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International Women’s Day Feature – Ellen Randell

International Women’s Day (8 March) represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while also calling for greater gender equality and, with this in mind, the RA website has chosen to highlight the only female Senior Australian Rowing Team coach, Ellen Randell.

Randell is considered Australia’s top female rowing coach and was named the coach of the 2015 Lightweight Women’s Quadruple Scull, a boat class that she coached to a silver medal at last year’s World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Lightweight Women's Quad ithat won silver at the 2014 World Rowing Championships under Ellen Randell's guidance

The Lightweight Women’s Quad that won silver at the 2014 World Rowing Championships under Ellen Randell’s guidance

Born in Katanning, Western Australia on 23 August 1963, Randell is one of four children born to missionary parents. All four children, Doug, Andrew, Ellen and Erica, were keen rowers with Andrew, Ellen and Erica all representing Australia while older brother Andrew is also a senior coach with the Australian Rowing Team.

The Sydney-based coach began her international career back in 1983 when she represented Australia in a National Senior B team but having raced in both 1983 and 1984, Randell made the decision to retire from racing and move into coaching after realizing she wasn’t going to be a world champion.

“I had retired from full-time training for national team crews and one of my friends at my club asked me if I would come out and take a look at her rowing. During those years there weren’t many good coaches coaching female rowers and in my club, coaching was a scarce resource,” explains Randell.

“While I was coaching this group of friends, there was a small period where the Australian Institute of Sport was looking for apprentice coaches and I applied to work under the then National Head Coach, Reinholdt Batschi, and was offered the six month role, which was my real step into the elite level of coaching.

“It was fantastic being in a coach boat with four of our national coaches, every day for that 6 month block. For a young up and coming coach to be sitting in a boat alongside four very diverse, successful international coaches and listening to their advice and coaching was really valuable.

“After my apprenticeship finished I then took a job coaching junior women’s crews and running the Talent ID side of rowing at the AIS alongside Peter Shakespeare and my career took off from there,” said Randell.

After a period of time coaching age-category boats, Randell began coaching senior category boats and in 1995 coached Australia’s Bec Joyce to become the World Champion in the Lightweight Women’s Single Scull, Randell’s first taste of gold at a senior level.

“In the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games I was coaching heavyweight women’s crews, but then fell pregnant with my first child and at that point the contract ended at the club I was coaching at, so I took up the position of head rowing coach of PLC, Croydon a girl’s school in Sydney. Then in 2005, having had both my children, I returned to club coaching at UTS rowing club and have been a part of the Australian Rowing Team coach set-up ever since.”

Speaking of being the only female coach in a male dominated environment, Randell admits she can’t do what she does without the support of her family.

“Throughout the 90s I was the only female coach on the team, so I have always been used to working in a male dominated environment which some would say is tough but it has made me resilient and more driven to succeed.

“However, I could not do this role without the support of my husband and entire family. Family is huge for me, all my siblings rowed, I have an extremely supportive mother and father and they have helped to ground me and instill the self-belief that I can achieve whatever I choose to do.”


Ellen Randell

Ellen Randell

Randell also credits some of Australia’s greatest coaches as her mentors, “In recent years, Tim McLaren, who I work with currently at UTS Rowing Club, and have done so on and off for many years, has been a strong influence.

“However, I have been fortunate to have good people around me, especially in the likes of Reinholdt Batschi and Peter Shakespeare, who offered me top level support and gave me my first opportunities”.

Reflecting on the message of this year’s International Women’s Day ‘Gender Equality’ and its relevance to rowing coaching, Randell concluded by saying, “To be a good coach you need to be a people person, regardless of whether you’re a male or female coach.

“It’s important that there is equality in all walks of life, having very few women coaching at all levels sends the wrong message so I would recommend that more opportunities be given to women initially at the club and State level to give women the opportunity early on to develop as coaches. Also that these coaches are supported in their development so that Australia can continue to nurture and grow more female coaches.

“I have been resilient in that I know this is what I want to do and I am extremely competitive and quite driven in that way, I have had a few knocks along the way but you pick yourself and keep going on the path. I always find a way to do what I need to.”

Randell will be coaching a number of crews at the upcoming 2015 Sydney International Rowing Regatta. Come out and show your support for all the athletes competing at the event from 23 to 29 March at the Sydney International Regatta Centre, Penrith. For more information, click here