Select Page

Five female coaches appointed to underage Australian Rowing Teams

In total there are six females currently coaching national crews

The 2016 Underage Australian Rowing Team has seen the appointment of five female rowing coaches this season. This year, Vicky Spencer, Judith Ungemach and Sarah Cook will travel to Rotterdam, The Netherlands as part of the U23 and Junior Australian Rowing Team, while Jennifer Gilbert and Renae Domaschenz will oversee the female section of the U21 Australian Rowing Team.

With the addition of Ellen Randell, coach of the Senior Lightweight Women’s Double Scull which is due to compete at the 2016 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta next month, this is one of the largest contingents of female coaches appointed by Rowing Australia.

Vicky Spencer has been based in Canberra in recent times and this year will coach Cara Grzeskowiak in the U23 Women’s Single Scull. Having coached a number of underage crews, Spencer has much experience at this level, making her debut onto an Australian underage rowing team with a bronze medal in 2010 with the Junior Women’s Four. This year Spencer will be hoping for another medal-winning crew after her U23 Women’s Four finished fourth in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 2015.

Spencer has a long coaching history in Adelaide and Tasmania, having spent a significant amount of time coaching at both Walford Anglican School for Girls, and Adelaide Rowing Club before taking up a position as a High Performance Scholarship Coach for the South Australian Sports Institute.

“It’s fantastic to see six female coaches appointed across all the teams, and it is even more inspiring to note that  three of these women are juggling parenthood with high performance coaching. At times it can feel quite lonely being one of the few female coaches in a traditionally male dominated environment, so to have several female colleagues is encouraging.

“It’s important that aspiring female coaches see that there is a pathway from the club level to elite coaching and that women can achieve longevity in a coaching career alongside family.

“Often women are the main carer in a family, this can make it hard for a mother to go away for an extended period of time especially when the kids are young. I think over the past few years we have started to break through some of the glass ceilings and show that with strong planning and support, female coaches (and athletes) can successfully coordinate family and elite sport and develop thriving careers.”

The sister-in-law of Senior Australian Rowing Team coach, Ellen Randell, Spencer spoke of how the recent female scholarship initiative that Rowing Australia hosted during its coaches conference in 2015 highlighted the depth of female coaches out there.

“It was great to see how many women attended the RA Coaches Conference at the end of last year. I think it really shows the depth when every State sent at least one female coach, if not two, for the scholarship program. [Editor’s Note – every State sent one female coach for the scholarship, two states sent additional female coaches for a separate para-rowing scholarship]

“We need to keep identifying female coaches so we keep them in the sport with the support of the State Associations, Clubs and Rowing Australia. The growing number of women being appointed to the Australian Rowing Team will hopefully encourage others to keep striving to reach this top level.”

Spencer, Cook, and Ungemach will travel to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, with the U23 Australian Team; while Gilbert and Domaschenz will see their U21 athletes tested in the Trans-Tasman Regatta in Sydney and Lake Karapiro, in New Zealand.

Making her first Australian Rowing Team, as a coach, is Sarah Cook who most recently represented Australia in rowing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Cook will coach Oliver Schwarz, Lachlan Miles, Joseph O’Brien, Marcus Britt, and coxswain Lewis Willoughby in the Junior Men’s Coxed Four. All of the members of this crew, are from Sydney University Boat Club; with Cook as the current President of the club.

Having represented Australia at the Olympics twice (in 2008 in Beijing in the Women’s Pair, and 2012 in London in the Women’s Eight), Cook brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge in elite level sport. Switching to the sport of sailing after the 2012 London Olympics, Cook has a diverse skill set to bring to her first appearance coaching at a National level.

Judith Ungemach will coach Romola Davenport, Ella Connaghan, Olivia Bartram and Grace Galloway in the Junior Women’s Quadruple scull. Ungemach, who coached the U23 Women’s Quadruple scull to a silver medal last year, and will be striving for strong results again this time around with her junior crew.

A gold medallist from Germany’s Olympic Women’s Eight in 1988, and a bronze medallist in the same boat in the 1992 Olympic Games, Ungemach has a lot of experience in the sport of rowing at the highest level. She is now part of the elite development coaching team for Mosman Rowing Club, and also is the Head Coach of St Augustine’s College.

In the U21 team this year, two new female coaches will be taking on the women’s section of the team. Jennifer Gilbert and Renae Domaschenz will oversee the female team this year, with Gilbert coming from the University of Queensland Boat Club. Her recent coaching experiences include working with the Queensland Youth Eight, who placed first in the Interstate Regatta at the 2016 Sydney International Rowing Regatta.

Domaschenz is an elite level coxswain and will be able to provide an important and unique perspective based on her own experiences of coaching from within a boat. Domaschenz is a member of the Australian National University Boat Club, and won a Half-Blue award from the university following two silvers and a bronze medal at the 2012 Australian University Games.