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Megunticook Rowing executive director

Olympic gold medalist Goodale brings wealth of knowledge, experience to role

Former Windjammer student-athlete, Olympic gold medalist, named executive director
By Zack Miller | Dec 05, 2019
Courtesy of: Courtesy of Megunticook Rowing Anna Goodale.

Camden — From the time Anna Goodale left the Midcoast, to her return 20 years later, her life changed immensely.

The 36-year-old mother of two had never rowed competitively before she arrived at Syracuse University in upstate New York, but it was one of the best decisions she has made, as it propelled her rowing career to conference titles, and, eventually, a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Now, after all the success with oars in her hand, Goodale — also a Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame inductee — has returned to the area where she grew up, and has been named the executive director of Megunitook Rowing in Camden.

Returning home

Goodale arrived home in July, when she, her husband, Wesley, and two children, Avery and Owen — ages 7 and 2 — moved from Columbus, Ohio, for one reason.

"Family," said Goodale. "For the last 20 years I’ve been away, and started my own family and lived in Spokane, Wash. and Columbus. I got to a point where my son was starting first grade and we were ready to put down roots and we couldn’t image a better place, and being close to family.

"I think [family] was the biggest draw, in all honesty. My brother lives here, my mom lives here, both of my sisters are in the area, and my dad and stepmom go back and forth, so I have a really solid family and community base here. When it came time to think about where are we going to put down roots and where my son is going to high school, it was a pretty obvious choice."

When she arrived, the opportunity to continue her rowing career in the Midcoast was not present, but it did not take long for her current job at Megunticook Rowing to become "a match made in heaven."

"In Maine in general, and especially in the Midcoast, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity [to row]," said Goodale. "There certainly wasn’t any when I left here in 2001. It’s been really neat to come back and find rowing. The timing of it all worked out especially well and I couldn’t have planned this, I think, is the way that I would put it.

"I was working at The Ohio State University, in a very intense, high stress, really competitive program and it was awesome for my rowing career and my coaching career, but it wasn’t suited for my family life in all honesty. A couple of things happened in the last year, that made us say 'what are we doing?'

"My priority was finding a good place for my family and the idea was we will figure it out when we get there. My husband got a job working for Cold Mountain [Builders in Belfast], so he got a job first and I worked for Trillium Caterers [in Belfast] over the summer. As soon as I came back connections started happening.

"The (Megunticook Rowing) job came to me in a few different ways, and it was an amazing opportunity to coach a different group. I coached the club team [which started in August], so it wasn’t the varsity competitive team, it was a club team made up of mostly middle schoolers learning how to row. So I went from this really high [competitive atmosphere] of trying to win Big Ten championships, to let's just have fun in the water, and it was fantastic. It was a great group of [children] that just wanted to learn how to row and have fun with it and started to get the bug.

"It was really fun to get that coaching, which led to this idea of we as Megunticook Rowing, which, I like to describe it as the program has tripled the number of athletes that have come through their program, for juniors and masters. It’s really expanded and grown, which is really neat. There is something like 50 juniors that came through the program, but also 50 masters that came through the program. It’s a really an expanding program, and wants to grow.

"It has [a lot] of momentum and [a lot] of enthusiasm around it, and it kind of outgrew its own structure. It was run on volunteer work mostly, and you can only get so big on volunteer work, so the timing worked out that I came back, and I know rowing, I love rowing, I know leaderships and managerial stuff, so it just fell into place."

"Tools" help build something new

It is no secret the experiences Goodale has had in life have shaped her rowing knowledge, as a rower, and also as a teacher, which she can lean on in her new role.

"I think passion for rowing helps a lot," said Goodale. "To love what you do and to know the opportunities you are providing. I was thinking the other day in a director role, or, in a head coach role, I may not have the direct influence on young athletes, or just athletes in general, but I’m going to be able to give that opportunity to even more people. I think rowing teaches what I like and what I learned.

"The other thing is being there and done that. I know what it’s like to come from a place that doesn’t have rowing, and to walk on to a team and not know what I’m doing. Everyone starts somewhere, but at 18 years old I remember how awkward it was to start. I can put myself very easily in their shoes.

"I’ve had a lot of rowing experience in a lot of different bodies of water at a lot of different levels. It’s like I have a tool bag, and I’ve been putting tools in my tool bag. When I transitioned from being a rower to being a coach in 2014, I would say I was figuring out how to translate my muscle memory because I knew what it felt like in my body to row really well, but I needed to figure out how to verbalize it. It’s been a collection of all the coaches that I’ve worked with, and under, and my own trial and error in getting people to understand how to move a boat.

"At Ohio State I ran my program, which was the novice program, and had around 200 people at the beginning of the year, but I would end the year with about 25 really good rowers. Out of the four years I was there we won five or six Big Ten gold medals. So you’re taking people that have never rowed before to winning Big Ten championships is pretty cool. I bring all of that, and the ability to be undaunted, to know what is out there and what the possibilities are. I’m excited to bring a vision to the program, and that’s really exciting. I think it’s something that’s not going to happen overnight, but if we keep progressing it’s going to be really exciting."

