Andrew Bellerby recalls the moment when U of T’s 1995 lightweight men’s eight rowing team crossed the finish line to win first place at the Dad Vail Regatta: “Exhausted obviously, but I just remember feeling elated. […] It was a sweet victory.”
Bellerby reunited with his fellow rowing team members and former coaches this past May at the U of T Sports Hall of Fame where they were honoured in recognition of their athletic contributions to the U of T community.
The 1994-95 Varsity Blues men’s rowing team made waves in the college sports world by becoming the first and only Canadian team to win the Dad Vail Regatta—the largest intercollegiate rowing tournament in North America.
Andrew was the only student from Erindale College on the team (now the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)).
Before his second year at UTM, Bellerby had no prior experience in rowing. It was not until his roommate, Scott McCrindle, encouraged him to try it out that he realized the “amazing” opportunity that was given to him.
“U of T presented this to me,” Bellerby says. “It wasn’t something I came to U of T with.”
As a student, Bellerby spent most of his time learning how to row alongside his friends in the Erindale College rowing program. There, he found that friendships, in his words, “impact your student experience and support your academics in a powerful way.”
Nowadays, Bellerby can be found at the Recreation, Athletics & Wellness Centre (RAWC) where he’s currently working to expand Rowfit, a new introductory crash course and dryland training program for prospective rowers at UTM. Bellerby’s 30-minute Rowfit classes are beginner level and take place four times a week, from Monday through Thursday.
Bellerby has seen UTM’s athletic department grow into a world-class facility that fosters the development of both high calibre athletes and those who just want to get fit and have fun. He attests that the single most important aspect of participating in UTM athletics has remained consistent: the opportunity to foster social connections. It was a sense of community that drove Bellerby to pursue rowing at a high level, both on and off campus. “My experience when it comes to athletics on this campus has changed my life [and] gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and my career,” he says.
Since the return to in-person learning, the RAWC has launched a number of flagship programs wherein students can connect with one another and nurture their fitness goals and sports interests without the pressure of making any long-term commitments.
Students who are not familiar with the programming at the RAWC, or who are simply intimidated by the thought of participating in fitness classes, can meet with a fitness specialist at the RAWC for a free 30-minute fitness consultation to find a program that fits their schedule, interests, and skill level.
During consultations, students are also offered three complimentary personal training sessions with a RAWC personal trainer. “It helps get people started,” Bellerby says. “It really is a tailored experience.”
Bellerby hopes his story reminds students to actively lean into potential personal, academic, and professional successes through campus involvement: “A lot of it just comes down to taking advantage of the opportunities that are put in front of you.”