Posted March 19, 2024

TUDPS, men’s crew teach basics of rowing to North Philadelphia youth

A new initiative partners Temple University’s Department of Public Safety with the university’s men’s crew team to introduce rowing to young students.

It's 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning inside the Temple Sports Complex, and a group of about 30 children who live in North Philadelphia gather as Temple University Police Officer Leroy Wimberly introduces them to the men’s crew team.

“Some of the children told me that they’re used to basketball and football and never thought of rowing,” Wimberly said. “Once they experienced it they fell in love with it.”

Wimberly thought of presenting rowing to the children from the surrounding neighborhoods in an effort to build a greater connection with them. 

“As a police officer here at Temple, we are always working to build bridges with the surrounding communities,” Wimberly said. 

Brendan Cunningham, the head men’s crew coach, said he jumped at the opportunity to partner with Temple Public Safety after Officer Wimberly recently called him.

“Crews is a sport that brings people together from all walks of life,” Cunningham said.

He would know—Cunningham was a four-year member of the Owls men’s crew team from 2006 to 2010. Now, he’s back leading the team. He added that both his coaching staff and student-athletes helped teach the youth the basics of rowing. 

“Our goal was to introduce them to the sport and introduce our training center to the kids. I don’t know where else people could try out these advanced rowing machines or the indoor rowing tank. It’s a state-of-the-art facility that’s unique to our area,” Cunningham said. 

Many of the children enjoyed learning about crew. 

“Someone had to teach us how to do that stuff. So it was cool to see our team members get the kids working together to teach something new,” he said. “It clicked really quickly with the kids.”

Above all else, the children wanted to race.

“It was really fun to see the energy in there,  to see them try something new and get a good grasp of it,” Cunningham said. “And everyone’s a clean slate—no experience. But at the end of the day it’s just racing.”

Wimberly said many of the children’s faces lit up with excitement as they competed against each other. 

“For me, doing this is to give the youths in the community options to test themselves,” Wimberly said. “It’s to do things they could never imagine. It’s a good feeling not just for them, but for me, too.”

Jennifer Griffin, vice president for public safety, said that the university is a neighbor to Tanner Duckrey School, where many of the children attend. 

“It’s so important they know us and we know them. As they build trust with our police officers, they will feel more comfortable if they need to call us,” Griffin said. “Some of them may even attend Temple in the coming years!”

Temple University runs a rowing summer camp on the Schuylkill River. Cunningham hopes the weekend event generates more interest from children who will come out to experience the river. 

“I know the kids are really going to love getting out on the water,” he said. “They’re really going to have fun doing that.”