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

La Salle University (2012-16)
La Salle Assistant Coach (2017-18)
Penn AC (2017-present)

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. During his junior year in college he started to instruct at Rowzone and shortly after started coaching with BLJ. Marqus graduated La Salle University in the spring of 2016 as captain and was invited back for the 2017-18 season as an assistant coach for the men's program. He is now training full time at the Pennsylvania Athletic Club with aspirations to make a national team.

Sam Franklin
Assistant Coach

Sam began rowing when he was just 10-years-old, competing in parent-child events with his mother and father on behalf of the Vesper Boat Club, where his family has rowed and competed since the late 1990s. At Chestnut Hill Academy, he served as the team captain his senior year and earned a silver medal at Philadelphia City Championships and a bronze medal at Scholastic National Championships in the Varsity Double. He has been teaching learn-to-row and introductory level courses since he was in high school. During his four years at Penn earning a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Urban & Real Estate Development, Sam rowed varsity for the Men's Lightweight Crew team. When he's not on the Schuylkill, Sam works full time as an attorney for the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC, focusing his practice on real estate and land use.  

David Banks
Assistant Coach

David Banks was a member of the 2008 and 2012 US Olympic Rowing Teams. David was first introduced to rowing as a walk-on at Stanford University in 2001.  With the help of his coaches and teammates David was able to earn a spot at US Rowing training camp following his senior year in 2005. He decided to stay in school another year at Stanford to earn his master's degree and then moved to the US Rowing Training Center in Princeton, NJ.

Following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, David began working with the Princeton National Rowing Association (PNRA) and helped to found Rowing-Is-Growing, a series of learn-to-row camps for youth in Trenton, NJ, through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA of the greater Trenton area.

Training and rowing with the US National Team brought David to South Carolina, San Diego, Oakland, Oklahoma City, and then back to Princeton, NJ. He currently lives in Oakland, CA, with his wife, Allison, and continues to stay involved with sport in various ways and with groups that are focused on improving the sport by making it more diverse and more accessible to all.

Hope Lee
Assistant Coach

Hope Lee began rowing as a student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in the 8th grade. Hope trained and raced the Varsity double and this year she placed 3rd at Cities. Hope has rowed both with the Conshohocken Rowing Club=, (sophomore year) and Fairmount Rowing Club her junior year. She is a senior now and will be continuing her education and rowing career at Hobart and William Smith. She plans to study Human Rights and Social Justice and Art.