Knickerbocker Named Head Rowing Coach at Willamette University

Joins Bearcats with Coaching Experience at Mills, Mt. Holyoke and Rowing Clubs

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. – Reba Knickerbocker has been hired as the head coach of rowing at Willamette University, Athletic Director David Rigsby announced today. Knickerbocker has considerable coaching experience, both at the NCAA Division III level and with rowing clubs. She will arrive at Willamette to begin her new duties in early November.

“I was most interested in Willamette because I feel a connection to the mission of the university (Willamette’s motto is:  Not unto ourselves are we born),” Knickerbocker said. “Willamette clearly has a strong NCAA Division III philosophy of balancing the whole person with academics, athletics and service to others … In addition, I see a program with great potential for growth and the opportunity to achieve a high level of competitive success.”

Knickerbocker has previous NCAA Division III coaching experience at Mills College (Calif.) and at Mount Holyoke College (Mass.). She was the novice rowing coach at Mills in 1998-99 and served as the interim head rowing coach in 1999-00. At Mount Holyoke, she was an assistant rowing coach from 2003 through 2005.

“I am delighted to welcome Reba to Willamette and the Bearcat Rowing community,” Rigsby said. “Her rich experiences at Mills, Mount Holyoke and in various community rowing organizations help prepare her for this important position at Willamette. She has a great understanding of Division III and the special opportunities to teach, coach and mentor our students.”

In addition to her collegiate coaching experience, Knickerbocker has spent many years as a successful coach at the junior and master club level.

Knickerbocker was the head coach and program director at Northampton Youth and Community Rowing in Massachusetts from 2000 through 2005. She increased youth rowers from 20 to over 100 in one year, and implemented a master’s rowing program that grew form four members to 20 members in one year.

She has served as the head coach and program manager at the East Bay Rowing Club in Oakland, Calif, since 2011. Her efforts have increased the number of adult rowers from 39 to approximately 70.

During her recent job interview on the Willamette campus, Knickerbocker impressed many of the people she met with her commitment to the overall experience of student-athletes in NCAA Division III. Knickerbocker was impressed by the people she met, too.

“I was most impressed by the athletic director, the staff and the student-athletes,” she said. “The staff is clearly motivated towards competitive success while at the same time recognizing the academic goals of their players and teams. The staff members present themselves as a team, too, and that is a breath of fresh air.

“The athletes struck me by their investment in the rowing program and a clear commitment to seeing it thrive,” Knickerbocker added. “I can’t say when I last sat with a group of athletes and felt such ownership in their program and a determination to create an environment of success.”

Knickerbocker earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Biology from Mills College in 1997. She received a Master of Science degree in Exercise and Sport Studies with an emphasis in intercollegiate coaching from Smith College (Mass.) in 2003. She completed U.S. Rowing Level III coaching certification in 2001.

Although it is a bit more than a month before Knickerbocker will start working on the Willamette campus, she already has planned her first steps in developing the rowing program.

“My first step, and I believe the most important to growing the team, will be to create a culture of commitment,” she said. “This means inspiring the current rowers to reach past their perceived limitations, set a positive approach, and risk small failures to achieve their larger competitive goal together.

Rigsby is looking forward to Knickerbocker making a positive impact on Willamette’s rowers.

“Reba's references talked about her role as a mentor in the lives of women, and the role that rowing can play in teaching and shaping values of discipline and teamwork,” Rigsby said. “I will be excited to watch Reba coach our students and teams to new successes, both on- and off-the-river.”

Reba Knickerbocker has been chosen as Willamette's head rowing coach.

Reba Knickerbocker has been chosen as Willamette's head rowing coach.