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Rowing students take a bow

Riggers rowing

Image: Students at Melba Copland Secondary School at their Rowing Australia's Riggers program.


How do you help students improve their resilience, punctuality and teamwork skills? The solution may lie in physical activity, as Melba Copland Secondary School has found.

A group of Year 7 girls from the Canberra school recently participated in Rowing Australia’s Riggers program – as part of the $160 million Sporting Schools initiative – to improve their fitness in a fun and safe environment.

Riggers is designed specifically to engage secondary school students through a program that meets their motivations and interests. No water is required to practice the sport – the students played music during a series of one-hour games on indoor rowing machines in small teams, mastering technique while taking part in a series of challenges. There’s a rowing quiz as well!

Rowing Australia’s National Community Development and Education Officer, Ron Batt, said rowing is a team sport that encourages athletes to work together. 

“You learn a great deal about yourself – how hard you are prepared to push yourself,” he said.


“We see an improvement in social skills and evidence suggests students study better when participating in sport.”

For schools struggling to engage students through sport, Mr Batt suggests a change to the mode of delivery may help.

“Sport is about having fun, trying your hardest and not just about winning,” he said.

“Overcoaching students can mean they spend too much time being told what to do and not enough doing.”

Melba Copland Secondary School Health and Physical Education teacher, Andrew Hiscocks, said the program engaged the students well and provided opportunities to work on their fitness and teamwork skills while encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle.

“The rowing program has allowed us to introduce variety to students and hopefully for some of them a pathway to a new recreational activity,” Mr Hiscocks said.

“As our school does not currently possess the equipment to run this activity, a Sporting Schools grant meant we could introduce this as a pilot, and in the future we hope to embed it into our curriculum. 

“We found Rowing Australia to be extremely accommodating and flexible in their delivery of the program. The instructors related well to the students and the activities were engaging and appropriate for the students we targeted.”


Rowing is one of twelve sports currently involved in the targeted program for Years 7 and 8 secondary school students, particularly girls. This Sporting Schools program is designed to help address the barriers that prevent teenagers from participating in sport. Read here to find out how your school can get involved!


Riggers rowing