Meet our Customers: London Youth Rowing

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A group of girls are sitting on a wooden rowing machine, excitedly wearing their medals.


Meet our Customers: London Youth Rowing


In the heart of bustling London, there exists an organisation dedicated to transforming the lives of disadvantaged young people through the power of rowing and water sports. London Youth Rowing (LYR) stands as a beacon of hope, providing not just opportunities but also the tools to help young individuals build life skills, self-belief, and unlock their true potential.

Since its inception in 2005, LYR has been on a remarkable journey, impacting the lives of thousands of young people across London, Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, Kent, Nottingham, and beyond. Their core mission goes far beyond the waters, reaching into the hearts and minds of those they serve. In 2023 alone, LYR touched the lives of 5,547 young individuals, with 50% being female, 66% from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and 10% facing special educational needs or disabilities.

Join us on a journey to discover the essence of LYR, the aspirations and motivations of its members, and the incredible impact they make in the community:

Could you provide some insights into the background and core mission of London Youth Rowing (LYR)?

London Youth Rowing (LYR) provides opportunities for disadvantaged young people to experience rowing and other water sports, developing their life skills, self-belief and potential. LYR works with approximately 120 state schools in London, Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, Kent, and Nottingham. Its team of 23 employees has been operating since 2005 and in 2023, LYR worked with 5,547 young people, of whom 50% were female, 66% were from ethnic minority backgrounds, and 10% had special educational needs or disabilities.

LYR was set up in 2005 and provides opportunities for disadvantaged young people to experience the benefits of rowing through our range of coaching, inclusion, and health programmes, supporting young people to develop new skills, enhance their self-belief, to act independently and seek out opportunities, improving their own lives and the lives of others.

What type of individuals typically become members of LYR, and what are their aspirations and driving forces?

We currently work with 60+ state secondary schools across London delivering the programme. In 2023 the Active Row London programme worked with 1,921 young people of which 40% were female, 73% were from ethnic minority groups and 14% had special educational needs or a disability. London Youth Rowing (LYR) focuses its work in the 12 most economically deprived London boroughs, as measured by the London Poverty Profile.

Case study – Active Row Islington. A three-year partnership with LB Islington and Henley Royal Regatta Charitable Trust, launched in September 2022, to open up the Active Row programme to all state secondary schools & alternative provisions in Islington. All schools can participate in indoor rowing in schools, LYR competition programme (in person and online), Life Skills development days and on-water multi-sport sessions at LYR’s base at the Olympic Park.

Access to rowing, paddle boarding, canoeing is available. 6 months into the programme 13 schools are currently participating, we have delivered  118 sessions to 159 young people and pupils have competed in the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championship in March. Pupils from 2 Islington schools also attended a Life Skills workshop with the Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Rowing Team Work

How does LYR provide assistance and motivation to individuals who are new to rowing or may not possess extensive experience?

The programme places coaches and equipment into schools and engages young people in a range of rowing activities. We provide indoor rowing competitions as well as on water sessions at different locations across the UK and include other sports such as rowing, canoeing, kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding too. We run Open Clubs where young people can come and try rowing in a Youth Club environment instead of the more traditional Rowing Clubs which can be excluding and off-putting for many young people.

Could you outline the training routines or coaching options available through LYR, and how do these offerings enhance the experience for members?

We do not hunt for the next Andy Triggs Hodge, Sir Steve Redgrave, or Dame Katherine Grainger. We are not looking to be a talent i-d centre for British Rowing BUT we do want to provide a wide range of opportunities for young people to try the sport and keep engaged if they want to. We believe that if you allow young people to have fun, fall in love with the sport and make it interesting and provide a range of new activities for them and their friends, you will engage them in sport and physical activity for life.The rest, including the Olympic medals will follow.

We also know that the numbers of young people that are regularly active in sport is dropping, and it can be very tough to engage them. One of the reasons is that the coaches are not always relatable to them, and we have set up a Step Up Coach Programme to attract young people who want to chose sport as a career.  A lot of our coaches are from outside of the sport but by providing a very broad scope of sports coaching and support, we are training a new group of coaches that may go on to coach in other sports too.

What sorts of activities and events does LYR arrange, and how do these contribute to the sense of unity within the club?

We run a wide range of activities from indoor rowing competitions, training sessions, events, and on water sessions in lots of different locations. Our main event is the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships – NJIRC for short.

It is the largest event of its kind on the planet and regularly attracts over 2000 young people from 150 schools and organisations every year.

Do you have any stories of accomplishment to share about members who have realised their fitness or rowing objectives through LYR’s support?

Out tag line is ‘Making Champions Every Day’.  This is not just because they can become Champions but because they do something that they are proud of every day and every time they train. We are not always looking at competition or competing but rather, how do we encourage them to be as good as they can be today. That said, we do have people that have started to row with us and have gone on to win the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and in 2022 one of our students, who is now rowing with British Rowing, became World Champion in the Men’s coxless 4. Amazing stuff!

What is your vision for the future of LYR, and how do you intend to foster expansion and advancement to cater to the needs of your members?

Since the first Covid outbreak we have looked to expand out of London and to take what we had learnt in London to see if we could use that knowledge in other towns and cities.

We are currently working in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Nottingham, Gravesend in Kent and soon to open on Bristol too – as well as our continued strong base in London. We want to do more of this expansion and to take the work to new groups and get more young people to fall in love with this sport and to be more physically active generally.

What problem did we at Sustainable Medals help you solve?

We want to be more environmentally aware and be more sustainable in how we run our programmes and events. We want to be able to do the right thing and help teach our young people why and how we do that. We have a ‘LYR Forest’ that we have been buying and planting new trees in for several years now and Sustainable Medals really helped us do that for all of our events in a very simple and easy way.

The principle is spot on, and people understand what we are trying to do really quickly. It was and remains to be a perfect fit for us as we look to do more work to help engage young people in new and more diverse ways than just rowing – we do so much more than just rowing!


As we delve into the world of London Youth Rowing, we find a profound commitment to nurturing young talents, regardless of their background or experience. LYR’s holistic approach, extending from coaching and inclusive programs to health initiatives, empowers young individuals to not only excel in rowing but also to develop crucial life skills, independence, and a passion for making a difference.

Through their programs like Active Row Islington, LYR exemplifies its dedication to inclusivity, opening doors for all state secondary schools and alternative provisions in the community. They’ve succeeded in creating a sense of unity among schools, offering young people opportunities they might not have dreamed of before.

LYR’s vision extends beyond London, encompassing cities like Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Nottingham and Bristol, where they seek to replicate their success in fostering a love for rowing and physical activity among the youth.

In this journey of transformation, Sustainable Wooden Medals play a crucial role. LYR’s commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness aligns perfectly with Sustainable Medals’ mission. Together, we are planting the seeds of change, not only in the LYR Forest but also in the hearts and minds of young individuals, teaching them the importance of responsible practices and inspiring them to embrace diverse paths to fitness and fulfillment.

LYR is not just about making champions; it’s about helping young people become the best versions of themselves every day. Their achievements extend far beyond medals and trophies, shaping the future of countless lives, one row at a time.

Race The Thames Wooden Medals