Athlete Spotlight: John Doughty

Paralympic Hopeful Sees Rowing as an Art Form.
By Annie Bryant
Contributing Writer
“To be in a race is really exhilarating, fun and competitive. The first 20 strokes are the fastest because your goal is to try to come out ahead of all the other racing shells as soon as possible. They are the best strokes because you get a rush of adrenaline at the start of the race.”

This is how junior
John Doughty describes being in a regatta, which is a series of boat races.

John is new to Woodlynde this year and comes to us from Archbishop Carroll, where he started rowing his sophomore year.

Upon leaving Carroll, John switched to an adaptive rowing team. Adaptive rowing is a specific category of rowing that “refers to rowers with certain disabilities,” according to the website for Bayada Home Health Care, which sponsors an all-adaptive regatta.

John belongs to The Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing team, which races competitively. This past summer, the team raced in a regatta. They also competed in the Head of the Schuylkill River Regatta, which was held earlier in the fall.

“John clearly loves rowing,” his coach,
Mr. McGinnis, said. “When our coaches return from a rowing session with John, they often remark about what a good technical rower he is.

“Rowing is a technical sport and requires a lot of practice to master. So when a coach gives positive feedback on this part of rowing, it is a big compliment.”

Coach McGinnis described John as “a pretty quiet guy.”

“But he is very observant and thoughtful. He listens and processes the instruction he receives,” Coach McGinnis said. “It's clear John is eager to learn more and improve his skill and performance. From a coaching perspective, you can't ask for more from an athlete.”

Prior to rowing, John played basketball and Ultimate Frisbee. John’s brother rowed, and John thought that rowing would be a fun sport for him to try.

John had never been in a boat besides kayaks or canoes, but then he began rowing in an actual racing shell. When John races, his strategy is to stay calm and not psyche himself out.

However, staying calm was frustrating when John “caught his first crab.” In rowing, that is an expression for when a rower’s oar gets caught in the water. John nearly fell into the water when he experienced this for the first time.

John’s quiet personality in the classroom and hallways would not give a hint as to the fact that he is an award-winning athlete. John won the 2017 Scholastic Athlete of the Year at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta earlier this year.

John has a strong passion. For him, rowing is not just a sport; it is an art because of the way the oars move smoothly and gracefully when they glide back and forth in the water.

Seeing the other rowers on the Schuylkill River and being able to pick up new techniques are John’s favorite parts of rowing.

When John is nearing the finish line during a race, and is neck and neck with a boat or many boats, he said it is a thrilling experience. John says that he has never won a race, but he has come very close.

Rowing, just like any other sport, can be challenging. One of John’s challenges in this sport is having to row in sync with the other rower in the boat, which is his coach.

John currently rows in a double scull, Coach McGinnis said.

Philadelphia adapted crew is an all sculling club, which means that the rowers have an oar in each hand, as opposed to only using one oar.

“In his first season with us, he has performed well in his races. Next year we have plans to have him row in a single,” Coach McGinnis said.

The coach concluded by saying, “It's great to have John around the boathouse. He's very level headed, focused and disciplined. These are great traits to have, not only in rowing, but in life. We're looking forward to having John row with us next season.”

John’s goals with rowing are to earn a college scholarship and to compete in the Paralympics, which are Olympic games for people with disabilities.

The next summer Paralympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan.

“The thing is, making it to the Paralympics for rowing won't just happen overnight, or by magic,” John said recently. “I know that I have to put in countless hours of work just to get there.”

John’s exploration of a new sport led him to not only find his passion, but it also may give him a chance to make his dream of competing in the Paralympics come true.

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Woodlynde School is a private, co-ed college prep day school located in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that serves intelligent, talented students with learning differences in grades K - 12. Woodlynde provides a comprehensive, evidence-based Kindergartenelementarymiddle and high school program in a challenging yet nurturing environment for students with average to above average cognitive abilities (IQ) who have language- or math-based learning differences (such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia), Executive Function Challenges, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Auditory Processing Disorder. Even for those students without a diagnosed learning disability (LD), Woodlynde offers expert and caring teachers in small classroom settings that support academic success. Woodlynde School also offers a post-graduate (PG) program in partnership with Rosemont College as well as a regional Summer Camp for students who learn differently.