Sara Nevin and Mills College Rowing

By Sparks Editorial Staff | February 5, 2015

Located just outside of San Francisco, Mills College is an all-women’s college with just under 1000 undergraduates. Their small size and focus on liberal arts provides exceptional women a place to develop extraordinary leadership skills.

Most high school girls don’t consider attending an all-girls college. In a recent campus survey, 85% of Mills student athletes were not considering a women’s college at all. However, consider some statistics: 20% of women in Congress attended a women’s college. Women who went to women’s college are 50% more likely to get an advanced degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field. Of Business Week’s list of 50 female rising stars in corporate America, 30% have their bachelor’s from women’s colleges, as well as more than one-third of all women who sit on the boards of Fortune 1,000 companies. Rowing provides an extra opportunity to practice leadership skills.

Coach Nevin began at Mills in 2011. Nevin came to Mills in 2011, after 10 years as assistant coach at California. Prior to Cal, Nevin coached at all levels of rowing. Nevin rowed at the University of Washington, graduating in 1985 with three National Championships to her credit and was a member of the US National Team in ‘85 and ‘86. Besides those credentials, she was also the regatta director for the NCAA Championships in 1998 and 2001.

“The girls believe that what I tell them to do is possible, because I believe that they can do it, so they do it,” says Nevin. “I break things down to the simplest way of accomplishing the task.

Nevin sees rowing as a tool for personal development. The rowers develop confidence and the ability to take criticism.

“Non-athletes take criticism personally,” says Nevin. “Athletes take it as the direction to improvement.”

The athletes challenge themselves, believing they can do more. During post-practice debriefs, Nevin will be direct and honest with the girls, telling them exactly why a change affected the boat speed. Each week Nevin reviews video with each individual, so they can see what she is talking about.

Mills College is a Division III program and for the majority of the racing season the team is against the DII schools and club programs nearby, where the races are about closing the margins. For Mills, the qualifier for NCAAs is the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) Championship.

Nevin’s goal is to take the girls to the NCAA DIII National Championships. She loves the challenge and sees the team growing in size and strength. There are 31 rowers on the team this spring, making it the largest and most competitive squad ever.