I was eating lunch with recruits today, answering questions about the program and gushing my love of Wisco in an attempt to get these kiddos to sign an NLI and follow in my footsteps. Naturally, when I got home I had some hard-core nostalgia about the last three years of rowing.
I realized that my career can be classified into three stages.
- I think I’m good.
- I know that I’m not very good.
- I want to be good.
These three stages were approximately freshman, sophomore and junior year. Now that I’m in my last year in colligate rowing and have had the privilege to train with the best Americans in the NCAA, I have a better understanding of the rowing world. I’ve had an inside look at what the top athletes in the country can do. It popped me out of my Wisco rowing bubble, humbled me and taught me valuable lessons.
In hindsight, I thought that I was incredible freshman year. I thought that I was the fastest person in the boat. I thought I was The Best *hair flip.* I was confusing my potential to be a competent rower with actually being a competent rower.
That summer we got in pairs and I realized I was DEFENITELY NOT The Best. I was slow as shit. It was pretty obvious that I had to get better. So I did. I got strong and I worked my way into the 2V and I thought to myself. Huh. If I wanted to, I could really be great at this.
I remember that moment; standing on the beach at Lake Natoma at the National Championships, watching the 1V grand final. I decided I was going to be good.
So I erged. And I ran. And I taught myself to scull. And I lifted. And I erged some more. We went fast that next spring, and just when I thought I was getting good, I went to Princeton. It didn’t take me long to realize that good can always be better. Fast can always be faster.
These experiences have led me to the stage that I’m at now. I’ll call this one, “I want to be better.” I have realized that in rowing, “good” is subjective. No matter how “good” you think you are, you can always be better. No matter how “good” you actually are, there is someone out there who’s better than you. It might not be on your lake, in your state, in your country, but they’re out there.
It bummed me out for a little while, but then I realized that it’s an opportunity. The sky’s the limit! Gevvie Stone can always go faster. Even Mahe Drysdale can be beaten by some Belgian dude at Henley. And ya know what? They come back from their wins, their losses, their realizations and they keep getting better. “Good” isn’t what I’m striving for anymore. I don’t want to be good. I want to be better.
I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be rowing, but I know that I’m going to be involved in the sport for the rest of my life. I know now that there’s never a point where I’m going to think to myself “yeah, I’m good.” It’s because “good” doesn’t exist. When I coach, I’m not going to set a ceiling of “good” for my rowers. We’re all students of the sport, we’re all working to go faster and settling for “good” is sacrificing “better.”