Published 11/03/11

Women’s Crew making a splash

November 2011

In the wee hours while most of their classmates sleep, a dedicated group of students leave campus and travel to the Woonasquatucket Reservoir, more commonly known as Stump Pond. It’s practice time for Bryant’s newest club sport: women’s crew. Rowers move the boat through the water as fast as they can, maximizing speed and power by matching strokes and timing in a graceful, synchronous movement.

“I was completed shocked when he said that if I decided to attend Bryant, I could start a crew team with his full support.’”

Nicola Dechamps

Bryant’s new crew team came to be because of one tenacious student and the enthusiastic response of President Ronald K. Machtley. In the spring of 2010, Nicola Dechamps ’14 (Avon, CT) was attending an event on campus with her dad when President Machtley joined them. When he asked about her activities, Dechamps explained that she became a rower when her high school started a crew team. She hasn’t necessarily planned to row in college but was definitely interested, she told President Machtley.

“I was completed shocked when he said that if I decided to attend Bryant, I could start a crew team with his full support,” says Dechamps. “After a lot of thought, I e-mailed him the next night and said, ‘Game on, President Machtley – let’s start a women’s crew team at Bryant.’”

Through the generous financial support of Elizabeth and Malcolm ‘09H (1934-2011) Chace, two “eights” and a “four” were purchased (boats are named for the number of rowers in them). An accomplished master rower, George Shuster, offered to help train the team as the search for a head coach began. Rowing machines were purchased for training. All that was needed was a team.

Dechamps, then a freshman, began reaching out to classmates and upperclassmen. Coach Shuster held the first workout session, covering basic form, body positioning, and a training plan. Next, the Student Senate recognized the team as an official Bryant Club Sport. In April 2011, the rowers went out on their maiden voyage.

In the fall, after the arrival of head coach Mark LaBossiere, full-time water training began. A new dock was installed to launch the boats safely, though until a building permit was received, the team had to wade in – sometimes chest deep – to set their boat into the water. “Right now, it still feels like a small homegrown team, but I can feel the potential,” says Dechamps. “To be part of something that is so much bigger than I am is truly remarkable.”

On October 29, less than two years from Dechamps’ request, the Bryant University Rowing Team raced at the Quinsigamond Novice Challenge in Worcester, MA. On November 6, they compete in their second regatta, The Merrimack Chase. From there, they will enter a winter training season following by a very exciting spring sprints season.

Despite the pressure of knowing that the team will compete against some of the most highly respected college teams, Dechamps is grateful for the opportunities that Bryant has afforded her, noting that, “The respect and regard that I have received as a student have been overwhelming. This encouragement and support is true of Bryant’s nature overall and reflected in the relationships between students, faculty, and staff.”