Boys Crew, Sports, Spring Sports

Coach Feature: Stewart McDonald

After both coxswaining on and coaching the United States National Rowing teams, Boys Crew Head Coach Stewart MacDonald possesses a staggering amount of experience with crew under his belt. He has enjoyed an enduring 53 years with the sport.

MacDonald joined the Andover Crew program for the 2014 season after the previous Head Coach, Peter Washburn, stepped down. He brought his wealth of knowledge and experience with the sport to Andover, along with a desire to see Andover succeed.

MacDonald wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I wanted to see the program survive what was a very unpleasant and disruptive experience of losing their long-term and respected Head Coach. My daughter is an [Andover Class of ’13] graduate and coxed for Coach Washburn in B1 for three years, so as a former parent, I wanted to guide everyone through the storm, even though I no longer had any connection to the school. Coach Hurley is someone I deeply respect, as well as someone I coached on the National Team, and, when he reached out, and then articulated his goals for both the Boys and Girls programs, I was compelled to sign on and help him achieve those goals. [I’m] glad I did. It has been interesting, and we now have two strong programs.”

While Andover is MacDonald’s latest commitment in his long and illustrious history with crew, he had a coincidental introduction to the sport. As a scrawny seventh grader attending the Belmont Hill School, MacDonald decided to dabble in crew and was assigned the coxswain position. From the moment he first sat down in that boat, the sport has captivated him.

MacDonald enjoyed another six years coxswaining at Belmont Hill before moving onto the University of Wisconsin, where he coxswained for another four. The freshman year of his college experience, MacDonald was called up to the United States 1968 Olympic Team. Four years later, after graduating from University of Wisconsin, he returned to the global stage with the 1972 Olympic team.

After the 1972 Olympics, MacDonald devoted his time to coaching. He coached the Boys Crew program at the Kent School in Connecticut for three years before returning to Belmont Hill to coach and teach. During this time period, he also coached the Varsity Women’s team at Boston University.

MacDonald returned to the US National team in 1981, coaching for 11 years until 1992. During that time, he coached all four US teams at the World Championship level. He also coached the 1984 Men’s Olympic Team Eight and Four.

Despite having coached at a multitude of levels, ranging from high school varsity teams to US National teams, MacDonald’s coaching philosophy remains simple and effective.
“Have fun, but work hard. Intend, and then work to be the best. Respect your opponents, the sport and its difficulties. Respect excellence and character. Improvement and learning are permanent,” he said.

Thanks to MacDonald, the Boys team has enjoyed multiple first place finishes from boats B1-B3 in its races this season. The team’s response to MacDonald’s leadership has been overwhelmingly positive.

Co-Captain Marc Sevastopoulo ’15 said, “Coach MacDonald is very objective in everything he does. He isn’t partial to the way anyone’s stroke looks or doesn’t look. He only cares what moves the boat best. He considers the small things when they matter. If the small things have no effect on the speed of the boat, it couldn’t matter less to him.”

Luke Bitler ’17 added, “He is a very well respected Olympic coxswain who is taking this program to the top level. He demands a whole lot from us on and off the water. He’s also building this program from the bottom up.”

The combination of his attitude and his veteran knowledge of crew has contributed to his success in the past and will undoubtedly enhance and enrich Andover Crew for years to come.

May 11, 2015