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Inspiring others through rowing

(Kurt Loeffler)

When Kate Smith, Class of 2012, joined Mills’ Rowing team in the Fall of 2008, she had no idea that a hobby would lead her to her post Mills career.

Smith was double majoring in Economics and Public Policy specializing in Criminal Justice, which was a major that Smith created herself. Under the guidance of coaches Kari Davis and Sara Nevin, Smith’s interest in crew grew along with her talent. After her sophomore year, Smith was invited to participate in a development camp at University of Wisconsin-Madison. The whole experience revealed to her that while she loved competing, she really wanted to coach.

“I love the sport, and naturally I want to share that,” Smith said. “I couldn’t see myself pursuing my Criminal Justice degree unless I wrote episodes of Law and Order,” laughed Smith.

Smith considered a coaching job at University of Pennsylvania, but decided to stay local.

Nowadays, you can catch her helping coach the Mills Crew team twice a week, while leading six weekly practices for the Norcal crew team in Redwood City. Norcal is a girls crew team comprised of fourteen to seventeen year olds that hail everywhere from Palo Alto to Redwood City, where the team practices. To get to practice on time, Kate gets up every morning at 4 a.m., but she explains that the early hours are worth it.

“I love explaining crew to them,” said Smith. “Seeing them be eager to learn when they have so much else going on in their lives, like tests and college applications, and getting them to enjoy the sport.”

As much as she loves working with the Norcal team, Smith has other aspirations as well. Smith is currently studying for personal training certification and a separate exam that would certify her to become a fitness nutritionist. She loves dry land training, which is a type of crew training that takes place outside of the boat, her team and training kids one on one.

Ultimately, Kate would love to see crew become more accessible, especially to at-risk youth. She believes the non-contact sport of rowing has a calming effect and can help those in adverse situations.

“It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re doing 2k on the erg (the rowing machine),” Smith says.

Until that happens, however, Kate is still training the Norcal crew team and inspiring determination in the girls she coaches one day at a time.