Our Coaches

BLJ Community Rowing is so fortunate to have a small group of dedicated and experienced coaches. They live and breathe rowing.  They're the reason we wake up at 4:45am, the reason we sweep geese poop off docks, and the reason members come back season after season!


Brannon Johnson
Founder and Head Coach

Brannon Johnson, a Philadelphia native and current resident, is the head coach and owner of BLJ Community Rowing, one of the most diverse community rowing programs in the Philadelphia metro area.  She has built an extensive resume in rowing, teaching and coaching over the past 15+ years. At the age of 15 she learned to row at the Fairmount Park Community Rowing Program.  Continuing to reign locally on the Schuylkill River, she began to develop as a single sculler under the tutelage of Kay MacDonald. She began her racing career and started to distinguish herself from other athletes which lead to training at Boston University’s elite summer program two consecutive years.  She competed in and placed in the Stotesbury Regatta as well as Philadelphia City Championships.  Brannon received a full athletic scholarship to attend the University of Texas, where she rowed at the Division 1 varsity level all 4 years.  In 2003, Brannon competed as a single sculler in the internationally known Henley Royal Regatta, one of the most prestigious regattas held on the Thames River in England. Brannon currently still rows and competes and is a fixture in the Philadelphia rowing community.  

Brannon began teaching rowing classes thru Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT) in 2003 and now teaches numerous rowing courses during the spring, summer and fall for Chester County Night School and Main Line School Night. Brannon also teaches an Introduction to Rowing Course for Temple University in the Kinesiology Department. Affectionately called “A boathouse without walls,” BLJ Community Rowing spawned from Brannon’s vision of having a community rowing program available to all.  Thus the formation of BLJ Community Rowing, officially incorporated in 2013.  The program has since expanded to include course offerings to other community centers and private citizens.

Brannon has taught and coached 150+ classes and over 1,000 Philadelphia area residents, ranging from ages 12 to 65.  What began as a learn-to-row program quickly morphed into one of the city’s most diverse adult community rowing programs.   BLJ Community Rowing continues to grow its membership and is committed to providing unfettered access to Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River.  Brannon and the BLJ Community Rowing program are proud to be a part of the USRowings’ Diversity Initiative.

Brannon is quoted/featured in The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport and was the subject of The Philadelphia Inquirer article on May 18, 2001, “A River of Challenges Can’t Sink This Rower.”

Marqus Brown
Assistant Coach

Marqus began rowing in the summer of 2008 at the Fairmount Park Rowing Camp. By his senior year in high school, he was offered a chance to row at Bachelor's Barge Club representing his high school, Girard College. In the men's varsity single sculls he earned Silver at the Philadelphia City Championships and respectable finishes in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and SRRA National Championships. He is currently a Junior at La Salle University and has been a member of the varsity boat since his freshman year. He coaches for BLJ Community Rowing and indoor rowing at Rowzone in Manayunk.

Sam Franklin
Assistant Coach

Vesper Boat Club (1999-present) Vesper Boat Club (1999-present) 
Chestnut Hill Academy Men's Crew (2004-2008)
Captain (2008)
Scholastic National Championships, Bronze, Men's Varsity Double (2008)
Philadelphia City Championship, Silver, Men's Varsity Double (2008)

David Banks
Assistant Coach

David Banks began rowing at Winston Churchill High School in his hometown of Potomac, Md. He continued rowing as a collegiate athlete at Stanford University where he earned an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and a graduate degree in Construction Management. David is a two-time Olympian and a five-time national team athlete.