Waikato Wāhine in Rowing Part Five – Janey Charlton, St Peters School (Cambridge Rowing Club)

Not many full-time rowing coaches in New Zealand can boast leading their rowing program as the Director of Rowing for 17 years.  Janey Charlton can, and she wouldn’t necessarily boast about it either.  Instead, she feels fortunate and grateful for the opportunities she has had being part of her students journey through school and rowing.

Janey got involved in rowing, in 1988, after listening to two very accomplished NZ oarswomen from Te Awamutu, Raewyn Hunn and Alison Crooks, talk about rowing as a potential summer sport.  She was a 3rd former (year 9) at St Peters School looking for something else to do from tennis and cricket.  So, 5 of them signed up and gave it go.  With one wooden waka and no coach boat, the 5 of them would paddle up and down the bank at Lake Karapiro, while their coaches would stand on the bank.  Apparently, Janey ended up coxing that first season as she talked the most!  The program really got some momentum thanks to the chemistry teacher, John Drummond getting involved.  She finished off saying – “I haven't looked back or stopped being involved since that day in 1988!”.  What a momentous day for her!

So, what has kept Janey in her role for so long?  She said the enjoyment is being part of the students journey through school and seeing them develop not only in rowing but also learning life skills. 

“It’s a rewarding experience to see them come in, in Year 9, not knowing much about the sport and watching them develop over the following four years.  It isn't always an easy journey and it not just a development experience for the rowers’, but I also learn so much each year as a new group comes through.”

Photo - Janey driving the coach boat, with her Dad, Norm and Alyssa (Captain of Rowing) (2022)

Janey has moments of pride most seasons. She mentioned that it’s when she sees huge smiles when a rower has been trying to figure something out technically, and it finally happens for them.  “You can see the progress they have made and how the boat just flies.  Then when they get off the water after racing, and have put it together, you know they have finished with their best race.  It is really fulfilling.”

Overall, though, when she had to narrow down what is she is most proud of, it would be the 2012 season.  It was special to her as it was the cumulation of effort she and other put into building the program when she first started in 2005.  She had 30 rowers and then worked to grow it in numbers and success.  That season the school won the Star Trophy (Overall Points trophy at Maadi) for the first time after coming 3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2011. It was the first time the school had won it and St Peters were the first Co-Ed program to win it.

Achieving those accolades wasn’t all Janey though.  She realised that there was the most amazing support around the program and how it takes a whole team to make it work.  What also made that season extra special, it was that she had her son, Finn, in February, right in the heart of the season!  

Photo - 2012 girls squad and Janey with 2 week old Finn

We then asked Janey, when reflecting on her rowing career we asked her about the life lessons she has learnt along the way that have really helped her.  She mentioned that early on it was time management.  It helped her get through university, and early years working as a coach.  Ultimately, she said that “if you are not willing to put in the work you won’t gain any benefits from it.  It made me realise, as an athlete and coach, if you aren't willing to go beyond what is expected, you won't get as much back.  That applies to progress and achieving success”.   She also added, that “you are only as successful as the team of people you put around yourself”.

The rowing team at St Peters, she says is the most amazing team.  They help-out crews in all sorts of ways and together they help drive and maintain the programs success.  The team has the usual suspects like the athletes, coaches, and parents.  But she also credits the amazing maintenance team at the school and the sports department through to those in the community who lend a hand from time to time, including former athletes who return to give back to the program.  She mentioned that “rowing is a time consuming and demanding sport.  I really appreciate that for many, the sport can take them away from their loved ones, so their unconditional support and honesty is hugely important.”

Photo - St Peters 2021 coaching team

Like we have with our other wonderful wāhine, we asked Janey if there was anything she would like to share with those considering to take-up rowing or being more involved their club.  She directly said “Don't be afraid and follow your dreams. There are so many more opportunities out there to be involved in so many aspects of the club and sport. If you have a passion for it, get involved as the personal rewards are huge”.

For those who are going to follow their dreams, she added that “it is important to the have support of loved ones, and to be really open with your communication.  Share your dreams”. 

With 17 years in the lead job at St Peters, what goals does Janey have?  She quickly said that “Since I started rowing back in 1988, I haven't stopped! I rowed for 9 years and then I moved straight into coaching and have been incredibly lucky to have had continuous work as a coach throughout the years. It has taken me around the world and led to so many amazing experiences.”

She is about to jump feet first back into international coaching.  This winter you will see her work with the under 23 women’s sculling squad.  This is after a 10-year break from international coaching.  She is super excited to be working with the up-and-coming talented young rowers.  The development of young athletes is a passion for her, as it more than just rowing, it is about developing the athlete as a whole person.  Times are changing and there is a greater emphasis on a holistic approach to coaching and athlete wellbeing.  She said that “it's an awesome challenge from a coaching point of view to find that right balance of performance and wellbeing”.  We are looking forward to seeing Janey rise to that challenge and follow the progress she makes with these athletes. 

Photo - 2021 St Peters School (Cambridge) Rowing Team