I’ll level with you, I’m struggling to reconcile the fact that I’m in my 30’s, particularly as my work mentor recently told me that in your 20’s it’s the effort that counts in your 30’s its results. The same could be said for rowing coaches, it defines that line between a rowing coach and a good rowing coach, so let’s get that bit out of the way:

  • Five crews qualified for Henley Royal Regatta in three years
  • Quarter finals of Henley Women’s Regatta
  • The highest finishing position of a Curlew crew at HORR
  • The highest finishing position of a Curlew crew at 4s Head
  • Medium club pennant at WEHORR
  • Category wins at Vets 4s Head and Scullers Head
  • British Masters championship wins
  • Countless pots at national regattas ranging from Nottingham Regatta to St Neots

I could go on but just that portion of the list shows the impact that Fred Badowski has had in his three and a half years as Curlew Head Coach.

The club asked Fred to bring success and days in the HRR tent and WHR boat park back to Curlew after a few years of striving and just missing out, he delivered. Just quoting the above list however does Fred a dis-service. First and foremost, Fred is a rowing man, it runs through his veins having been involved in the sport before most of us were a twinkle in our parents eyes. He is also a club man, I remember once suggesting that I was pretty tired after training and so might skip helping out at the club open day and just go home to relax, Fred wasn’t having it. He calmly, but firmly, explained how important giving back more to the club than you take out was. He undeniably practiced what he preached, however he never did anything for material recognition. We know this from the multiple times we have tried to give him a club blazer but been abruptly rebuked. I’m pretty sure Matt is still pestering him to swap his red coaching outfit or pro-feminism t-shirts for Curlew branded attire.

Fred doesn’t appear to coach for personal mementoes or material rewards. My view is Fred coaches because

  1. he loves the sport and
  2. he knows that you, as the athlete, can achieve more than you think you can.

Session after session we strove to step out of the boat or off the ergo with a win or a PB and see that wry smile on Fred’s face and a comment along the lines of “see, I told you” or “that was almost good”. Whilst his techniques were sometimes old school or eccentric, many of us have been fitter than we’ve ever been and achieved more than we ever thought possible. The intensity of the training plan and the ruthlessness of the crew selection meant that squads and crews were bound together in a certain kinship, we were all in it together and, whilst competing for seats, we all wanted each other to succeed. The roar that lit up the Henley boating area when the Wyfold four qualified in 2017 epitomized this. These bonds were not an accident. Fred knew what he was doing. The adage of ‘Fred knows best’ grew ever stronger.

There is one thing more important than rowing to Fred, his family. The pride and love for them emanates from him as he talks about his latest grandchild or Penny. He re-enforced this in his athletes, he asks for full commitment to the sport, but if you had a family event that needed your attention a friendly arm would come round your shoulder and steer you back to your bike or car to go home and not think about rowing.

So as Fred makes the difficult decision to spend less time at the boathouse and more time in his house on a sunny cliff in Crete overlooking the bay, what can we give him to mark his achievements and what he’s given to the club and its athletes. A blazer, we’ve tried that multiple times. A t-shirt or other memorabilia, good luck catching him to give it to him. A boat name, he’s more than happy with his silver tub launch at Thames Tradesman. A new loud hailer, we bought him one of those three years ago….never saw it again. How about this. Thank you, Fred. Thank you from all of us at Curlew Rowing Club, hopefully a part of you is now blue. Thank you also from me, for making everything I dreamed of doing in rowing, come true.

Words by Club Treasurer John Stewart

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