Inspiring a Lifetime of Fitness

More than a thousand young people tackle Community Rowing's YETI

TBF News Spring 2019

“We believe in YETI” was the overwhelming sentiment at this year’s YETI, or Youth Erg Trials International. Held on April 11, it was the culminating event of a program of fitness training, team bonding and access building in public schools run by Community Rowing Incorporated (CRI), a Boston Foundation grantee. Youth activity is a major focus of the Foundation’s Health and Wellness Strategy. 

According to CRI Executive Director Ted Benford, five out of eight Boston Public Schools students go through the Middle School Indoor Rowing Program—an eight-week session that CRI brings to schools with visiting coaches and loaned Concept II ergometers (ergs). 

YETI 2019 attracted more than 1,600 participants from 35 area schools (90 percent from the Boston Public Schools; the rest from outside Boston or private schools), making it the largest indoor rowing competition for youth in the country. Held in the spacious Reggie Lewis Athletic Center, YETI is organized into grade-level “heats” of eight-minute relays evenly divided among four rowers. The ergs record the “distance rowed” in that time and the cumulative distances determine winners for each grade and add up toward a total points award for a school. 

Besides their scheduled races, youth can take an individual one-minute erg challenge, or enjoy activities offered around the arena by other fitness organizations, such as Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center or Child Obesity180 (both Boston Foundation grantees). 

CRI also runs Row Boston, a free athletic offering for BPS middle and high school students that includes practices every weekday, spring andfall interscholastic competitions, weekly one-on-one tutoring, college visiting opportunities and a lifelong supportive network 

Although CRI’s motto is “Rowing for All,” Benford is quick to say that rowing isn’t the sole or even lasting takeaway from exposure to it. Understanding lifetime fitness, working with teammates and learning to access inner strength and outer resources they may not have known existed are the real rewards that stay with students.