Coach White set to return for his 36th year

White will continue to coach in a limited role as he battles Parkinson’s Disease.

Gavin White hasn’t had enough yet.

The men’s crew coach will be returning to the coaching launch in the fall for his 36th consecutive season leading his squad on the Schuylkill River.

White, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2002 — a brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to move — has continued to coach while fighting the disease.

“I think I would rather keep busy as much as I can and I enjoy working with the kids,” White said. “I get a lot more energy and get to make connections in terms of energy and motivation when I work with these kids or any kids that I  have ever coached.”

Last season, White coached Temple’s Second Varsity 8 and the Lightweight 4 boats to gold medals at the Dad Vail Regatta, the largest intercollegiate rowing competition in the country, and the Varsity 8 boat made its first appearance in the Finals of the Vails since 2012.

Now, ready to prepare for another year, the 20-time Dad Vail Regatta Varsity 8 Champion coach said he hopes the team can continue its success from last season.

“Everybody is back in the Varsity 8 and they are all seniors,” White said. “In the Second Varsity 8 we had four seniors, so half of that boat is coming back. All the freshmen and all the 4’s will be back, so we look good. We will be stronger next year.”

Similar to last season, White will be taking on a less active role with the team because of his struggles with the disease.

For the past few years, White has been assisted by a walker and is unable to get to the banks of the Schuylkill River without his wife and other family members driving him to practices and to the different  Regattas during the fall and spring seasons.

“Brian [Perkins] will be doing most of the coaching,” White said. “He will be doing most of the coaching for the Varsity 8 and Junior Varsity 8. He will be working with me during the week.”

Perkins, a former Temple rower under White from 1988 to 1992 and a graduate assistant for the team from 1995 to 1998, has been a volunteer assistant coach for the Owls since 2010.

“We talk about his future a lot, Perkins said. “He is pretty frank about his limitations now, physically things are getting a little tougher for him but he still has an eye and a mind for the sport that we all benefit from.”

In May 2014, White underwent his second Deep Brain Stimulator Adjustment Surgery to treat different symptoms of the disease.

“The surgery helped a lot as far as slowing down the illness that I am facing,” White said.   I am not shaking as much as I was, I don’t have much of a problem walking. I’m not great at walking but I am better than I was.”

Rising senior and Varsity 8 rower Bryan Berry is looking forward to White’s return, as the long-time coach is a constant source of energy and motivation.

“He has been the coach his entire life so he knows how to do it and even with this disease, it doesn’t slow him down,” Berry added. “It makes it a little harder on him but he is still able to do a lot of what he likes to do when it comes to coaching. He is still just as interactive, and with the help of our assistants he is still able to do everything that he needs to do.”

As he did last season, White will be watching most of the practices from afar as he will be attending the practices two to three days per week instead of six.

“In the past, I would see him and Monday he would be fired up,” Perkins said. “Tuesday he would be good. Wednesday, Thursday he would get a little more tired and by Saturday he would be just wiped out. So, what we decided was ‘We need you coach, so why don’t you rest up and come down a couple days a week and keep your own strength up, stay involved with the program,’ because any success that we have at Temple crew, this is the house that Gavin built.”

White will continue to oversee the workouts and make suggestions. Last year, Perkins would make the week’s schedule and send it to White, who would make suggestions or approve it and send it back to his assistants.

“The benefit of that was with White coming down every couple of days and he got to see the progress and what we worked on,” Perkins said.

Alongside Perkins, Scott Waters, Dan Goettner and Patrick Curran will return to the coaching staff as volunteer assistants. Both Waters and Curran rowed under White during their time at Temple, while Goettner rowed at St. Joseph’s University.

Waters, who started his first year as an assistant last season, will continue to coach the Varsity 4, Lightweight Varsity 4 and the Freshman 4. While Curran, a graduate assistant, will continue to assist Goettner with the Novice 8 boat next year.

“Everything that we did was coming from Gav, even when he wasn’t there,” Berry said. “So the coaches that were there and available were pretty much acting for Gav while he was unavailable to come.”

Danielle Nelson can be reached at or on Twitter @Dan_Nels

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