Amazing Women Masters Rower:
Maria Coyne

What rowing moment you are most proud of?
Winning gold in 1980 at the Head of the Charles for Women’s Club 8’s when I was Notre Dame. Women’s rowing at that time was a Club sport and we were a bit of a rag tag but very determined crew!

How has rowing shaped you?
Rowing has shaped me in so many ways. It has made me determined, dedicated to hard work, and grateful for the camaraderie you get from teammates.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to row your best?
I’m grateful rowing was a club sport when I started because I truly believe my height would have precluded me from making the team. Even today I find myself apologizing to teammates about only being 5’4” but I try to compensate by sitting up straight and taking a nice long hard stroke. 

What are the biggest life lessons you’ve learned from rowing?
Rowing is quite literally the best example of teamwork there is – there is no better illustration of the fact that if you all aren’t pulling together, you will get nowhere. 

What inspires you to keep rowing?
The quick answer is the people I get to row with! In both of my crews I love the diversity of people – by age, size, background, interests, etc. It’s inspiring. Also I just love continuing to challenge myself physically. 

What club or team are you currently rowing with?
NDames as well as  Western Reserve Rowing Association Masters in Cleveland, Ohio (rowing on the mighty Cuyahoga River!).  I should also mention that I came back to rowing after many years being away from it, when I got a call from one of my former Notre Dame crew mates saying they were trying to put a boat together to race in a Head race. (Truth is, she said they were trying to get some of the “younger girls” in the boat and that was me – who was 53 at the time, so of course I was in!). These women seemed to come back into my life at just the moment when I needed them. So I, like the other NDames, joined a local club and now we all belong to two crew “families”.

What do you like most about rowing a single or with others?
I love the feeling of being on the water and the feel of the boat running underneath me – I find something spiritual about being on the water. 

What are you currently working towards as a rower? as a competitor?
I want to continue to improve my technique and my level of fitness. I don’t want to let my teammates down.

What advice do you have for other women rowers?
Be the best you you can be by working hard and giving your all. Don’t beat yourself up about things you can’t control, like your height, or a bad practice or whatever. 

If you’d like to share your story in our “Amazing Women Masters Rowers” series, please email


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Author: Vreni Hommes

Why We Row celebrates the unique lives and incredible stories of Women Masters Rowers.