‘I always think if I can make just a little bit of difference, then it’s worth doing’

Congratulations to Anne Hock from Leicester Rowing Club, who receives a British Empire Medal in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List

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Anne Hock, Secretary of Leicester Rowing Club joins Kate O’Sullivan, British Rowing Deputy Chair, in being awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this month.

Speaking over Zoom, Anne says: “Most volunteers don’t always get a thank you, so this was lovely. My family were just thrilled.

“What was so nice about it was that someone thought that I’d done enough to deserve it. There’s so many people who’ve done so much more than I have, and it’s not really recognised.”

Anne very nearly didn’t hear the good news at all though as she initially dismissed the email as spam!

“I thought it was a con – but it turned out to be the real thing.”

Back in 2010, her rowing journey began when she was looking for a water sport to help her keep fit. She came across Leicester Rowing Club and, armed with some steering experience from sailing, started coxing. Then after completing a learn to row course, she quickly became hooked on the sport.

Her passion and drive saw her becoming more and more involved in the administrative side of the sport and her volunteering roles now include secretary of Leicester RC, Chair of the East Midlands Rowing Council as well as working as a national umpire.

“I think if you’re interested you just want to do it and make time for it,” she reflects. “I always think, if I can make just a little bit of difference, then it’s worth doing.”

“We are a club run by volunteers and it is always good to see their efforts recognised like this”

Paying tribute, Leicester captain Ben Pickering says: “Anne is a keen volunteer at the club where she often arranges canal clean-up days getting the rest of the club involved as well as the Canal & River Trust.

“She is very dedicated to the recreational squad which she leads (and is the largest squad in the club) and is passionate about recreational rowing and the tours that they go on.

He adds: “We are a club run by volunteers and it is always good to see their efforts recognised like this.”

Leicester’s recreational squad has been hugely successful, bringing new members to the club with around 30 people enjoying the camaraderie and challenge of touring on different waterways.

Anne says: “It has a high retention rate and is particularly popular with older woman – with some inspired to take up the sport when their children started to row.”

The recreational squad came into being because Anne wanted to offer people a way of improving their fitness without having to commit to the club’s intense training schedule.

The environment is one of the key issues that Anne deals with as chair of the region

“The fitness is really very important. You do need quite a bit of stamina,” she adds. “You might be rowing 25k a day and the British Rowing Tour does that for three days, so it’s not a walk in the park. So, you’ve got your incentive to stay fit, but then equally we stop in the locks, or we stop for a coffee – and you have that very social element to it as well.”

Anne pictured above on the Good Friday Row from Nottingham to Newark – a row of 36km including five locks!

One of the challenges is the water at Leicester. “Keeping the long-distance rowing going when you have exactly one mile of water is quite hard.”

Another is keeping the water clean and ensuring that more waterways are open to river users. The environment is one of the key issues that she deals with as chair of the region.

“If you look at the East Midlands clubs and you ask them about their water, they all have a different relationship with the agencies – it’s not joined up. You used to be able to row from Leicester to Loughborough, but you can’t do that now. Wouldn’t it be nice to row a coxed eight from Leicester to Loughborough?

Litter picking and pruning overhanging branches with the City Council’s platform – Leicester rowers do this twice a year

“Whether it’s the canoeists, the kayakers or us rowers, the water is our sportsground, and we’re losing it by neglect because it is not being kept in good order. At one point, the canal was open to all commercial traffic and boats and now it’s impassable and you can’t use it at all. We need a strategy going forward.”

“The umpiring has been enormous fun because you meet such lovely people from different clubs”

One positive from the pandemic is that the region’s nine clubs and eight university clubs plus one school are better connected, partly because of improved communication and engagement thanks to the convenience of attending Zoom meetings during lockdown. Clubs are supporting each other and there is more constructive thought across the region, Anne reflects.

“Peter [Boyes], our five-star regional secretary, has now got all the university clubs talking to each other, and that’s terrific – we’ve never had that before.

“So, for instance, with the JIRR – we’re all talking about how we can do this for juniors and how we can approach it safely. These things involve us all, so it’s really nice. It’s much more cohesive.”

All these achievements are the result of hard graft behind the scenes, but Anne also has her own personal rowing highlights too, such as a tour around Lancaster with the challenge and fun of navigating over narrow bridges and even an aqueduct.

As an umpire, she also recalls standing on a bank in Lincoln when the temperatures unexpectedly became colder and colder.

“Then it started to rain and then it sleeted and then it snowed… and I thought I’m not sure that I can see the boats going by and has anyone actually remembered that I’m here?!

“I had no idea where I was, so it was a huge relief when the launch finally appeared out of the gloom! Then of course we all went back to the warmth and were laughing about it together.

“It’s the friendship around these moments that is special and being in a situation that isn’t part of your normal life.

“The umpiring has been enormous fun because you meet such lovely people from different clubs – and you stay friends.”

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