A chance email from Ashley Myles answered a lot of questions for a North Carolina rowing team that saw its coaching staff shrink from four coaches to just two over the last year.
UNC is welcoming Myles, a new volunteer assistant coach, to the program. COVID-19 has brought on tribulation for college athletics as a whole, but UNC women's rowing benefitted when the college where Myles had previously coached — Washington College — went online-only for the semester.
Myles has rowed since high school and competed at Washington College. After she graduated, she went on to coach for three years at Franklin and Marshall, a Division 3 school in Pennsylvania. After graduating, Myles took a break from the sport during a year-long trip to Australia. She spent that time reflecting on her passion for the sport and if coaching was something she really wanted to pursue.
After returning to the United States in 2019, Myles had the opportunity to be the assistant coach at her alma mater full-time. Because of COVID-19, the college transitioned to online classes for the fall semester.
Finding herself in North Carolina and wanting to pursue a coaching career, Myles reached out to UNC's interim co-head coaches, Emilie Gross and Thomas Revelle, who jumped on the opportunity to have an extra set of eyes for the rowing program.
Gross described Myles as a natural fit for UNC's rowing culture. Myles, along with her fellow coaches and rowers, described her coaching style as positive, which has brought a bright spot during a period of uncertainty and changes as safety measures are implemented due to the ongoing pandemic.
"Bringing her in with that positive energy it was kind of like a new spark to the fire," Gross said. "Which kind of brings the morale up, which is great especially right now."
Senior rower Lily Brown said she appreciates coming into practice and seeing Myles. Brown said a new face is welcomed during the pandemic, and the coaching addition has made a positive impact on team morale.
"She has super great energy, and I think that's what's keeping our team so sane right now," Brown said. "Just having her presence there and her positive attitude is really helping us through COVID."
The positive energy is not one-sided, either. Myles was impressed by the excitement the Tar Heels' rowers bring to everything they do. She joked that it's not often that you can walk into a room full of energetic rowers preparing for a 6 a.m. workout.
"They're so excited about everything they're doing, and even through this pandemic, just seeing the way that they drive forward every day has got me really excited and really looking forward to what's going to happen in the spring for them," Myles said. "Because I know it's going to be a really successful year."
Myles has also brought a hands-on approach to the North Carolina program. She has been known to join in during the team's tough morning workouts, sometimes out-lifting the current Tar Heels. By joining the workouts, Myles has found a unique way to motivate her team and relate to the players. By watching her, the rowers have started pushing themselves to keep up.
Myles has been known to row before practice, too. Brown said she appreciates her hands-on style and thinks it's a testament to her love for the sport that she still takes her chances to get out on the water.
"She helps our staff," Revelle said. "She makes me and Emilie better by offering different ideas, different perspectives, different experiences that we can incorporate in to what we're doing."
Myles' future on the Tar Heels rowing staff is uncertain, however, as she waits to hear Washington College's plans for the spring. Still, no matter how short her tenure in Chapel Hill is, the team said she has already made an impact with her positivity.
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