Mark Rothstein Blog: The Michigan Coaching Tree
Mark Rothstein

University of Michigan head rowing coach Mark Rothstein will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to Michigan rowing.

Sept. 27, 2012

In my last blog, I talked about how so many Michigan rowers have gone on to row for the U.S. and Canadian National Teams, and one reason that this has happened is because our rowers graduate from Michigan still enamored with and excited about our sport. Another phenomenon that has come from this enduring enthusiasm for rowing is the high number of Michigan rowing alumnae who now coach.

There are Michigan rowing alumnae coaching at the high school and college levels in 14 different states. This past summer, three Michigan rowing alumnae were hired as assistant coaches -- two in the Ivy League and one in the ACC Conference. There are two current collegiate head coaches who were former assistant coaches at Michigan, one in the Pac-12 and one in the Northeast 10. In just the past five years, four Michigan rowing alums have coached as assistant coaches in the Big Ten conference and five Michigan rowing alums have coached as assistant coaches in the Pac-12 conference. In the past 10 years, 32 of our rowers and coxswains have become rowing coaches. This speaks to the love for rowing that our student-athletes have here at Michigan. It also speaks to the culture of service that we have in our program. Michigan rowers love to give back and coaching is a great way to do that.

And then there is our current Michigan rowing staff. Michigan assistant coach Annie Knill, who is one of the most talented and successful young coaches in the country, is a Michigan rowing alumna. Our outstanding graduate assistant coach, Nellie Ruedig, is a Michigan rowing alumna. Our program assistant is former Michigan All-America rower and U23 world champion in the 2-, Ashley Kroll. Our newest assistant coach, Liz Tuppen, is not a Michigan rowing alum. In fact she rowed at Ohio State. She even coached at Ohio State. And yet we still love her. Liz is a dynamic, enthusiastic coach and I am so happy that she is now a part of the Michigan rowing family!

As a head coach, one of the most important things that I do is to hire a great staff. In the 20 years that I have coached Michigan rowing, I have not had a better staff than one that we have right now. Our practices are off to a great start and I am so happy that our rowers and coxswains are experiencing the excellence that this staff strives for every day. And that includes consistently fueling a passion for our sport; a passion that I am confident will inspire more growth on our Michigan rowing coaching tree.

July 31, 2012

In the summer of 1996 I was really excited. That fall, Michigan rowing started as a varsity sport, and I started as its head coach. That summer was also the last time that the United States hosted the Summer Olympics, taking place in Atlanta, Ga. I remember watching the rowing competition with great interest. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing Olympics for the U.S. rowers, especially the women's and men's eights, both of which were expected to compete for gold and both of which finished out of the medals. I remember thinking at the time that someday a Michigan rower will race in the Olympics and that that day would be very special. As optimistic as I was about where Michigan rowing was going, even I could not have predicted the incredible success that we have had in the next few decades in producing women who race at the highest levels of international rowing.

Here are a few highlights from the past ten years:

  • In 2002, the U.S. women's eight won the World Championship for the first time in many years. Three of the eight rowers -- Kate Johnson ('01), Kate MacKenzie ('98) and Bernadette Martin ('01) -- came from one college rowing program: Michigan. Since that time, Michigan rowers have been a constant on the U.S. National Team.
  • In 2004, my dream of having a Michigan Olympian came true. In fact, we had two. Kate Johnson rowed in the bow seat of the silver-medal U.S. eight and Kate MacKenzie raced in the women's pair.
  • In 2006, the U.S. won the World Championship in the women's eight and set a new world record and Brett Sickler ('05) joined the list of world-champion Wolverines. Brett went on to win the World Championship again in 2007 in the same event, becoming our first two-time world champion.
  • In 2008, Michigan rowers took things to whole new level. In 2008, four of our rowing alumnae become Olympians: Brett Sickler and Ellen Tomek ('06) for the U.S. and Heather Mandoli ('04) and Janine Hanson ('06) for Canada. Four Michigan women's rowing alums, and also our then-trainer Lisa Hass, were named to Olympic teams. That was exciting!
  • In 2012, right now, Michigan once again is well represented at the Olympics in London. Two of our rowers, Sarah Trowbridge ('05) for the United States and Janine Hanson for Canada, are racing in London this week.

Over the past 10 years, Michigan women have raced at the Under-23 World Championship, the Senior World Championship, and the Olympic Games an amazing 39 times. In just 10 years! I suspect that no other women's rowing program has had that much success at the international level.

Of course, at Michigan the expectation is that Olympic sports produce Olympians. This year, 21 athletes with connections to Michigan are competing in London. As our athletic director Dave Brandon recently wrote about the Summer Games, "U-M has been represented in each competition that has taken place since 1900." It's just a part of our culture in Michigan Athletics.

So, too, for Michigan rowing. I asked Ellen Tomek, one of our four 2008 Olympians and one of the most successful scullers in the U.S. over the past six years, why Michigan produces so many national-team rowers. Ellen's answer was simple: because Michigan rowers finish their four years of college rowing still totally in love with the sport. Instead of looking forward to it being over, Michigan rowers simply don't want the fun to end. And that's something to be excited about.

July 12, 2012

The other day, one of the rising juniors on our rowing team Andrea Johnson stopped by my office in a state of great excitement. Andrea had just found out that she had been admitted to the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, which is ranked as the No. 3 undergraduate business school in the country, so you can understand why Andrea was so excited. Andrea will join fellow teammate Emily Idoni (of 2V National Championship fame) in the Ross School. The news that Andrea shared with me made me very happy for Andrea and got me thinking about all of the terrific opportunities that our rowers have here at Michigan.

Michigan is unique. It is a big school. We offer a vast curriculum of courses. We have big-time athletics. We have a big (and fast!) rowing program. But Michigan doesn't feel big. At Michigan there is a wonderful culture among the faculty and staff of caring about the students. Classes are small (15 students per class is the average; my senior year at Michigan I had two different classes that each had only five students.) The Michigan Experience is very personal and one that is dictated and created by each student. At Michigan one of our rowers can be whoever and whatever she wants to be. There are no limits, no constraints. And there are literally hundreds of people here who are eager to help her on her journey.

Michigan is excellence. In the Times Higher Education 2010-11 World University Ranking, Michigan ranked as the 15th best university. In the world. Michigan ranked as the 12th-best university in the United States, and the eighth-best university in the U.S. in terms of the learning environment that exists here for the undergraduate. Let's say a rower comes to Michigan and she wants to study psychology. That's great because Michigan's psychology department is one of the best in the world. But then she changes her mind. Now she wants to study a language instead. That's great because Michigan offers 63 different languages from which she can choose (did I mention that we are a big school?). Or let's say she decides she wants to go to medical school (like our all-America rower and recent graduate Lindsey Healy). That's great because more Michigan graduates are accepted to medical school than from any other university in the country. The fact is, pretty much anything that one of our rowers wants to study Michigan has. And chances are it will be ranked as one of the best programs in the world.

As a coach, I get consumed by boat speed. Every day I work to make our team the best and the fastest in the country. And I love it when somebody like Andrea Johnson stops by my office with a big smile on her face to tell me about something that has absolutely nothing to do with making boats go fast. Because as important as rowing is to me and our team, Michigan is more. Much more.