Rowing has always been an integral part of Montana Butsch’s life. The athlete rowed all through high school, and then went on to row competitively in college. Because rowing had such a positive impact on his life, he made it his mission to introduce the sport to some unlikely athletes.
“The Chicago Training Center idea came when I was actually in high school and I was starting to receive the benefit of the sport and thought I’d never be able to get into. We recruit from relatively poor neighborhoods and from relatively bad public schools and we offer the sport for free to that population, and we give them a competitive experience and they train on average 4-5 times per week all year round with about 15 competitive opportunities over the course of the year,” Butsch says.
Montana believes that the sport helps these teens learn crucial life skills including time management, teamwork, and decision making. The group recruits students in junior high school, with the hope that they can work with them for up to 7 years. 16-year-old Nya Stroud joined the CTC after eighth grade. At the time, she was unfamiliar with rowing, but decided to give it a go. Now 2 years later, Nya is a respected team leader in her 4-man boat winning a majority of their races.
But for the Chicago Training Center, it’s not just about winning. Butsch says, “The organization is not built strictly speaking to create a national champion every year. The goal is to be competitive. The goal is to go out and do your best and the goal is to be as competitive as we can possibly be. But that’s not the goal in and of itself. The CTC is one of many positive examples that kids can do outside of school time that keeps them positively engaged for long periods of time that works as an adjunct for what they’re trying to do in school.”
Since CTC began in 2006, all student athletes have graduated from high school, despite coming from schools with graduation rates as low as 65%. Many have also received athletic scholarships to college. Nya hopes to one day follow in those students’ footsteps.
For more information about Chicago Training Center, visit their website www.chicagotrainingcenter.org