Character beyond effort


Coach Printzlau coaches Concord Crew’s varsity women at sunset.

Head coach Jay Printzlau spends 15 hours a week for 11 weeks, twice a year, sitting cold in a launch, watching student athletes from Concord High School, Merrimack Valley High School, Bow High School and surrounding towns practice out of the Whittemore Boathouse on the Merrimack River.

But his introduction to the sport came years and years ago, when he himself was a teen.

“I was sitting in the high school library in the winter of my freshman year,” Printzlau explained. “A really large man that I didn’t know pushed his hands down onto my shoulders from behind me and said, ‘You will join crew.’ He scared me so I did what he told me to do, I went to the first meeting.”

Rowing all four spring seasons that his high school had to offer, Printzlau also joined the Syracuse Alumni Rowing Association where he coxed during the summers. During his last two years of high school he coxed for New Haven Rowing Club where he was introduced to Tony Johnson, then coach at Yale University, where Printzlau ultimately was recruited to compete.

Before heading off to Yale, though, Printzlau — as a high school junior, in 1971 and 1972 — coached at Syracuse for the Chargers, coaching Syracuse women in addition to ten- and eleven-year-olds in the community.

“The first people I coached were top end women, because at that time, no one had too terribly much respect for women rowing. So they threw it to this high school kid,” he admitted.

He coached again at Syracuse during his three years at law school, coaching in exchange for most tuition. “That irritated my classmates. I’d write a check for 35 dollars.”

After graduating college he took a position as an assistant rowing coach at Yale for the freshman lightweight team, which he coached to an Eastern Sprint Championship. He also worked as an assistant manager of the tennis complex.

Those part time jobs weren’t quite enough to pay the bills so he also got a part time job at Wendy’s: “A Yale graduate, flipping hamburgers.”

Printzlau didn’t coach after graduating law school in 1981 until a Derryfield School coach said he had four girls who “looked like they had promise.” That coach urged Printzlau to take them on.

When Printzlau took his Derryfield team to a training facility within Camp Bob Cooper in Summerton, South Carolina, in 1999, he met Charmie Curran, who as Printzlau recalled “had been kind of left on her own coaching Concord and hadn’t had much coaching experience at the time.”

In summer 2004 Printzlau decided to leave Derryfield to coach Concord Crew, starting in fall 2005.

Printzlau:“I measure success against programs that invest similar time . . . We are no longer a program that people don’t know.”

Some top schools are now forced to take Concord more seriously due to the program’s rise in competition. Printzlau said he would like to see Concord become even more competitive, chasing the top dogs. However, he said he is proud of of the team’s ethos.

The motto for the team, comprised of local students grades 8-12, is “effort beyond talent, character beyond effort.”

“This is going to sound a little corny, but I hope to do a better job of raising up boys and girls to be good men and women. I want to be more intentional about that,” Printzlau said.

Another of his goals is to raise up some younger coaches, “something I think we’re doing this year.”

No longer sharing equipment space with another team, no longer launching boats from a rocky shore but instead off a stable dock attached to a well-built boathouse, Concord Crew continues to develop under Printzlau, who once turned down coaching offers from Syracuse, MIT and Georgetown.

“That would’ve been fun . . . but I wouldn’t have wound up here and that would have been too bad,” he said.

Local students would agree. According to Concord Crew’s website, the program’s varsity boys boat “finished 39th out of 85 boats in the Men’s Junior Eights race” at the Head of the Charles Regatta two weeks ago.

“This is the best any Concord Crew boat has done in this event and qualifies Concord Crew to be able to attend again next year.”

Coach Curran finished 9th in the Women’s Grand Masters Singles.
Students interested in joining Concord Crew can find information online or talk to any current or former team member.