One of the fastest growing sports in The Bahamas received a boost in the arm over the weekend as American rower, bestselling author, and protagonist of the film ‘A Most Beautiful Thing’ which promotes the sport of rowing, shared his story with various youth groups, discussed U.S. scholarship opportunities, and conducted workshops.
Arshay Cooper, who experienced humble beginnings in Chicago, Illinois, growing up as a youngster and as a Black American, said he’s just trying to take his message to as many youngsters as possible and make a difference in their lives.
“I came from the west side of Chicago where it was very violent so I was in a position where I was just trying to make it out. I got introduced to swimming and rowing at a young age and I thought it was a beautiful thing. Here it was, at my school, Manley High School, we had an opportunity to make history – to be the first all-black high school rowing team in the country,” said Copper. “Rowing teaches you to be disciplined, it teaches you wellness, you have to be very meditated on the water and you have to be able to row for others. You also have to learn how to swim. We competed against the top teams from across the country and that gave us the experience that we needed.”
Cooper said that all of the members from his high school team went on to become entrepreneurs, he was able to write an award-winning book, and he produced a movie and started a foundation. After traveling to other parts of the world helping youngsters to learn how to row, he said he heard about the Nassau Rowing Club (NRC) and the program they were running here in The Bahamas.
“I have a desire to help kids develop in the sport of rowing. I want to help them obtain scholarships where they would have a better shot at furthering their education and help them to one day get into the Olympics and represent their country,” said Cooper. “At the end of the day, I have a heart for kids who look like me. Here in The Bahamas, I’ve spoken to hundreds of youngsters who are excited about getting an opportunity to row. So much hunger and talent is here. We want to help bring the resources in and connect with the Nassau Rowing Club and with the US Embassy in getting kids off to college.”
Over the course of five days, Cooper spoke to over 300 youngsters here in The Bahamas. He said he thoroughly enjoyed his time here and that for the most part, the youngsters understand that rowing helps in a lot of areas of life.
“There will be opportunities to travel and so many benefits,” he said. “There has to be determination and you have to be someone who is willing to learn and who has the willpower to improve and always get better at rowing. It’s hard. You have two have a strong work ethic. What you put into in is what you get out of it. It’s very technical. I didn’t become a national champion but I took part in local races, in regattas, and won medals. Rowing taught me how to swim and how to work well with others. It bring people together. My desire is to use the sport to help young kids get recruited for college and eventually enter the professional ranks. At this point, we just want to get more people involved in rowing and help them get to the point where they could eventually represent their country in rowing.”
Cooper has been involved in the sport for 22 years – ever since his high school days at Manley Career Academy High School on the west side of Chicago. His trip to The Bahamas was facilitated by the US Embassy and supported by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Culture.
Head of the Youth Division in the ministry Sandena Neely said they were happy to play a role in Cooper’s visit, helping with the coordination of the workshops for the many participants.
“We partnered with focus groups to provide over 200 kids for the film screening and for the rowing workshops,” said Neely. “Also, there were 50 students from youth apprenticeship camps. We’re big on diversity. We wanted to give the youngsters this experience.”
Neely said they also partnered with the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) in bringing in 30 cadets for the workshop, continuing to ensure that more and more young people are fully engaged this summer.
There was a special screening of the film ‘A Most Beautiful Thing’ at Fusion Superplex on Gladstone Road and workshops for over 300 youth. At the screening, the public witnessed firsthand the positive impacts of rowing.