Rowing is something special. Let’s face it. Most of us didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we started this sport. It was something different and a way for us to meet new people (I know that’s why I joined). I played basketball, baseball and tennis most of my childhood. My parents drove me to all the practices, paid for all the private lessons, and sat in the bleachers in a humid gym, cheering me on as I put up two points and 15 turnovers on the basketball court. I wasn’t the most coordinated person, but I still loved sports.
I walked into my high school gym the week before school started for our clubs and activities fair. I was a skinny, 130 pound freshman with hopes of being a “varsity” athlete! I found the rowing table, got convinced to do a 250 meter piece, and was hooked from that point on.
There’s nothing like being on a rowing team. You’re surrounded by your friends everyday, and yah, even though you can get sick of each other by the end of the season, that’s your family. You wouldn’t want to spend three hours a day, six days a week with anyone else. A lot of people get attached very quickly and then it happens. Senior year of high school rolls around, and you think you have hit a dead end. "Well, my rowing career is over because I am graduating. EXCEPT FOR ONE THING....ROWING IN COLLEGE IS ALWAYS AN OPTION!"
Now, this third installment of blog posts is going to detail some tips on how to choose the program for you, highlight some myths about rowing in college and outline how much fun it is to be a part of a college rowing team! Because let me tell you, rowing at Ithaca made my college experience that much better!
Let me start off by saying this. YOU DO NOT NEED TO ROW FOR AN “ELITE” COLLEGE PROGRAM TO BE A SUCCESSFUL COLLEGIATE ROWER. I think one of the most frustrating things to hear, both as a teammate of other rowers and as a coach, is that if you don’t go and row for a D1 or Ivy League school, or for Washington and Cal, that you might as well not row at all. What’s the point if you’re not rowing for “the best” schools out there?! Listen, I can’t tell people enough times that the fraction of people that row for programs that rank amongst the elite programs in the country is so small in the vast majority of things. You can still be a successful collegiate athlete attending any school you want to!
Here are some awesome tips for looking for, and finding the right college program for you:
Boy did I love rowing in high school. I was always that kid that knew way too much about the sport, who was ranked in the top 10 for high school and collegiate rowing, who won the dual in California the week before, and where all the best race courses in the world were. Before I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to row in college. It was a sure thing for me. I chose Ithaca because it was my dream school. Accredited Sport Management Program, beautiful location, perfect campus size, study abroad programs....and of course, a rowing team. Now, Ithaca built its team off of walk on rowers. What I mean by this, is that many of the people that were on our collegiate team, had never touched an oar before getting on campus. I decided this was not an issue for me. Yes, I had four years of rowing experience at a decent high school program, but I enjoy this sport so much, that it was just as enjoyable for me, even if I was pretty much starting from scratch with a whole new group of people. In the beginning, I rowed with the varsity, because even though I was a freshman, the coaching staff thought I might be “bored” rowing with the freshman boats and rowing by pairs and fours and doing drills. Well, I have to tell you, I was pretty sad. I wanted to be with the freshman guys. I was a freshman, so I should be with them! I wanted to go through the process with them. Even if it meant starting from rowing by just pairs in an eight. I was a part of Ithaca’s Freshman team, and I took pride in that. That year, we grew together. We fought on the ergs together in the winter, and we gave everything we had on the water every single practice. We wanted to get better as a team, as a unit, as a family. We ended up coming in 4th at our state championships in the freshman 8 category (by .2 seconds behind Army) and we pulled a 6:20 at our national championships. A 6:20 as a freshman boat with a boat full of many guys who had never rowed before. It was one of my biggest highlights. I won three medals in college. Just three. But I loved every second of my time at Ithaca because it meant so much more to me to go through a process that was much bigger than myself. It was about watching my teammates start from the very beginning, to transforming into guys who would do anything for each other on that race course. I cherished being a part of that process with them. For me, that meant more to me than being a part of a team that, from the beginning was made up of people who had already rowed before. Because we built something, and we believed in something. We set goals for ourselves and for each other, and pushed each other to be the absolute best we could be. And for that, I am still grateful for Ithaca Rowing.
From the very beginning you should outline your expectations of where you want to row and settle for nothing less. If you want to row at a high level and compete for national titles, by all means, GO CHASE THAT! But if you want to row in college, don’t let a school's “winning reputation” or medal count effect that decision. It’s about being a part of something much bigger than a medal count. It’s about furthering yourself as an athlete and as a person. Rowing in college taught me so much about being a confident and strong person, and for that I am thankful.
If anyone has any questions about rowing in college, please feel free to contact me! I am the biggest advocate for the sport of rowing and what it can do for a person and their life. I have stories to share and memories that I cherish forever, and I will be glad to talk about this further with whoever is interested!