I’ve spent many hours this summer low-key body profiling all of the incoming freshmen at registration looking for the next generation of rowers. It’s easy to characterize what we look for. Tall, fit people who are probably wearing semi athletic clothing.
I barely glance at most frosh, but there are certain people who just have it. It. I. T. The magic ingredient that makes me practically jump over tables in an attempt to convince them to go out for rowing.
I’ve decided that It is a balance of four things:
- A giant-ass ego-
Poise, self-confidence, swagger whatever you want to refer to it as, they’ve gotta have it—the attitude that the boat that they’re sitting in is the fastest on the water because they’re sitting in it. They’re going to win. Everything. Anything. Whatever it takes.
- Some skillz to pay the bills
In order to back up this ego they have to actually be good. A walk-on isn’t going to be an amazing rower to begin with—that takes time. However, they need to be a raw athlete. They need to have what it takes: the willingness to pummel their body with extreme amounts of pain and the mental fortitude to peel themselves off of the ground to do it over and over again.
- A sense of team
In addition to being and egotistical athlete they also need a sense of humility. Rowing is the most team oriented sport of all time, with minuscule amounts of individual glory. If they walk around with a crown on their head, looking down their nose at all of the lowly peasants they call teammates no one is going to want to row with them.
- Mental toughness
There will be a time when they get nit-picked by coaches and yelled at by team mates. There will be a time when they’ll be frustrated enough to scream and stressed enough to cry. There will be problems with their boat and the people in it, punishing cold, suffocating heat, whipping wind and whitecapping waves, but those God-awful, “get me the f*** off the water” rows are worth it for a golden morning on flat water where their boat is completely in sync and they’re flying.
So if you’ve decided that you might have “it,” here’s what you can look forward to:
- Being fit as hell
You’re never going to be more in shape than you are in the midst of rowing season. Muscles you didn’t know you had are going to show up and you’re going to have to suppress the urge to flex in the mirror. Your pants won’t fit in the quads, but go buy yourself a nice belt because they’re going to hang off of your waist like Jared in a Subway commercial.
- Kickin it with the team
You’ve killed yourself on the water, but so has the rest of the team. You’re with each other 20 hours a week and automatically build mutual respect and trust. You share the good times, the bad times and whatever you can call the stuff in between. There are 30+ people floating around campus who I know would drop everything to help you. No matter where you go, you’re rolling squad deep.
FREE BREAKFAST AND SNACKS DAILY. Hunger is normal, eating is encouraged, gaining weight is unlikely. If it wasn’t for the whole rowing part it would be paradise.
- A good night’s sleep
Depending on class schedule, a much needed nap may or may not be available during the day. By the time 9:30 pm rolls around you’ll be able to crawl into bed and be asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow—providing the people in the dorm aren’t yelling after quiet hours.
- Porter Boathouse
It’s home away from home. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s basically brand new. I can’t think of any other place I’d want to spend my time. You can’t beat the panoramic view of the lake, that cool, cementy, boathouse smell, five bays of top-notch boats and the fact that the music is constantly bumping.
- The men.
You think female rowers have egos? Wait until you meet the men’s team. They’re not hard to find. They’ll be parading around the boathouse in spandex shorts that make you want to simultaneously stare and avert your eyes. Most of them are smart, friendly, nice guys. Some of them are the biggest douche-bags you’ve ever met. All of them are a pleasure to look at.
I never watched the sun rise before I started rowing. Technically I still don’t actually watch the sunrise, but arriving at the boathouse in the dark and watching the world light up from the middle of the lake is magical—it’s an experience few will ever have, but one we get to see five days a week.
Gear Christmas happens and you’re given a backpack full of apparel. It’ll take all of your willpower to not go running down the hallway of your dorm making it rain spandex and tank tops yelling “LOOK AT ALL MY FREE SHIT NARPS.” They already hate you for reporting them every Friday night for not respecting quiet hours. You should just settle for Instagramming a pic. #gearchristmas #rowingperks #girlswholift #rowingrelated #bro2k #classof2020
- Academic support
Highest team GPA blah blah blah free tutors blah blah blah smart friends blah blah blah study buddies blah blah blah Fetzer Center for academic excellence blah blah blah athletic academic advisors blah blah blah We’re all smart and motivated and the school gives you help we get it ok bye.
- Spring Racing
Winter is f***ing awful. Not going to lie. In the morning before we do hard ergs I look in the mirror while I brush my teeth and think, why am I doing this to myself?
The spring makes the winter bearable. Coxswains can yell “Ohio State is right next to you, they’re taking seats, what are you going to do about it??” in your ear while you’re dying on the erg all winter long, but it’s not real until you’re sitting ready at the starting line B1G 10s.
You know you’re about to plunge headlong into an abyss of backsplash and burning muscles and love/hate every second of it. You probably won’t remember anything. All you’ll remember is crossing the finish line, slumping over your oar with little to no control of your limbs, slapping your pair partner’s back and realizing your bow ball crossed the line first.
In that moment it’s worth it. It’s all worth it.