The Hockey Crew

New Jersey Prep Team Uses Crew Experience To Pull In The Same Direction On The Ice

Whether it’s just for fun or in the spirit of competition, any hockey player knows that staying in shape is as important as practicing your skating or working on your shot.

As one of the most physically demanding sports, hockey requires players to constantly work towards being your best, even in the midst of the off-season. Participating in other sports can be key to keeping your mind and body in the game.

For Seton Hall Preparatory School’s hockey team in West Orange, N.J., the perfect cross-training complement came in the form of crew.

Crew involves racing rowboats that can range in size from a single scull, manned by one rower, to a coxed eight, which is powered by eight rowers with a coxswain, who steers, guiding the way.

Will Korner, a junior at Seton Hall Prep who also skates out of the Ice Vault Arena with the N.J. Hitmen, served as the impetus for his team’s foray into the new sport. After hearing about a friend’s brother who participated in crew, Korner decided to do some digging. It was during this process that he found crew coach Joanne Victorio.

Victorio began coaching back in 2011, though she has been rowing for more than a decade. Every summer, she coaches beginners in learn to row classes at Passaic River Rowing Association in Lyndhurst, N.J., which is where she first met Korner.

With an actual crew coach on board, Korner was free to start recruiting his hockey teammates.
Matt Robinson, a forward with Seton Hall, was among the players initially approached by Korner.

“One day at our lunch table, Will suggested the idea of beginning a crew club,” said Robinson, who also skates with the Montclair Hockey Club. “I thought it sounded great and we were all excited, but we weren’t sure if it would actually take off. Thanks to Will it quickly became a reality.”

After the team was assembled, they began participating in learn to row sessions with Victorio, who was impressed with the athleticism immediately exhibited by her new students.




“When I first started working with the boys from Seton Hall, I noticed that they were very in tune with their bodies,” she said. “They picked up form and technique incredibly easily.”

The symbiotic nature of hockey and crew quickly became clear. Both physically and mentally, the two sports complement each other seamlessly, and the players, coaches and parents all noticed crew’s significant impact.

James Kemp, a junior at Seton Hall and member of the N.J. Devils Youth Hockey program, emphasized the substantial physical benefits that he’s seen since he began rowing.

“The muscles you have to use in hockey and crew are similar. In both sports, your legs are your single most important tool,” he said.

Even the dissimilarities bet-ween the sports are harmonious.

“Crew improves cardio, which is substantial to sustaining shifts on the ice,” Kemp said. “One race for crew is basically equal to about 10 straight shifts in a hockey game.”

Korner’s mother, Debra, sees a foundational similarity between the two sports.

“Hockey is all about camaraderie and brotherhood,” she said. “And so is crew. In the boat, the rowers have to be in perfect unison. There can’t be any standouts on a crew team. It’s all about team generosity.”

James Ward, a fellow Seton Hall hockey player, also cites the importance of teamwork in both sports.
“In hockey, you can’t pass the puck to yourself,” said Ward, who skated last season with the N.J. Icedogs. “In crew, you can’t row the boat on your own.”

As the crew team’s coxswain, Ward is responsible for steering the boat and coordinating the rowers, so communication is key.

“I learned how to communicate with my teammates from playing hockey,” he said. “And those skills have been really helpful in crew.”

Participating in multiple sports is beneficial to any athlete, especially those involved with hockey. Angelo Giambattista, the head coach of Seton Hall’s junior varsity squad, believes that athletes who take part in more than one sport are healthier than those who don’t.

“There are so many benefits to playing more than one sport,” said Giambattista, a USA Hockey Level 4 coach who splits his time between Seton Hall and the Kinnelon Colts youth hockey program. “From the physiological aspect of working different muscles and gaining different coordination skills, to the mental side of keeping players from getting burnt out. They’re more complete athletes.”

As a former hockey player himself, Giambattista is well aware of how easy it is to grow weary of the same old training routine.

“Day after day inside, on the ice, it can get monotonous,” he said. “We try to encourage these kids to get outside and get in the sun.”

It’s Victorio’s opinion that adding another sport to an athlete’s schedule can keep them engaged.

“Most kids who play one sport all year long will begin to lose interest,” she said. “Adding another activity creates excitement over something new, which keeps them focused.”

Most of the Seton Hall players have tried nearly every sport imaginable, from basketball to wakeboarding, but nothing besides hockey has ever captured their interest in the long run, at least until they tried crew. Thanks to Korner and his teammates, Seton Hall now recognizes crew as an official school sport.

That said, don’t worry about any of them casting their hockey dreams out to sea anytime in the near future. While they enjoy their time on the water, hockey is still the sport of choice.

“I probably couldn’t ever love crew more than hockey,” Robinson said. “Fortunately, I don’t ever have to choose.”



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