Row to success
Youth crewing teams flourishing along the Space Coast
The first intercollegiate sporting event in the United States dates back to 1852 when the Harvard rowing team defeated Yale in a regatta held at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.
Since then, it has become a popular team sport that has attracted athletes of all skill levels, genders and backgrounds. It embodies an all-around full body workout with fewer chances of injuries than other team sports.
Rowers are part of a team and, unlike any other team sport, no one sits on the bench waiting to play. They are grouped in a boat with equal talent and each rower being a part of a machine working harmoniously for success.
Space Coast Crew, a nonprofit organization that is celebrating its 25th year, comprises students who attend middle school, high school or are home schooled.
The organization includes a variety of programs and provides opportunities for high school competitors to be recruited by and receive scholarships from colleges.
Under the leadership of Bryan and Jocelyn Little, the men’s and women’s teams have not only broken records but have become contenders beyond the state level.
The Littles, who took over SCC in 2017, have taken 64 athletes to the USRowing Youth Nationals the past two years.
TOP 10 FINISHES
In April, the men’s varsity team finished fifth overall during the two-day Florida Scholastic Rowing Association State Championship held at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota. The women’s team finished fourth out of eight in the finals. This was the second time in the last 16 years that Space Coast Crew men’s varsity eight earned medals at the state championship.
Some of the experienced middle school rowers also attended states this year as novice rowers and reveled in the experience of racing on the high school level at a world-class venue.
Little, a U.S. Navy veteran who has enjoyed traveling the world, has always had a passion for being on the water with nature. He met his wife, Jocelyn, while stationed in Jacksonville. Her experience as a former NCAA crew team member at Michigan State was what ended up being their connection.
After working with private schools in Rochester, Minnesota, and in Tampa, they finally found their way to Brevard.
“We’ve now declared the Boat House, where our SCC teams and club practice and train at Oars & Paddles Park near the Banana River, our home,” Little said.
“We truly love mentoring these youth, as well as working with parents and the Space Coast community that supports us, enabling SCC to be able to have more resources for equipment, travel, etc.,” Bryan Little said.
“We are coaches and educators, but our classroom is on the river. My goals are always to engage and instruct these kids about everything from nutrition, discipline, integrity, reliability, mental toughness, and most importantly, what I refer to as ‘conflict resolution and teamwork.’”
Melbourne’s Duke Campbell, an alumnus of the 2022 varsity team, began rowing in his freshman year and joined Space Coast Crew as a sophomore. He will be heading to Georgetown University on an athletic scholarship this fall. Two of his teammates, Jack Neville and Lincoln Hendricks, will attend Stetson University.
After receiving a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes midway through his freshman year while on the Melbourne High crew team, Campbell said he was devastated.
“Always a healthy kid, this news came as a huge shock,” he confessed. “I threw all of my self-pity and anger into the boat. Just a week after learning the news, I competed at Florida Tech’s Erg Sprints and did not place.”
But rowing was his passion, and he soon realized the diagnosis was not going to stop him.
“This event was essential, as it was where my journey as a rower ultimately began,” he said. “I had to figure out a new diet, a new mindset and the things that fueled me, as well as those that sent me on a downward spiral. I learned a lot about my body, and began to become more in tune with it and listen to its every move.”
Campbell decided to join Space Coast Crew during his sophomore year. After navigating his health issues, Campbell excelled quickly, clocking the fastest 2k, and he soon became the best rower on the varsity team.
“I believe it was ultimately the support from his coach and crew mates that has continued to fuel his success,” his mother, Joy Duke, shared.
“Although I am proud of my grit and perseverance, I am most proud of my leadership and strength,” Campbell said. “I learned how to influence and inspire, and hope to move forward with this attitude as I face new teammates and challenges in college.”
“I will certainly miss Duke Campbell and his dedication, as well as the other 2021-22 team members who were a part of last seasons’ varsity teams,” Little said. “His courage, attitude and leadership will likely lead him to success at Georgetown.”
Campbell said he hopes to pursue a career involving the medical field. Through his experience in crew he said has learned the importance of teamwork.
“We can only go as fast as the slowest person,” Little added. “Thus, these athletes learn to help one another. I have continued every year to witness their selfless and caring behavior toward one another, something that is most gratifying as a coach.
“Each seat in the boat creates a need for one another, and commitment and dedication to one another are paramount, as the boat is a chain, and no one wants to be the weakest link.”
IF INTERESTED …
For more information on row camp or Space Coast Crew, contact Bryan Little at Sccheadcoach@gmail.com
or visit SpaceCoastCrew.org
Sue DeWerff Panzarino
Sue is an avid surfer, shark attack survivor and storyteller who loves to write about the wonderful people and great organizations on the Space Coast.