Leeanne Crain & OU Women's Rowing

By Ryan Sparks | February 23, 2012

With the approval of two separate $6,000,000 facilities for its women's rowing program, the University of Oklahoma demonstrates it is serious about its women's rowing program. The $12M will go to an on campus facility with rowing tanks, workout rooms, offices, sports medicine, and team rooms alongside a boathouse on the Oklahoma River in the next 3 years.

"… it used to be about the data and the facts but now it's about fostering growth. I think the catalyst came when I began to understand I could learn a lot from the kids."

Leeanne Crain (formerly head coach at the University of Central Florida) has built the program over the last four years: "…it's been a great experience for me because I've seen the whole process from the ground up." Crain feels her main strategy in building the program – as she brings in faster and faster recruits – has been building the culture: "I feel like I'm coaching differently than I used to… it used to be about the data and the facts, but now it's about fostering growth. I think the catalyst came when I began to understand I could learn a lot from the kids."

John Gartin, who heads the Sooner's recruiting efforts, echoes this: "Over the last four years, we've seen our recruiting go from completely open to 7:25 or so, though the most important thing is kids' commitment to the idea we're part of a greater whole within the team and at OU."

"The athletes have to own this stuff to build the program… we set expectations really high, and kids are going to fail from time to time – just having values to go back to grounds us…"

Crain went so far as to create a core values system for the team, called 'BASICS,' which stands for Belief, Accountability, Sacrifice, Integrity, Communication, and Service. "The athletes have to own this stuff to build the program… we set expectations really high, and kids are going to fail from time to time…just having values to go back to grounds us. We're a fairly calm staff… we can get fiery at times, but ultimately it's the leadership from within the team that drives the program forward," says Crain.

Gartin believes results show for themselves: "We're really starting to see a maturation within the team. Yesterday in the erg room, I saw a senior who could be potentially beaten out by a particular novice ask that girl to sit next to her. The chemistry is outstanding… they compete for seats in the boats, but really embrace every success by an OU boat. "

OU is no stranger to strong culture – a passionate fan base gives way to one of the top funded athletic departments in the country. "I didn't understand how passionate the community and the university was until I went to the first football game and 85,000 people were yelling "Boomer Sooner" across the field, and it's like that in everything OU does!" says Gartin. "People yell 'Boomer Sooner' in airports at us," says Crain.

"Be tireless…if you've made the right choice, meeting your commitments and the hard work will more straightforward "

Crain and Gartin may have taken cues from the culture outside of their rowing program: "We'd like to shoot for top ten nationally in the next two years," Crain says. Gartin adds to this sentiment, "we're also very focused on GPA – that's important here too."

Given their strong focus on culture both Crain and Gartin emphasize the importance of 'fit' in the recruiting process. "Be tireless… Be thorough… if it's not good from the word 'go', it may be really tough later. If you've made the right choice, meeting your commitments and the hard work will more straightforward."

Catch the Oklahoma women in action this March in Oklahoma at the OU Invitational, Austin at the Longhorn Invitational, or the San Diego Crew Classic.