This week, Dr. Sara Simmons, a hand and wrist specialist with Coastal Orthopedics, served as the keynote speaker for the 2019 USRowing Youth National Championships Graduation Ceremony at Nathan Benderson Park.
A former high school and collegiate rower and U.S. National Team member, Dr. Simmons has an extensive rowing background. She is still involved with the sport and has spent the past three years serving on Nathan Benderson Park’s sports medicine team.
The June 5 ceremony celebrated the academic accomplishments of senior student-athletes competing at the Youth National Championships June 6 – 9.
“It was a real honor to be asked to speak, and I was very flattered to be a part of the ceremony,” said Dr. Simmons. “It’s a little surreal to think back on those experiences because I’m so far away from where I was in high school, but it doesn’t feel that distant in my mind. I believe you’re the same person throughout your life, and I hoped to appeal to those looking forward because they have their whole lives ahead of them.”
The USRowing Youth National Championships serve as the premier youth rowing event in the U.S. with approximately 1,500 athletes that represented nearly 150 teams from across the country. These crews competed for national titles in 18 boat classes. This year marked the third time Suncoast Aquatic and Nature Center Associates, Inc. (SANCA), a not-for-profit business created to manage Nathan Benderson Park, has hosted the Youth National Championships.
“We were excited to partner with SANCA and Visit Sarasota to bring this premier event back to Sarasota,” said USRowing Chief Executive Officer Patrick McNerney. “Nathan Benderson Park is a beautiful facility and provided our young athletes with a world-class racing experience to end their racing season. It was an honor that Dr. Sara Simmons, a distinguished local orthopedic surgeon and U.S. National Team alumna, spoke as the keynote speaker during our graduation ceremony. Through her success both on and off the water, Dr. Simmons is a role model for all of our young athletes competing in Sarasota, and we thank her for sharing her story with all of our graduating seniors.”
Dr. Simmons was one of three speakers, including USRowing CEO Patrick McNerney and a senior student-athlete, who shared insight with the 2019 graduating class. During her speech, Dr. Simmons spoke about the importance of staying true to yourself and fighting for what you believe in whether that is rowing, a job or your future career.
Recognizing there would be rowers of all levels in attendance — many of whom won’t be rowing in college for a variety of reasons — Dr. Simmons wanted to create a message that would resonate with everyone, especially those who would potentially be preparing for their last race.
Drawing from her own rowing experiences, Dr. Simmons stressed the importance of hard work and perseverance. While Dr. Simmons may not have been the strongest or the biggest athlete, she worked hard at the sport and put in countless hours on the water, running and lifting. Her hard work paid off when she raced herself into the final seat on the junior U.S National Team in 1990 and went on to win a gold medal in the Lightweight Women’s Four at the 1995 World Rowing Championships in Finland.
“Life can be hard and full of expectations, but the ability to persevere, overcome obstacles and get back up and say ‘I can do this,’ is what separates and distinguishes you as a person,” said Dr. Simmons. “Making the U.S. National Team was something that I really wanted, and I did not give up until the last stroke. It is a good lesson for life to put everything you can into what you do. If it’s anything worthwhile, it’s something you have to fight for. That sentiment is the same no matter what age you are.”