Paul Cooke & Brown Men's Rowing

By Helen Tompkins | February 13, 2014

At Brown, "everyone matters" says assistant coach JB Cholnoky. The guys in the fourth eight push the guys in the third eight. This "upward pressure" drives the top boat to "raise its game."

"It doesn't matter how big you are, it only matters how hard you pull."

JB Cholnoky joined as the varsity assistant coach November 2013 and has been working with the team since August as a volunteer assistant. Head coach, Paul Cooke, says JB "has brought great enthusiasm, loyalty and a strong work ethnic to our team." Cooke has been coaching Brown eighteen years and guided the team to consistently medal in the IRA National Championships, adding two Eastern Sprints titles in the Varsity 8+ last five years. In each of the last two seasons, Brown was second for the Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy, awarded to the school with the most team points at IRAs. Cooke also coached the US Men to silver in the 8+ and bronze in the 4- at the 2013 World Rowing U23 Championships in Linz, Australia. A 1989 graduate of Brown University, Cooke believes that while he tries to promote a culture that embraces racing at the highest levels, the team must embrace every opportunity to be excellent students too. He holds the team accountable by asking them after their morning runs "How many guys where in the library studying by 8pm last night?" JB believes Cooke to be the moral compass of the team and says the guys trust his vision for the program.

"He believes in simple things like respect, humility, kindness, and holds everyone in the boathouse accountable to being better people on and off the water."

Cooke is a big supporter of the team's efforts in promoting Pull for a Cure, founded in 2009 by a Brown alumnus, Dan Aziz. The team also volunteers with a local elementary school, Fox Point. Even with the high academic standard, the guys make time to "take proper steps to recover and gain flexibility." "They understand there are 22 hours outside of practice to prepare for the next one, and they actively work to recover so that when it's time to go, they can preform at a very high level."

"The athletes come to Brown for its open curriculum and have high academic aspirations.”

The team is exceptionally diverse. Student athletes come from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Peru, Germany, and South Africa. "Pursuing degrees in everything from Cognitive Science and Biology to the Classics and Economics." The athletes come to Brown for its open curriculum and have high academic aspirations. Rowing experience on the team covers the spectrum, "from former high school National Champions to athletes who never touched an oar before arriving at the Marston Boathouse." Yet pedigree does not influence how they see themselves or others. Each rower determines his own success. Last year, a walk on freshman football player from Massachusetts earned a seat in the first freshman 8+, taking home a silver medal at IRAs. Cholnoky feels that the team is "a blue-collar brotherhood that redefines hard work." The team just returned to Providence from their Florida winter training trip. Reflecting on the trip, Cholnoky says "it was a solid block training, but our spring schedule is very competitive." Cholnoky is exited to see if they can achieve their goals of winning the Rowe Cup and the Ten Eyck Trophy this spring. Brown's first race of the season will be against Yale on March 22.