Rent-a-Rower provides means for rowers to compete
From tutoring to shoveling macaroni and cheese out of stadium bleachers, the student-athletes on Grand Valley State University’s rowing club will do anything to raise enough funds to continue participation on the team.
The club’s Rent-A-Rower program, established in 1995, helps students participate in the sport at little or no cost to themselves.
Individuals and businesses from the Grand Rapids and Allendale community rent rowers for general labor tasks. The rowers are paid at a rate of $10 per hour, which is applied directly toward club dues.
“It’s a pretty common idea among rowing teams around the country,” said Lisa Saladino, the women’s novice rowing coach. “It works because (the rowers) are really good workers and very diligent about things.”
A first-semester rower’s dues, which Saladino said are comparatively low when compared to most schools, could reach up to $375 in addition to travel costs, uniform and other miscellaneous expenses. Saladino said rowers would need to work around 30-40 hours of work to cover the cost.
“We want any kid to have the opportunity to compete,” said GVSU head coach and club director John Bancheri. “I was one of those kids. I came from a situation where it was tough, so I want to make sure that no kid is ever left out because of finances. Money should not be an issue. It’s an issue of whether or not you want to work.”
While the Office of Student Life provides some funding to the rowing club, Saladino said rowing is one of the more expensive sports, and the program’s budget is larger than Student Life can handle.
“It definitely helps people stay on the team who can’t afford the cost,” said sophomore rower Keegan Jahnke. “When people first hear the costs, they don’t know if they can do it. But when I was a senior in high school, I talked to Coach Bancheri and he told me that some people haven’t had to pay a penny out of pocket.”
During the winter, many of the rowers wake up before classes to begin shoveling GVSU’s sidewalks at 4:45 a.m.
Shoveling isn’t the only task the university has given to the Rent-a-Rower program. After Meijer donated boxes of almost-expired macaroni and cheese to use as noisemakers during the first home football game, many people emptied the noodles and cheese packets across the bleachers.
It rained no more than five minutes after the game was over, creating a mess for the rowers to clean the next morning.
“It took us four hours with eight people,” Jahnke said. “We had to get snow shovels to scrape it off the track and bleachers and use our hands to get what the shovel couldn’t get.”
The Rent-a-Rower program runs year round. Potential employers can contact the team through their website, www.grandvalleyrowing.com, or at the team’s office in the Kirkhof Center.