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Sarasota Adaptive Rowing Program

Betsy Mitchell

Read about our Inspirational Adaptive rower Betsy Mitchell in the  Observer 3/17/16

SARP’s mission is to provide disabled veterans and other disabled athletes with year ‘round opportunities to build physical fitness, self-esteem and community connections through rowing.

We have two primary strategic goals

  • Recruit disabled veterans and other disabled athletes from the Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte County region to learn to row; 
  • Provide disabled athletes with the opportunity to learn, practice and compete in the sport of rowing in a safe, supportive and accessible environment with professional coaching and appropriate equipment and facilities.

History / SARP was founded in 2010. In our first 15 months of operation, we conducted 55 training and competitive sessions for five disabled athletes, including participation in three regional regattas. We began the program with five participants including two disabled veterans, Colonel (R) Jack Gerber and Sergeant First Class (R) Willy Lee. During this time, the scope of our operations was limited to developing the ability to assess athletes’ varying capabilities, providing alternative training methods and innovative, adaptive uses of rowing equipment, and operating safely on the water with athletes of limited mobility. Initially, participants met either twice a month or weekly; frequency has now increased to twice each week.

“Rowing has increased my strength, coordination, and confidence, as well as introducing me to a new activity. I’ve met wonderful people who’ve encouraged me. The adaptive rowing program at SARP has been a great experience.”

— Col (R) Jack Gerber

Progress / SARP’s disabled athletes have made significant improvement in their rowing skills, which is a testament to the validity of our approach. Currently, 100 percent of our participants have improved their physical abilities and continue to meet their personal benchmarking goals, such as improved bladework, balance and mobility.

In order to ensure sustainability, SARP has developed a 501c3 status with the Friends of Sarasota County Parks (FOSCP) as well as a strong relationship with our host organization, Sarasota County Rowing Club (SCRC).

In addition, we recently made a long-term commitment to adaptive rowing by investing in training for eight SARP members through the United States Rowing Association (USRA), giving us nationally recognized certification in assessing the technical and medical capabilities of our program participants. USRA has officially identified us as an adaptive rowing program on the national governing body’s website

Other highlights of our initial program included SARP sponsorship of U.S. Paralympic bronze medalist Laura Schwanger at the 2011 and 2012 Sarasota Invitational.

For more details please click below to be redirected to the Sarasota Adaptive website. 

Our very own SCRC club member and Adaptive Team member Betsy Mitchell represents Team USA in the 2x Arm and Trunk Division 2015 Worlds in France.