Penn AC Hires Paul Coomes as New Director of Programs

by: Cara Stawicki

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Penn AC is excited to announce that it has hired Paul Coomes as its first Director of Programs. Coomes joins Penn AC with more than 20 years of experience as Head Coach of highly competitive scholastic, collegiate and club rowing programs. In addition, he has an extensive professional background in project management, and product development and management, which lends itself to a unique combined skill set strong in leadership, communication and team building.

As Director of Programs, Coomes will oversee and direct club operations, and develop and operate club programs including Penn AC’s Junior Gold and U23 Summer Rowing Programs. He will work closely with Penn AC’s Board of Stewards, Executive Officers and Head Coach on member and alumni engagement, fundraising and club maintenance. The full-time position is an extension of the part-time Summer Programs Director role that Penn AC has offered in the past.

“Paul is going to be an integral leader for the club,” said Penn AC President, Mike Wherley. “He has the time and expertise to manage club programs professionally, start new programs and take on new projects to improve the club for everyone. He has tons of experience working at various clubs on Boathouse Row and he understands the challenges of running a club. He also has the right mentality to be patient when he needs to and to really listen.”

“I think Paul will bring an organizational stability and professionalism that we will need as we move forward with our programs and with the facilities,” said Sean Hall, Head Coach of Penn AC’s High Performance Group. “He’s been on the Row for 20 years so he’s hit the ground running. I’m looking forward to getting to work with him on larger, longer-term projects at the conclusion of the summer junior rowing program.”

Coomes’ extensive head coaching experience started in 1995 when he helped found the rowing program at the University of Dayton in Dayton, OH. He coached the men’s varsity, junior varsity and novice athletes during the team’s nascent years, and ultimately helped establish a competitive and respected program that continues to thrive today.

In 1998, Coomes moved to Philadelphia where he established himself as one of the most successful scholastic rowing coaches in the country. From 1998 to 2015, he served as Head Coach of Conestoga Crew Club where he led the team to 21 Stotesbury Cup Championships, 25 Scholastic National Championships, more than 75 Philadelphia City Championships and multiple USRowing Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.

In addition, under Coomes’ guidance, Conestoga won the Girls Junior 4x at Henley Women’s Regatta in 2006—the first junior USA sculling boat to win an event in the regatta’s history—and the Girls Youth 4x at USRowing Youth National Championships in 2003.

“We are really excited to have someone like Paul, with such great experience creating and leading Conestoga’s very successful high school program for over 17 years, to help drive growth and improvements across all programs at Penn AC,” said Wherley. “He can help us connect better with all our members to make Penn AC a more vibrant community experience for everyone. There are lots of great things happening at the club, and I want everyone to feel that they are a part of each other’s successes.”

On Boathouse Row, Coomes has coached junior, U23, senior and elite scullers at Undine Barge Club (2000-2002), Bachelors Barge Club (2007-2011) and Crescent Boat Club (2016). In addition, he helped found PA Rowing Camps, a summer program dedicated to teaching adults and juniors to row, where he coached junior athletes from 2002 to 2007. Coomes’ wins representing crews from Boathouse Row are numerous and diverse with highlights including Coach of the Lightweight Men’s 1x at Rowing World Championships in 2009 and the Lightweight Men’s 2x that won NSR #1 in 2008.

In recognition of his success, Coomes was honored as the 2014 American Junior Coaching Conference Women’s Sculling Coach of the Year, and the 2007 Schuylkill Navy Coach of the Year. He was also selected to speak at the 2015 USRowing Convention, American Junior Coaching Conference and National Coaching Conference.

“I am really excited to become part of the Penn AC Community and understand how I can make an impact on the club and its members,” said Coomes. “It has been a goal, or more of a dream, of mine to make the sport of rowing my career. When the opportunity opened up to work full-time for one of the best rowing clubs in the country, I had to jump at it.”

“I really felt that my experience in both rowing and coaching, and my professional experience as an engineer and project manager were well-suited to the demands of the job,” he continued. “There is a lot to do to support the current club programs, but finding new opportunities to engage the current and future members is an exciting challenge.”

Written by Cara Stawicki, carastawicki@gmail.com.

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