There is a lot that you may not know about Head Coach of Andover Boy’s Crew Stewart MacDonald. Don’t be deceived by his 5’5” height and small frame, MacDonald is the real deal.
With an extremely extensive and impressive range of experiences in crew, MacDonald’s passion for the sport sparked during his seventh grade year when he just was 12 years old.
“I first sat in a rowing shell 52 years ago, and along the path since, competing at all levels as well as coaching at every level of the sport. I have seen a lot,” wrote MacDonald in an email to The Phillipian.
His coxing career began at Belmont Hill where he coxed the varsity boat for six years. Upon his graduation in 1967, he matriculated to the University of Wisconsin.
In 1968, during his time at UW, MacDonald competed in the Summer Olympics in Mexico City as the coxswain of the United States boat in the men’s coxed pairs event.
At 18 years old, he was the youngest athlete on the United States Olympic Rowing team.
The two rowers in the boat with MacDonald were Bill Hobbs, a 6’6” Harvard graduate, and Richard Edmunds, a 6’2” and 183-pound stroke. Hobbs and Edmunds pulled an 8:12.60 under the instruction of MacDonald in the final event to place fifth out of seven boats.
Through his involvement in the Olympics, MacDonald became the first Wisconsin Badger to compete on the United States Olympic rowing team.
Following his graduation from UW in 1972, MacDonald coxed the U.S. boat at the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. This time, he competed in the men’s coxed four event. Led by MacDonald, the boat pulled a 8:12.60 in the finals to come in fifth place.
Through each of his coxing endeavors, MacDonald interacted with a multitude of people. Each person motivated him to improve, extended his knowledge of the sport and shaped him into the person that he is today. His experiences coxing will stick with him forever.
“Rowing people are unique in their passion toward the sport, and when you are inside the sport you fully understand why. The magnetism that the sport exerts on those who engage it is what makes true lifetime colleagues of us all. People who may have never known each other, who rowed decades apart at different levels or colleges or clubs, share a collegiality and common interest in the sport of rowing, and when that commonality appears in a conversation it is the glue between those involved. I have seen it happen hundreds of times. It is a lifetime club,” wrote MacDonald in an email to The Phillipian.
As MacDonald entered adulthood, he made the transition from coxswain to coach, and crew continued to be a driving force in his life.
“Rowing can be an addicting sport. Once you are exposed, it never lets go of you,” said MacDonald.
He began coaching in 1973 at the Kent School as one of the coaches of the Girls program.
At Kent, he worked with Hart Perry, the Founder of the National Rowing Foundation. Together, MacDonald and Perry created the Dent Oars, a trophy in the name of John Dent, awarded to the winner of the annual B1 race between Andover and Kent.
In 2009, MacDonald created a similar award for the winner of the G1 race in honor of his coworker, known as the Hart Perry Trophy.
Following his departure from Kent, MacDonald returned to Belmont Hill where he was a history teacher and coach in the crew program for 12 years.
Also during that time, McDonald coached a variety of higher-level teams. He became the Assistant Coach for the women’s team at the World Championships in 1981, led the first U.S. Lightweight Women’s team into the international environment in 1982 and coached the Varsity Women’s Crew team at Boston University for a few years starting in 1983.
Due to his overwhelming successes, he was named the Assistant Men’s Coach for the 1984 Olympic Team at the Los Angeles Regatta. Upon his return to the Olympic Rowing atmosphere, MacDonald helped the U.S. boats win the silver medal in the coxed four, coxless four and eights events.
Over the course of his 52 years as a coxswain and a coach, MacDonald has learned important lessons. He has grown remarkably as a person and is very highly regarded for his achievements.
“I have learned along the way that you need to have multiple ways to get the same thing or to achieve to a goal. There is no fixed, absolute way of [rowing]. Therefore, the harsh spring weather, the unusually swollen river, the compressed schedule that is spring-season crew, coaching three eights and the logistics that are unique to every program are all challenges that I have to reach into the past to solve. You have to use creativity, communication, mental flexibility, imagination and patience [when coaching]. That is what I try to do,” said MacDonald.
He has passed his passion for coxing down to his daughter, Dylan MacDonald ’12, who is currently a coxswain at the University of Virginia.
MacDonald began his duties as Head Coach of the Boys Crew program at Andover this year. Currently, B1 holds a record of 1-3 and B2 boasts an undefeated record of 4-0 with MacDonald’s coaching. It is not clear whether MacDonald will continue to coach at Andover, as he has signed a one-year contract with Athletic Director Mike Kuta.