By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
John Crilly made a bold move four years ago. He had a vision, one that was put into focus by his rowing students at Navesink River Rowing, a goal Crilly felt he needed to realize.
“They came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Crilly, what are we going to do in the wintertime, because we want to be competitive in the spring?'” he said.
That’s where the bold move came in. Crilly owned an ergonomic rowing machine, but having students take turns on it wasn’t going to work.
“I went to my wife and asked her if it’d be OK if we could tap into the home equity to buy five more,” he said.
In the first year of Navesink Indoor Rowing, Crilly worked with a dozen students using the six machines. Today, the club has some two dozen machines utilized by more than 60 members from all over Monmouth and Ocean counties most of them high school kids, but with a strong adult contingent mixed in. Crilly says it’s the only indoor rowing club in the area he’s aware of.
And he’s still got a home.
Crilly, who runs the program early in the mornings and on certain afternoons at the Shrewsbury Fire Company, where he’s a volunteer, isn’t concerned about enrollment numbers, though.
The idea is to get students ready for their next challenge in rowing, whether it’s to earn a college scholarship or shave a couple seconds off their race times. And these are not your casual rowers. Most of them are at the firehouse at 6a five days a week.
“These are dedicated kids,” Crilly said.
With the clubs growth has come a diverse number of rowers on the erg machines.
One of Crilly’s favorite prospects is Salvador Tecalero, a Red Bank Regional soccer player who never gave rowing a thought until kids’ advocate David Prown suggested he check it out. At 16, Tecalero has a load of potential that could be put to good use if he sticks with it, Crilly said.
“I didn’t even know about the sport,” Tecalero said. “I didn’t know anything, but now I really like it. I know it’s going to help me.”
Rowing indoors has its advantages that can’t be found on the water, Crilly said. For one, he and his coaches are practically on top of the students and can instantly correct their stroke or posture. That’s not to mention that the rowers are constantly in competitive shape.
“It’s good training because rowing, especially erging, it’s a full-body workout,” said Will Parish, a Rumson-Fair Haven senior. “It helps with your power out on the water. Rowing and staying with each other helps in the spring, and helps with strokes, power, speed.”
For Crilly, the club is 100-percent about the kids. But he takes anybody with an enthusiasm for the sport. A lot of his adult rowers, he said, are often in awe of what’s getting accomplished at NIR.
“Some of the adults would come and say, I love it being about the kids,” Crilly said. “But if you want to do this and learn a sport, you can do it when you’re 90 years old. You want to learn how to row? We’ll teach you to row.”
Even with the club’s success, there’s a little room for growth. Crilly is at the firehouse daily, and does timed races on Saturday mornings. An insurance broker during business hours, Crilly, who also has three children, makes it possible for just about anybody with the desire to learn or bone up on their rowing schools to do so under his guidance.
He recently started up an exclusive adult-only program that runs from 9 to 10a on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “for anyone who doesn’t have a nine-to-five job.”
“Everything is four balls in the air with me,” Crilly said, “but it can be done.”
The club’s season wraps up on February 27 with the Two River Erg Challenge, a timed race. Crilly is looking to get sponsorships so he can buy his students racing shirts, so any business owner out there who’s interested can contact Crilly via email.