Szymanowski steps up as new boys crew coach


Contributed by Arik Stolyarov

Senior Arik Stolyarov (left) and junior Justin Grossman (right) race a double at the Royal Canadian Henley with the Brookline summer program.

St. Catherine’s, Canada. Hot July days pass by at the Dirty Water Rowing Club, where members of the boys crew team train over the summer. The boys gather in a circle in the quad of Brock College as head coach Katy Ruderman begins to tear up. She is leaving the Brookline team.

Halfway through the summer of 2019, former boys crew head coach, Katy Ruderman announced that she took a job as an assistant coach on the George Washington University women’s rowing team. Catie Szymanowski, who had been the assistant coach of the high school’s crew team for four years, stepped up to replace Ruderman as head coach. Despite losing such a key figure in their community, the boys crew team is excited and determined to continue their success into the fall and spring of this year. 

Ruderman led the boys crew team for 14 years. According to senior and captain Raiyan Khan, she was a beloved part of the organization, so her departure was extremely sad. 

“I’ve heard stories of what the team was like before she was here, and a lot of it was just like, we weren’t really winning. It was just kind of a group of guys, one boat, not even enough boats to race,” Khan described. “She really built the team up. She was the one who really set the whole organization; it was her full time job. She was a big pillar for the team and she was really the backbone for the whole organization itself. She inspired so many of us. I would always push myself to work harder because of her, and I think her leaving kind of shook me a little in a sense that such a big part of the team was leaving and I was unsure about the team’s future.”

Captain and senior Arik Stolyarov said that he teared up when he heard Ruderman was leaving because she was such an instrumental part of the team, someone they had developed a strong relationship with. He said her discipline and knowledge of the sport was crucial to the team’s success.

“She was tough,” Stolyarov said. “She pushed you hard; she challenged you. If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have made it to Nationals in the spring. She kept you pushing hard even if something was wrong. She would make you get that last step, 110 percent always. She was experienced. She knew everything.”

The boys crew team had an impressive showing last year. The team is the reigning champion at the fall and spring Massachusetts Public School Rowing Association Championships, and they sent three boats and 25 students to Nationals. 

Head coach Szymanowski is determined to continue that success. Although she has had to manage many small details in her new position, she said the big picture remains the same, and the team has a lot of strong routines set in place.

Szymanowski said she feels pressure to keep the team strong, but she wants to do the best she can.

“If they fail, I will put it on myself, but I also feel that with the progress we have made, the progress that we have taken over the past years, there is no way we should fail,” Szymanowski said. “If we continue the progress, and with the boys this year, the team culture is so positive and they are so hardworking that there’s no way that someone’s going to beat us.”

Both Khan and Stolyarov emphasized how the team has been looking especially strong this year, performing even better than it did last year in the fall season. In particular, Khan noted that Szymanowski has done a good job stepping it up, and has honed in on the technical aspect of the sport. 

“She’ll take videos of us and she’ll talk to each of us if she has any concerns, or if any of us has any questions, or if we had a bad day, and we wanted to ask her what it looked like from her perspective. She’s been doing a really good job at pinpointing individual strengths and weaknesses that we’ve had and letting us know how we can progress by fixing those weaknesses,” Khan said. 

According to Stoylarov, the tea­m is closer this year because the upperclassmen are doing a good job of including and working together with the underclassmen. However, a downside to this is that the practices are a little less rigid and serious than they have been in the past. 

Szymanowski is excited about the new team culture.

“They want to have fun every day, and they want to work hard too,” Syzmanowski said. “They’re always asking for more, and so having the camaraderie and having the passion are two really important things to make you fast.”