Shoveling Their Way to the HOCR

By Bri Hollis | Published on October 18, 2014

Spending pre-dawn mornings shoveling snow around campus in the wintertime, Grand Valley State University rowing team members keep warm with thoughts of the Head of the Charles.

The school’s club program, out of Allendale, Mich., performs various campus-labor tasks in order to fund its way to events like the Head of the Charles and spring training in Florida. While the work may not be the most glorifying, the athletes express that they take pride in their duties and find it well worth the end result.

Grand Valley State University coach John Bancheri

“It’s a good amount of work,” says Laura Marshall, a 2012 graduate from GVSU who is competing on the school’s women’s alumni eight boat this weekend. “But really, we’re happy to do it. It’s such an amazing program and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”

Alongside shoveling show, these student-athletes also fundraise by cleaning the football stadium and basketball arena after games, and other various event set-up and take-down tasks.

“This is a major fundraiser, as well as a major service for the university,” says Head Coach John Banchieri. “The university loves us.”

The work ethic that these rowers showcase in their off-the-water duties translates to their athletic determination as well.

“The fact that we’re a club team and know that we work so hard to get to these big races really gives us that kind of underdog pride,” says Nick Maodush-Pitzer, president of the club. “Not only are we working hard to get here, we’re also focusing and working hard to raise money, too.”

And over the past nine years, this underdog team has proven itself fit to compete with some of the top varsity programs in the country.

When Banchieri started coaching the rowing team in 2006, Grand Valley State was ranked 126 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). He tells of his first practice when he put up the ranking chart on the wall – complete with GVSU listed as 126 – and then tore it down in front of the athletes.

“That’s never going to happen again,” he told them.

And it didn’t. By the end of his first year as head coach, the program was ranked in the 50s and hasn’t fallen beneath that ranking ever since. By 2009, the program went so far as to reach the No. 19 spot, and the women won the Collegiate Eights at the Head of the Charles last year.

“We’re a club sport that functions as a varsity sport,” Banchieri explains.

Grand Valley state has six boats racing in the Regatta: male and female teams for collegiate eights, collegiate fours and alumni eights.  Both the men and women have graduated about half of their key members, but based on current erg scores and what Banchieri has seen so far, he still has strong hopes for all of the teams racing.

The athletes possess a confidence toward the upcoming races that appears to be rooted in their work ethic expressed thus far.

“Because of all of the effort that we put in to get here, you can tell that we all really want to be here,” says Maodush-Pitzer. “And I’m so excited to see how all of our hard work has paid off this weekend.”


Volunteer for HOCR

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Make this year’s Head Of The Charles® a success. There are many opportunities to get involved over race weekend and before.