Head coach Michiel Bartman brings decades of experience to the University.
Women’s rowing head coach Michiel Bartman often jokes he has the best office in town (and maybe the country)—the famed Boathouse Row.
“I believe Philadelphia is the rowing capital of the United States,” he says.
The 55-year-old coach speaks from experience. Bartman has spent a better part of his life on the water, competitively racing on the world’s largest stages.
As a longtime member of the Dutch National Team, he helped lead the Netherlands to Olympic gold in the 1996 Atlanta games. Bartman also earned silvers in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics.
He now has his sights set on the upcoming Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta. One of the nation’s biggest collegiate rowing events, it attracts some 100 schools from across the United States.
This will be Bartman’s first time coaching the Rams at Dad Vail. He joined Jefferson last year, succeeding Chris O’Brien as the second women’s rowing head coach in program history.
Bartman came to Jefferson after serving as an assistant coach at Temple University for three years. During Bartman’s tenure with the Owls, the school won four Dad Vail medals, including a varsity eight bronze at the 2021 regatta, the first medal by the team’s top boat since 1999. Bartman’s collegiate coaching experience also includes stints as the head men’s and women’s lightweight coach at Harvard University.
After leading larger teams of 50 to 60 rowers, Bartman prefers to coach a smaller squad of about 25 Jefferson student-athletes, who row out of the historic Crescent Boat Club on Kelly Drive.
“It’s more fun to work with them because the rowers receive more individual attention,” he says. “Along with my two great assistants, Jeff Culter and alumna Sarah Doelp, we can help them grow and become better athletes.”
Health sciences student Maggie Sher says Bartman has helped her view rowing differently: “It’s beneficial that he focuses on our personal improvement as well as just being 1% better every day. I can tell he cares for each rower as a person and an athlete.”
Bartman’s international experience and extensive rowing knowledge allow team members to learn more about technique and the sport, adds Captain Caitlin Lawson.
I believe Philadelphia is the rowing capital of the United States.
“He pushes us every day, focusing on each athlete to perform to their highest potential,” says Lawson, an industrial and systems engineering student. “With his guidance, we continue to improve our performance, and we’re always looking for ways to better ourselves.”
Bartman often harkens back to his Olympic days to prep his team—whether it’s improving their physiology or motivating them with a story.
“With the Olympics, four years of work comes down to a little less than six minutes of performance,” he says, quickly deadpanning. “No pressure.”
Such intense competition taught him how to stay level-headed during high-stress situations, a skill he works to pass along to the athletes, Bartman says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or elite, the struggle is the same.”
In fact, composure and a strong work ethic generally will beat out a height advantage for a true edge over the competition, he says.
“Your mentality is one of the biggest components of becoming a successful rower,” says Bartman, noting he has high hopes for the Rams at Dad Vail on May 12-13.
In a unique move, the regatta will be temporarily held at the Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J. (A dredging project forced the event from its usual spot on the Schuylkill River this year.)
A change of venue shouldn’t impact the Rams in their quest for a top finish in this important event, Bartman says. A positive showing at Dad Vail could earn Jefferson a bid for the NCAA Division II Championship. Last year, the Rams earned fourth place in the NCAAs—the best finish in school history.
But like most coaches, especially experienced ones, Bartman doesn’t want to look too far ahead. Right now, he remains focused on Dad Vail and all the excitement that comes with it.
“I’m just looking forward to a great weekend of racing,” Bartman says.