[Article published in Nov 23]

Our last two member focussed articles covered topics that embody our club; community and tradition. We heard from three of our founding members and two of our more recent members.  Each shared their rowing dream teams which hopefully has given you something to think about and also something to chat about next time you are on the water, in the chicken shed or even at our nights out.

The topic for this article is leadership. As someone who has spent far too many hours studying and teaching the topic, the one thing I quickly realised was not to seek a commonly agreed definition of “leadership”. Irrespective of this, there are many words that would absolutely form part of any leadership description including; direction, goal, vision and teamwork.  

This article is going to concentrate on the three office bearers within the committee:

  • Adrian McCreadie – Chair
  • Mike Krus – Secretary
  • Kevin McQueen – Treasurer

They are currently supported in our committee by Jacqui, Morag, Adrienne, Jamie and Mike R (who I am sure will be keen to volunteer for future rowing articles).

A fabulous and very relevant example of leadership for our club is Ernest Shackleton and his fated trans Antarctic voyage. It’s a story you will all know, when in 1914 the Endurance set sail on its great adventure. A year later with Endurance sunk, Shackleton and his crew head out on three small boats heading to the relative safety of Elephant island. If you don’t know the story to this point then its well worth reading and to hear many great leadership examples. Leaping forward to 1916, Shackleton and five of his crew set out in their lifeboat, the James Caird, destined for South Georgia to find help for his remaining men. So let’s pause and put that last sentence in perspective to Troon Coastal Rowing Club. The James Caird, named after the Dundee philanthropist and voyage funder, is about 20cm longer and wider than Marr Voyager. They travelled 800 miles from Elephant island to South Georgia in the midst of winter, using the stars as their guide, to reach the next stage of their journey. That’s like leaving Troon harbour and finishing in Calais France. Even with the aid of a sail, that’s a long way and an impressive feat of seamanship. Can you imagine spending two weeks in Marr Voyager travelling 800 miles with five club members! Harry McNish was the shipwright (chippy) who modified the boat for the journey and joined them on it. The next time you are at a regatta and spot the Royal West skiff called “Chippy McNish” give a nod to the “boy from the port”. I suspect McNish and Chippy Davenport would have shared a beer and commented on each other’s boat building skills. I’ll not spoil the ending if you decide to watch the movie or read the highly recommended books.

Throughout the adventure Shackleton demonstrated leadership in so many ways. Determination for the mission, looking after the crew who trusted their leader, physical fitness, discipline when required and clarity on achieving their goal.

Have you considered the very nature of our pastime? Sitting looking back in  the direction you have travelled in your journey, putting effort into moving forward whilst relying on your cox (the leader) to take us in the direction of success. Tactics, trust, direction, looking after the crew, considering fitness and discipline are all part of the cox’s leadership role.

The first club member we are going to hear from is Adrian McCreadie. He has been rowing for 6 years and Chairman for nearly 2 years.

Adrian “wishes he had got into rowing at university” and is certainly making up for lost time getting out on the water as much as possible and spending time on the Concept2.

Adrian, just to be different, has gone with a coxed pairs team for his row around Lady Isle. His Cox for the row is Sir Alex Ferguson. Adrian believes he is “without doubt, the most successful manager in the history of football”. Sir Alex is often cited in Leadership books and a fine example of a leader. Adrian’s fellow rower is Bruce Springsteen. After watching him in concert ten times previously, this will be the smallest “rowing gig” Adrian has ever attended.

Adrian’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxSir Alex Ferguson
3Bruce Springsteen

Not sure if the boss is “Born to Row” but Adrian argues that Bruce is “the greatest singer/songwriter/musician/entertainer/performer/band leader there’s ever been.”. Do you agree?. Irrespective of this, can you imagine the two of them signing their way around Lady Isle with Sir Alex giving them the hairdryer treatment about Adrian’s singing skills and Bruce’s rowing skills.

Our next member to hear from is Kevin McQueen, our treasurer, who joined the club around seven years ago after “losing a bet to Jamie Mason in the harbour bar”. Like many members, Kevin found the new challenge, community and friendship of TCRC a welcome alternative to his previous career in the police force.

Kevin has an “interesting” Lady Isles dream team and I suspect they will go around a number of times at a rapid rate.

Kevin’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxNeil Armstrong
3Tia-Claire Toomey
2David Goggins
BowMuhammad Ali

In the Cox seat we have Neil Armstrong who may find our wee island not quite as exciting as orbiting the moon. I’m sure the other four would deal with his constant demands to step ashore so he can “take one small step for rowkind”.  In seat 3 we have Australian Olympian Tia-Claire Toomey who has won six consecutive titles at the CrossFit games and a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth games. They are joined by David Goggins, ex US Navy Seal, ultramarathon runner, ultra-everything-else and a public speaker. As if there wasn’t enough energy in that skiff, Kevin has added Muhammed Ali in bow. Anyone like to guess the stroke rate for this journey?

Mike Krus is the last team member we will hear about in this article. He has been a member of the club for over five years and is our club secretary.  Mike believes our fabulous hobby is “incredibly good for the body and the soul” and clearly enjoys being on the water. When asked for an example of a leader, Mike sides with Plato’s view conflating leadership and power and that “anyone who seeks power are not worthy of it”. To be fair, we never expected to be quoting Greek Philosophy in a TCRC article but there you have it.

Mike took a different approach to selecting his Lady Isles dream team and not that he is competitive, stated that “There’s a lot of people I admire but I’m pretty sure most of them would be rubbish rowers”.  Mike believes “the best experience is when people share the goal to make the boat move nicely” and therefore has selected the multi-medal winning TCRC 50+ team for his trip.

Mike’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxMike Reilly
2Mike K
BowMike D

I think you will agree that the three teams are eclectic and certainly interesting. Who do you think would win if it was a race? Which boat would you like a seat in?

The guys were unanimous in their views on the role and importance of our club committee. “a club needs processes and accountability. The committee is there for that.  It also needs to represent all of the members so it’s important folks get involved, in particular if they feel some of our current practices should evolve”.  Each felt that whilst it was rewarding and a privilege to be on the committee, “it’s important that duties are shared as there’s a huge amount of work behind the scenes”.

Vision is a key element of leadership and moving in a common direction and achieving common goals is a challenge for organisations. Clubs add a different and added dimension to this challenge. When presented with a “magic wand” for the future, all of our team mates selected “that we could have a proper clubhouse where members could meet and socialise, where skiffs could be stored and maintained”.

Teamwork is a vital aspect of our club made up of multiple teams undertaking different aspects of rowing. Teams in the boat and teams outside the boat. Its easy to forget this at times, but each has a symbiotic relationship. Boat Building, boat maintenance, social rowing, regatta rowing and the committee all need to work for our club. To move forward in our own journey, we need leadership to help set our vision and future sustainability. The committee is our way to guide our journey through its numerous iterations.

Our next article on club members is going to focus on skills and specifically on the incredibly dedicated and talented boat building skills we have in our club.

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