SPS Today: Rowing Tank Enhances SPS Crew Training

Newly dedicated rowing space a stroke of generosity


In a room that used to house high jump mats and floor hockey equipment now sits one of the most state-of-the-art pieces of athletic technology at St. Paul’s School. Thanks to a team of donors, who gave $600,000, and those with a vision for the future of the SPS rowing program, a crowd of more than 70 crew-loving students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered in the Athletic & Fitness Center for the dedication of the new rowing tank on March 30. “To have this tank is a significant enhancement to our training – our teams will benefit from this for many years,” said The Reverend Michael Spencer, vice rector for faculty and head girls crew coach. “I am so grateful to those who generously gave to this facility and who have given to us the even greater gift of working with their sons and daughters.”

While it is hard to match the intensity and camaraderie of an ergometer workout, the new rowing tank provides invaluable insight into an individual rower’s stroke, and simulates on-the-water rowing more closely than any other training device. With spaces for eight rowers to practice, the tank allows for both individual and team training. The new facility also acts as a self-coaching tool of sorts, allowing novice rowers to gain confidence in a controlled environment before heading out to Turkey Pond. That hits especially close to home for the four current crew captains, none of whom had ever taken a single stroke in a crew shell prior to arriving at St. Paul’s.

“This team’s mentality of working from the base of novices is part of what makes the tank so perfect for our program,” said boys crew captain Angus Gruner ’19 at the dedication. “By getting new rowers ready to transition out to the water, our first and second boats are immediately not just pushing themselves, but are pushed by more skilled novice crews.” The facility is not the first of its kind at SPS, as Big Red rowers trained in a tank located in the basement of the old gymnasium dating back to the 1950s. The Athletic & Fitness Center, which opened in 2004, included a dedicated ergometer room, but Mother Nature still dictated when crew practices would begin on Turkey Pond.

It wasn’t until lead donor Henry Livingston ’63, a Halcyon and patriarch of a family of SPS rowers, proposed the idea in 2017 that the project started to take shape. The belief of Livingston and his wife, Susan, in the benefit of having a rowing tank, and their work to engage the people needed to move the project forward, has resulted in an asset that will serve student rowers for decades.

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