These days, coach Rebecca Grzybowski can rarely be found rowing on the water.
Instead, when she is not in a rowing coach launch or in an ergometer room guiding her team, Grzybowski can often be spotted running road races on land. One of her fondest memories growing up, Grzybowski said, was jogging alongside her dad and brothers around her neighborhood.
The rowing coach has always been an athlete, whether it be soccer, basketball or rowing, where she has had the most success. After the crew and rowing programs were reinstated in February, reversing the university’s December decision to cut the teams, Grzybowski and longtime crew coach Gavin White were named the 2013 Schuylkill Navy Coaches of the Year.
“This year we wanted to embrace the Temple rowing community as a whole and also the two coaches who have led that community,” Schuylkill Navy Commodore Margaret Meigs said.
After the rowing team’s reinstatement, Grzybowski will have the opportunity to continue her head coaching career past her second season this year.
Grzbowski was first introduced to the sport of rowing by her pediatrician and later competed herself when she joined the rowing team at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., as a novice her freshman year. During her four years on the team, Grzybowski helped lead the program to achieving several accolades, including a gold medal for the Varsity 8 at the 2002 Avaya Collegiate Rowing Championships her senior year as team captain.
Although the Crusader graduated from Holy Cross in 2002, Grzybowski stayed and became an assistant coach.
“Learning how to coach, it was a bit of a whirlwind,” Grzybowski said. “It was like getting tossed in completely. I knew what good rowing felt like from the inside of a boat but it was a totally different story trying to tell other people from the outside how to make [the boat] go fast.”
After two years of coaching at her alma mater, Grzybowski moved to Philadelphia in 2004 to pursue her growing rowing aspirations. Grzybowski dedicated seven years of her life to training full-time, twice a day, six days a week – and sometimes on Sunday – at the Vesper Boat Club on Boathouse Row, while working a nine-to-five job in commercial real estate.
Her biggest contribution to the Philadelphia rowing community came in 2008, when Grzybowski qualified for the women’s national team. Rowing in seat three, Grzybowski helped her lightweight quad boat to a bronze medal performance, finishing behind Poland and Australia at the World Rowing National Championship in Austria.
“The Philadelphia rowing community takes a lot of pride in putting local athletes on the national team,” Grzybowski said. “It is definitely a source of pride and something we strive for every day, so to feel that support, it was awesome.”
Since then, Grzybowski has returned to the coaching scene where she served as the assistant coach at Bucknell from 2009-11. During that time, Grzybowski got engaged, which led her back to Philadelphia with another coaching job in mind.
In 2011, Grzybowski applied for the women’s coaching position at Temple and didn’t get the job. Instead, Grzybowski became the team’s assistant coach.
“I actually consider, in retrospect, probably that was the best thing to happen,” Grzybowski said. “I got to know the team, the culture, the people at Temple and really understood what I was getting myself into.”
A year later, Grzybowski rose to the head coaching position after Jason Read left to pursue other opportunities.
Now into her second season, many rowers on the team said they value the positive reinforcement Grzybowski incorporates into her coaching style. Junior Susan O’Neil Coye said Grzybowski runs upbeat practices, which makes workouts easier.
One instance during competition, Coye said, was when the team was competing this past fall in Boston at the Head of the Charles Regatta.
“We were in a category that was really difficult,” Coye said. “The U.S. national team was racing in the same category and we had a really solid race for the level we were rowing at. And even though we didn’t place well within that group, instead of saying, ‘We should have won,’ Rebecca was like, ‘For us that was a really good place to be in a category of such great rowers,’ – which is a really good way to look at things.”
Danielle Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Dan_Nels.