July 20, 2022 By Holly Moriarty
When Alix Howie’s novice (freshman) 8+ boat took silver for Lehigh University at the Dad Vail Regatta, the country’s largest collegiate rowing event, what she remembers most is not missing gold by just the tiny bow ball on tip of the boat, but the reaction from the winning team after the race.
“The Purdue girls came over and hugged it out,” she recalled. “It was remarkable to me how things were done. I never saw that in any of the other sports I played. After a year of rowing for Lehigh, this sport still surprised me.”
Alix’s rowing career began at Lincoln Maritime Center (now Hingham Maritime Center). She played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse at Hingham High School, and when she decided against going out for the lacrosse team junior year, her mother encouraged her to try rowing. She sculled (rowing with two oars) in 4+ boats (four rowers and a coxswain) that spring, continued rowing through the summer, and soon after was recruited to row for Lehigh’s Division I team.
Alix was captain of the Lehigh Women’s Rowing team for three years and voted most valuable rower her senior year. After graduating, she spent a year in Alaska doing volunteer work before moving back to the South Shore.
The Hingham High School Crew team, founded the year after she graduated from HHS, hired Alix as an assistant coach for the varsity and novice boats. After coaching the 2010-11 season, she earned her law degree at Suffolk University and currently works as an attorney for the federal government. Alix reconnected with HHS Crew this past spring, coming on as an assistant coach with the boys team.
“I always wanted to get back to crew. I loved the sport—and I loved my coaches. I’d like to be that person for the kids coming through the program,” said Alix.
The first day she showed up at practice, Alix watched the athletes warm up on the ergs (rowing machines). She had not yet been introduced and felt she should hang back and observe but noticed a rower’s positioning was off. She knelt next to his erg and suggested he keep his heels down. He seemed startled at first, but took the advice. Afterwards, he approached her and asked what else he should work on to improve.
“I was suddenly surrounded by all these rowers,” Alix said. “That first day they were asking me to tell them more. They were hungry for feedback. Those are the most fun days and practices—and the most fun athletes to coach. All the kids on the team are like that. I felt so lucky for this opportunity and that everyone was willing to take a chance on me.”
The athletes appreciated Alix’s deep technical expertise and measured approach. When the position for head coach of the boys team opened up this summer, she was a perfect fit.
“Alix is an outstanding candidate for the head boys coach position. She has a passion for rowing and the vision for where we want to take HHS Crew,” said Ted Matthews, president of the Hingham High School Rowing Association (HHSRA), the parent-run nonprofit organization that oversees and funds the team. “HHS Crew has cultivated an equally competitive and supportive environment that develops talented rowers and breaks new ground every year. Alix is part of the new landscape at HHS Crew and will lead our most competitive boys boats. We plan to fill in behind Alix with additional assistant coaches to develop the younger rowers as we enter the fall season.”
From its original roster of 20 athletes in 2006, HHS Crew is now the second largest sport at the high school, with more than 100 athletes participating in the three season sport. HHSRA is currently looking to expand the coaching staff to accommodate all the students signing up for the no-cut team.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the kids better as athletes and people. They’re all still growing into who they will be,” said Alix. "What I like about crew is that to be good, it requires you to step up a bit more as an individual, and be the master of your own fate. Especially in high school, at a time when you don't have a ton of control of your life, it gives you some agency over your present and future. Coaches can and will guide you along the way, but you have to be the one to step up and do the legwork from the beginning."
Alix is not the only Hingham High School alum on the coaching staff. Since 2019, seven HHS grads have returned to coach crew, including girls head coach Sydney Blasetti, who rowed for Boston University’s Division I team.
“I credit all the coaches who came before me. The team is in a great place and very supportive of one another. I endeavor to further that,” said Alix. “I do think we can be faster, and I’d like to work on pushing that forward. We have the resources and the drive. It’s getting it all together.”
The team will be preparing for a number of regattas this fall, including the Head of the Charles, the largest two day regatta in the world. The girls 4+ boat earned a spot after a strong showing last year, and Alix is hoping to enter additional boats and give all the athletes a chance to row on the Charles River. “The kids have the opportunity to row on this famous river in a race with a long and impressive history, with over 11,000 other athletes—some of the best in the world—and it's right in our backyard!”
Her return to rowing and the opportunity to coach the HHS Crew team feels to Alix like she’s come full circle, and she’s ready to get back out on the water with the kids.
“What I enjoy most is watching a boat click, the moment in a drill or a piece when it all comes together,” said Alix. "I saw it happen with the boys 3V [third varsity] and novice boats this spring. We were practicing starts, and it was feeling pretty repetitive after 45 minutes of just the first five to fifteen strokes at a time. They would finish, and each time it was close, but not quite. And then all of sudden, they get it, it clicks, and the boat just flies! You could see it on their faces, they knew they got it—I had goosebumps. That's what keeps me coming back, putting in the effort. It's not a sport we enter into lightly. There are lots of sacrifices that everyone makes, and those moments make it all worth it."