Rowing coach never stands Pat
It’s a dreary Wednesday morning at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and Pat Newman couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate his 56th birthday.
“I remember being 15 and coxing here,” the St. Catharines native said. “Seeing all the people I used to cox and row with, the same buildings, the same place, it’s really cool.”
Rowing is a lifetime passion for the two-time Olympian, who placed ninth in the coxed pair at the 1988 Olympics and fourth in the men’s eight at the 1996 Olympics. He also coxed Canada’s lightweight men’s eight to a gold medal at the 1993 world championships.
“Including coxing, it is all I have done since 1980 and I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and get down to the rowing club and help out.”
The head coach of the Victoria City Rowing Club’s junior program for the past five or six years has brought 29 juniors to compete in the 137th edition of Canadian Henley.
“It is the biggest group that we have brought and it’s great,” he said. “They have trained really hard this year and have done really well on the circuit out west. It’s a huge challenge to come here with all this competition and it will be interesting to see how we do.”
The seven-time Henley champion doesn’t need to tell his rowers how special it is to win a Henley gold.
“For awhile, it has been he biggest domestic regatta in the world so when you win a Henley gold, you have accomplished something truly big,” he said. “You have beaten people who have come from all over the place and now there’s athletes coming from Australia, Mexico and those types of places.”
There is no secret formula to winning on the Henley course.
“It’s believe in yourself and you’ve got to know that when you are three-quarters of the way through the race, if you have done the training, the other people beside you are hurting more than you,” he said.
Newman moved out west after the 1996 Olympics and started his coaching career with the Gorge Rowing Club. He has been coaching with Canada’s under-23 team for the past 15 summers and has also been on coaching staff for events such as the Pan Am Games. At the 2000 Olympics, Newman coached Canadian single sculler Derek Porter to a fourth-place result.
“I love it. It’s all I have ever done and it’s all I know what to do,” he said, with a laugh. “Once you get it in your blood, it is hard to get away from it.
“It’s mostly about the athletes and it’s also about trying to tweak your own craft — how good you can get and that synergy between coach and athlete. It’s always really fun.”
He is constantly evolving as a coach.
“Every person I get in front of I feel I can learn something from and I have an open mind about getting better,” he said. “That has been my approach and it’s why I have improved through the years. I don’t have a closed mind and I am trying to learn as much as I can.”
He puts a lot into his craft.
“I feel that if I can put as much effort in as a coach as what the athletes do on the water, then I will be able to sleep well at night.”
The youngest in a family of nine children has no plans to quit any time soon.
Newman has a sister in Vancouver, a brother in Edmonton, a sister in Toronto and the rest of his family still resides in Niagara.
“Last week, I went out with my four other brothers and we had pizza and wings like you do in Niagara,” he said.
He arrived in Niagara after coaching at the under-23 worlds last week in Florida He had three or four days to visit with friends and family before his junior athletes arrived from British Columbia.