the team, everybody has the opportunity to make the top boats,” Read said. “If they’re moving the boat, then they’re going to get a shot. Everyone gets a fair shake. If you’re dogmatic, and believe that size is everything, than you’re going to overlook rowers in a boat that could potentially do better than you think.”
“I felt like the women’s rowing team has been outside of this athletic department’s success,” Read added. “It’s not the girls fault, they’re working hard. But I’m setting in motion systems that will give them the tools to achieve the requirements that have been established.”
Helping him to achieve that goal will be his former head coach at Temple, Dr. Gavin White, who still coaches the men’s team. White, who’s in his 33rd season as the men’s coach and was inducted in to the Temple athletics hall of fame, serves as a guiding force for Read.
“The lessons of leadership, focus, precision and dedication were certainly refined by [White],” Read said of his time with White as a rower. “Now I have the exciting job of working alongside of him. I get to see and work with him everyday, so every day I learn something from Gavin.”
As Read looks ahead, he looks to continue his success in both his career as a rower and as a coach.
Daniel Craig can be reached at email@example.com.