Challenges in role

Despite the wealth of life experience in a boat, Goodale has the opportunity to teach rowers at a younger age, something she has not done before.

"In some ways it’s easier [to teach young rowers], because they don’t have all the muscle memory of an athlete in a specific sport," said Goodale. "Often times you are undoing a lot of things [for older athletes]. [With children] they are more relaxed and having fun. What’s been interesting is I’ve been coaching masters, and that’s really cool because I haven’t gotten to do that before either. The age I have been coaching [in past jobs] is the only age I won’t be coaching [now], because most people that are in college are off at college.

"Getting to coach all ends of the spectrum, is really cool and one of the things I look forward to is bringing that passion to it. One of my jobs I see as a coach is letting people fall in love with rowing. I’m really excited whether you’re 11 or 55 and want to come out to row to give you that opportunity."

With any new role, growing pains will be prevalent.

"I’ve never been the head of a program before," said Goodale. "I’ve been ‘a head under a head,’ but it really is going to be exciting to have a vision and do whatever it takes to get there. I’m not going to be doing it all by myself, but so much about running a program is leadership, which is one of the things I’ve become fascinated by. I have theories with leadership and experience with leadership, and I’m excited to grow in that.

"Leadership is not just accomplishing a task, but accomplishing a task to a high standard, and getting people on board with doing hard things, which is not easy. There are a lot of challenges we will face, and I know I will grow through them, and have already. I’ve only been the director for [short time] so it’s pretty fresh. Even so, I’m trying to figure it out. I’m a very process-driven person and I like to have processes, and there are a lot of areas where processes need to be thought up and created."

Sport meaning and memories

Whenever a passion takes hold it becomes an important part of someone's life, and Goodale is no exception, but she can describe what the sport has meant to her in one word: "Strength."

"It really has the ability to push yourself further than you think you can and know you will be OK," said Goodale. "For me, that was the biggest thing. I’m six-feet tall, and have been since I was 13, but it wasn’t until I found rowing that I felt like I could use my power. It gave me permission to be strong, and tall, because everyone around me was tall and it was really neat environment to walk into. It challenged me to be as strong as I could be.

"When I say ‘strong’ I’m not talking physical. I am, but that not the part that sticks out to me; it’s the mental part of it. My basketball coach in high school said it's 95 percent mental, and at the time I was like ‘yeah, right.’ I couldn’t understand that, but coming through rowing and being a coach I would 100 percent agree with him. It’s a mental sport just as much as it is physical, if not more.

"Providing people the opportunity to realize their strengths and their physical and mental capacity is my passion now for rowing. Before it was I want to work really hard and get really sweaty with my team, and see if we can win a gold medal. I never would have told you I was a competitive person coming out of college, but there’s something working with a group of people that pushes me to be the very best that I can for them. It’s always been my deal, but that has changed into providing opportunities."

Goodale made her own opportunities with her work ethic in college, and on the national team, which are some of her fondest memories to date.

"The [2008 Beijing] Olympics comes up [when we won a gold medal]," said Goodale. "When we came in fourth at the World Championships in Japan by two-tenths-of-a-second in a photo finish, and that I will never forget. In the moment I won’t say it was one of my favorites, but I think it was one of the absolute most important parts of my career as an athlete because it shaped how I trained.

"Most of my favorite memories are the little subtle memories. The big ones are, obviously, big and exciting, and on video, but the little ones are the ones that matter the most to me. When you’re in a pair with your best friend, and you’re sweaty, but you’re moving, and it’s going. The relationships that are built along the way [as well]. The women I rowed with are the most incredible people I know, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of that journey with them."

Full circle

Maine holds a special place in locals' hearts, but it took leaving the state for Goodale to realize that what she left behind was what she was searching for all along.

"Since I’ve left Maine and become an adult, I’ve always said I wanted to live in a place that inspires me," said Goodale. "I didn’t realize until I came back [to the Midcoast] that this is what I was talking about. It is so easy to get outside and be motivated to what is happening around you because you live here. It’s exceptional. I’ve always come back to visit, but now living here and seeing it every day I haven’t found anywhere else I’ve lived. I’ve lived all over the country, but it’s pretty inspirational to live here. All you have to do is look outside.

"The access to adventure is awesome, and I’ve really appreciated that. It feels amazingly safe, especially after living in Spokane and Columbus. Probably more for me than anything is the community. Coming back into the community has been really neat in the Midcoast area and realizing how many connections I have. Everywhere else I’ve lived I’ve tried to create that, but it’s something you can’t create overnight. The history I have in the area I will never be able to find anywhere else."

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Comments (1)
Posted by: James Bowers | Dec 05, 2019 13:47

Welcome home Anna!!

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