A milestone in the century-old sport of log rolling is fast approaching with the first stop of the Key Log Rolling Collegiate Tournament Series, Sept 30, at Mizzou. Here’s our story of envisioning a college sport and then making it happen.
By Judy Scheer Hoeschler, World Champion and Key Log Founder
Four years ago, my husband, Jay Hoeschler, and I loaded up our station wagon with four Key Logs and headed for northern New England. Our goal? Drumming up interest in collegiate log rolling. At the time, there was only one college with a log rolling club: Middlebury College in Vermont. It was started by our three daughters beginning in 1999 and featured on the Today Show. But heavy wood logs weren't user-friendly and precluded growth at other campuses.
When we began selling the synthetic Key Log® in 2013, our focus was kids at summer camps and community aquatics programs. Kids learn more quickly than adults, but with the advent of the yellow Key Log resistance fins, it was finally possible for adults to learn successfully. College students would become our next focus.
As we drove east on I-80, we named our tour the Key Log Express. Needless to say, we received many strange looks along the way!
Jay drove while I emailed coaches at college woodsmen teams in the northeast. First up, Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, New York. Log rolling was not the most popular event at their wood chopping meets but they had familiarity with the historical water sport. Coach Ryan Staychock invited us to visit the upcoming woodsmen meet and launch the Key Log in their pond. Only a few students had true log rolling skills but I thought to myself, “this Key Log could change everything. Students could improve their skills in warm swimming pools during the winter months, rather than cold ponds in the fall and spring”. Coach Staychock agreed and became one of the first colleges to purchase a Key Log. The photo capturing the hand-off is still one of my favorites.
We continued east to Skidmore College in NY, where our son was a student. He had a wood log in the campus pool and had been teaching a small group of friends. When we showed up with the Key Log, everything changed — for them and for us. The yellow Trainers enabled students to learn more quickly than ever before. Success was immediate and kept them coming back for more. These college kids knew nothing about log rolling or its logging history but they thoroughly enjoyed the new water sport. Soon Skidmore Log Rolling was formed and together with Middlebury College, they organized the first intercollegiate tournament. This gave us confidence that the sport could be introduced at the collegiate level, that it wasn’t a pipe dream.
We continued our tour, traveling to upstate New York to visit Paul Smith’s College. Coach Brett McLeod was familiar with log rolling and immediately understood the value of the portable Key Log for his woodsmen team. We dropped off the log in a fall snow storm and spent an hour training students.
After leaving the last Key Log with the Middlebury Log Rolling Club in Vermont, we headed back to Wisconsin, confident that campus recreation was fertile ground new aquatic sport. We reached out to national organizations like NIRSA, AORE and AOAP to spread the good news of the aquatics log rolling revolution.
Four years later, there are more than 140 colleges implementing a variety of log rolling programs including intramurals, club sports, welcome parties, and alum events Virtually everyone is a beginner, taking lots of baby steps. But log rolling, at its root, is a competitive sport…. a very thrilling, edge of your seat sport. And even brand new beginners can experience this competitive thrill.
So what's next? Showing the campus recreation world how log rolling tournaments are conducted. No doubt they will show us a few things too. That’s the beauty of bringing more people into the sport.
The Key Log Rolling® Collegiate Tournament Series will kick off September 30 at the University of Missouri, then move to the University of Santa Barbara, finishing up at the University of Maryland in November. We know participation will take time to develop but there has already been a good response. We’re seeing clubs formed and students “in training”. ESPN even featured Indiana University Log Rolling on its college football coverage and deemed it a “legitimate sport”.... something we’ve always known and the world is now learning!
Follow Key Log Rolling on social media through the tournament series, to the first United States Log Rolling Championships™ .