Fox Chapel grad takes reins of U.S. rowing training center as Olympics approach

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Saturday, September 30, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Jesse Foglia was named the head coach at the USRowing Training Center at Princeton at the right time to help American athletes pursue a chance to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The 2000 Fox Chapel graduate was hired to coach the team in January after a long career working with college athletes. Foglia rowed for the Foxes’ high school program but quickly transitioned into coaching after he went to college.

Having an opportunity to help people pursue their Olympic dreams is something Foglia is looking forward to.

“It’s one of the few events in the world you can go anywhere in the world and talk about and there will be respect and admiration for,” Foglia said. “Even with the Super Bowl or winning an NCAA championship, and I respect the skill it takes to do that, it’s specific to our culture in North America. The Olympics is something universal and worldwide.”

Foglia came to USRowing after spending six seasons as the assistant heavyweight men’s coach at Harvard University. He also spent time teaching the sport at Bates (Maine) College and Columbia.

The USA rowing team recently competed in the 2023 World Championships in Belgrade in early September. Team USA ended up finishing with seven medals, including five silver and two bronze. That placed seventh among all nations. Netherlands and Great Britain tied for an event-high nine medals, with each nation winning six golds.

Foglia said that despite not rowing past high school himself, he has been fortunate to have gained a lot of hands-on experience. Working with some of the top athletes has also helped him gain knowledge as well.

“I think I’ve been super lucky to have been able to learn from amazing athletes,” Foglia said. “When you give them a voice to say things, you incorporate that. Coaching is much more about teaching than it is about experience. My theory is that the most important thing about coaching is how well you communicate, not necessarily what your skill set is.”

This has been an interesting cycle to get involved with Olympic rowing. The time period for qualifying has been shortened by a year after the Tokyo Olympics were pushed back a year by the covid-19 pandemic.

There have been positives and negatives for athletes regarding the timeline to qualify.

“The Olympics being delayed a year benefitted some athletes,” Foglia said. “It is only a three-year commitment as opposed to a four-year commitment. Things have ramped up much faster.”

Foglia said that the most important aspect of rowing is being OK with solitude. While coaches are there to help guide athletes, the best rowers have to be mentally tough.

“I think there is a baseline level of genetics,” Foglia said. “In addition, you have to be incredibly independent. The process of rowing at the collegiate/high school to an Olympic level requires a significant amount of time. A lot of that process is self guided. If you aren’t capable of being a self-starter or independent, it can really be a challenge.”

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