Mike Irwin & Saint Joseph's Men's Rowing

By Helen Tompkins | July 1, 2014

PHILIDELPHIA - Throughout the SJU campus you’ll see banners that say “Magis.” Magis is the Jesuit educational model to “live greater,” and it means to act not just for yourself but for others. The team studies and rows by Magis.  Team members are accountable to one another and row for the other guys on the team.  Though most crews feel this way about their own team, at SJU the guys take it back to campus to create greater cohesiveness in their lives.

Saint Joseph’s University boathouse, Gillin Boat Club, was built in 2002. Unlike many of its historic neighbors, where rowers face a daily struggle for space and limited facilities, Gillin Boat Club is state-of-the-art, with the capacity for 42 eights, 14 fours and 14 small boats. The program is also fortunate to have 30 ergs at the boathouse, with 30 more on campus. Training on the Dad Vail Regatta course with a bustling community of rowers, from junior programs to the National Team, creates a lot of energy on the Schuylkill River.

Founded in 1851, Saint Joseph’s University is known for its beautiful Gothic architecture.  The campus is in Wynnefield, one of Philadelphia's most pleasant neighborhoods, with ample gardens, vast green space, and running trails that are far from the city congestion just a twenty minute drive away. In addition, SJU features Division I competition and funding.

Head Coach Mike Irwin looks for open minded student athletes.  The athletes that come to SJU are not always ready for the rigors of collegiate competition.  Irwin has found that most athletes don't hit their stride until a year or two in. Irwin and his staff are looking for students that see their best years in front of them. They are looking for athletes who are constantly trying to improve

Irwin is working to raise the expectation of what it means to train and be a varsity athlete.  Irwin believes in doing basic fundamentals and building on those fundamentals until mastery is achieved. He creates consistency in the training plan that gives the athlete something to build on.

Irwin asks the rowers to keep a journal of their workouts, sleep, and nutrition. This allows them to see patterns in their training and allows Irwin to help them improve and get more out of what they are putting in. Tracking training also allows the athletes to take ownership of their own training.

SJU rowers also have a good situation if they choose to stay in Philadelphia for the summer.  They have housing and can train at SJU, or any of the numerous summer programs on boathouse row, while taking summer classes or an internship in the city.  Coach Irwin believes each year has its own identity.  This coming season will be the 61st for SJU crew.  Irwin is excited to see how far "Team 61," as he calls it, will go. The team ended the 2014 season at Dad Vails, with the Novice, Second Varsity, and Varsity Eight finishing in the semi-finals.