I was never the most athletic kid in school. Sure, in elementary and middle school I did the - basically - mandatory sports; I played soccer until the seventh grade. But, I was never athletically talented. It wasn't my strong suit. It came naturally to my sister, who played soccer until her sophomore year of high school, did track in middle school and now rows. She, unlike me, has a knack for understanding sports. I, on the other hand, do not.
When I first joined the crew team, I rowed - I'm a coxswain now - and it was honestly one of the worst experiences. It wasn't that I couldn't row, but rather that I just didn't see it as the position that I should hold. I've always been a team player, which showed in school assignments and what not, but in a boat, I just didn't feel the connectedness as much as I thought I would when I got on the water. And it was that disconnect that almost made me quit my first year of crew.
But, I stuck with it. Unlike a few of my novice teammates, who went on to continue in volleyball and field hockey, I thought, you know what? Stick with crew. Try another year. Maybe it'll change. Who knows? So I did. Contrary to what I thought would happen, I became a coxswain. My coach at the time said that I was too small to row (keep in mind that this was a different coach, the varsity team was different than the novice), and made me a coxswain. I learned calls, called out drills, coxed girls during the dreaded 2k's that took place on the Saturday practices and somehow found myself enjoying crew more and more. Of course, I did the cals that came with the workout, so even though the girls were "erging," I was holding a threeminute wall sit.
My first boat was the Senior 4+ on the women's team. Junior year I was the coxswain for the Junior 8+. Then, my senior year, I switched over to the boy's team. Which is the reason that I have seen crew as the main reason I can get through college. I didn't know what I was expecting coxing the boy's team my senior year, but it was an experience I will never forget.
I coxed the senior 8+ for the boy's team, and we went to nationals. But in the time between getting my boat and racing at nationals, I had to have a lot of patience. High school boys are not as mature as one might think, surprisingly. They act like they're five, in and out of the boat. I have never had to stop more arguments, tie more shoes, Band-Aid more hands or feed more people than during my senior spring season. One of my rowers got sick during states, and I basically had to baby him back to health in one day. I took him to the nearest gas station to get Gatorade, I fed him pasta, I made sure he got up when we got up for the race and kept checking on him throughout the day. I wish I could say that was as "mom" as it got, but I was wrong.
The fights between boys in the boat prepared me for arguments within my group of friends and within my own crew team. Being able to talk to my rowers and have patience with them made it easier for me to handle group projects with people who never did their work. Babying my team and helping them get better taught me how to feel empathetic and not just worry about myself, but others as well. Above all else, I learned how to rely on these girls, and boys, and it allowed me to rely on others even if I tip toe at first glance.
My old crew team gave me the drive to continue wanting to do the sport as well. I wake up at 5:20 every morning, feeling tired, but with a need to make the boat go faster, and I'm up for that challenge 110% of the time. While it's not my only focus -- sure, I'm in a sorority and I take part in SA -- I still put all my effort into it. Participating in it in high school did one thing for me: show me that I did love rowing, and it would allow me to put my best foot forward in every situation possible.
Lead Image Credit: Jade Miller