WINDERMERE That Kirsten Anderson has been coaching with the Orlando Area Rowing Society for 20 years — having started with the 1996-1997 school year season — is impressive enough.
But that does not tell the whole story.
Anderson is a true OARS lifer, there since the program’s inception as a sport for then-newly opened Dr. Phillips High in the late 1980s. After Anderson graduated and went to row on scholarship at Florida Tech in Melbourne, the program grew to encompass students who went to schools beyond Dr. Phillips.
When considering that the program has been part of her life for 30 years — and considering how it has evolved — Anderson cannot help but be amazed.
“It’s crazy,” Anderson said. “I feel like an old timer because I want to tell the story to everyone, ‘If you only knew the boats that we rowed in.’”
Over her two decades as a coach with OARS, Anderson — now the program’s director of rowing and girls head coach — has seen her athletes do remarkable things on a local, regional and national scale.
One theme over the years, though, has been the ability of Anderson and her staff to take athletes who show up with little to no experience and turn them in to scholarship-level rowers.
“I could go on with story after story of kids who step in the boathouse because they haven’t found their sport yet — they get out on the water and they love it,” Anderson said. “The transformation is pretty awesome to watch.”
Not only do Anderson and her colleagues at OARS take pleasure in helping the athletes succeed on the water but Anderson — a science teacher at Windermere Prep — said it is equally rewarding to impart life lessons on the kids who come through the program.
“The coolest thing is being able to teach them how to work hard — and that the hard work pays off,” Anderson said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].