Rowing coach brings sport to the world

While a back injury during his first year at Western University ended Matt Waddell’s ability to compete as a rower, the love of the sport remained strong.

As an assistant coach with the Mustangs women’s rowing team for the last three years, Waddell’s knowledge of sculling, sweep-oar, coxswain and all things rowing caught the eye of CTV producers as they prepare to broadcast the 2012 London Olympics later this summer.

Waddell has been hired on as the network’s rowing and canoe/kayak specialist, and will act as the behind-the-scenes, go-to guy for facts, rules and terminology.

“I don’t know anything about canoe/kayak yet, but I’m pretty confident about the rowing side,” laughed Waddell, who’ll be graduating this spring with his master’s degree with a specialization in Coaching.

Waddell initially came to Western to row for its varsity team. But following a herniated disk injury in his first few months, and a failed rehab attempt, he decided to stay close to the sport through coaching. Former Mustangs coach and current senior national women’s coach Al Morrow – Waddell’s academic supervisor in the coaching program – helped him in that decision.

It was a visit last April from a CTV film crew who were working on a series titled Super Bodies, a look at the physiological demands of the various Olympic events, that this latest gig came about.

“Al got a hold of me because at the time they (CTV) needed someone to drive them around; someone to ask questions of; and at the end of they asked me about it (Olympics).” Waddell said. “The logic, at that time, was that I’d be finished with the master’s in the spring, and I’d need something to get me through summer to help me think about the rest of my life.”

Waddell expects more details soon about his month-long Toronto-based work schedule.

“It’s behind-the-scenes work where I’ll be doing writing and research, things such as rowing jargon, international rules, if an athlete should be disqualified what are the reasons know why, how athletes got there,” he said.

Morrow even has Waddell, who’ll begin his PhD in Sports Philosophy this fall, assisting with the national team with nutritional work.

“The big focus now is that they’re running out of time to put in extra training. So a big focus is how can we recover better from our training and get better results,” Waddell said. “I have a little bit of a role to play in that sense. You feel as if you’re part of the team, kind of watching the last couple of years culminate from behind the scenes with seeing them and watching them.”

Prior to starting with CTV, Waddell plans a lot of prep time to focus on research, reading and keeping abreast of what is happening heading into the Games.

“A lot of the focus, too, will be on what makes them (athletes) more relateable and that’s through getting their personal stories out; the human-interest side is what helps people relate to these otherwise exceptional athletes,” he said. His main focus will be on the Canadian teams (men’s and women’s).

Hoping to one day teach at Western, and continue as rowing coach, Waddell looks forward to informing the world about rowing.

“Western has a great relationship with the national team, since we share the facilities here and we do training sessions together sometimes, plus Al used to be a Western coach, so I would have felt that connection to the team regardless just by being here,” he said. “But this makes a it a lot more fun.”