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Taking my spot in the third seat, I face the coxswain as she commands our boat. As we push off the dock, adrenaline runs through my veins. As my stomach leaps into my throat, hands sweating, I tenuously maintain my grip on the oar. As the “new girl,” I am the least experienced of the eight rowers. One error could upset the motion of the entire boat. Riding alongside our boat, the coach calls out drills through her megaphone: “Bow four, let’s start out with ten continuous strokes!” I interpret her instructions as being directed towards me. Heart racing, I lay my body back in the ready position. Pulling the weight of the water using the power of my legs, I take my first stroke of the day. We repeat this sequence nine more times. The coxswain commands, “way enough.” In other words, “stop.” In complete harmony, my teammates and I lay our blades flat on the water, stopping the movement of the boat.
The crew tryout was two-fold, beginning with a three-mile run. Three years running track and cross-country have prepared me well. Next, there is a six thousand meter timed row on the stationary rowing machine. The key to succeeding is maintaining a low split; the harder you pull, the lower your split. This was my greatest challenge. The night before tryouts, I was nervous and sleep evaded me. I spent hours obsessing over this obstacle. However, the desire to challenge myself was greater than my fear. I always try to make a conscious effort to focus on attitude and effort above the end result. The timer started and I was exhilarated by the possibility of accomplishing something new. Twenty-six minutes later, I finished. My legs shook, my entire body ached. I looked at my monitor, panting, gasping for breath: 2.29. I glanced at the other rowers’ screens and noticed numbers as low as a 2:15. Feeling frustrated, I push the negative thoughts away and focused on day two. We have another try at the 6k. From experience, I know that positive thinking will lead to positive outcomes. On day two, my split dropped from a 2:29 to a 2:22; a personal best. I am hopeful.
While it may look simple, rowing involves more than just body movement. It takes strength, form, persistence and a positive attitude. Although my strength and form could be questioned, my determination and can-do attitude were uncontested. Bolstered by my increasing amount of practice, I energized myself by constantly repeating, “you can do this, you are almost there.” Outlook makes a significant difference. Confidence is key.
Gliding on the water, slicing the silky surface with my oar allows me time to think. The leaden stress melts away, listening to my coxswain command, “ready all, row”. I think about my role on the team. Without me, in seat number three, our boat would be unbalanced; we are stronger working as one. We are all in the same boat, metaphorically and figuratively. Rowing consists of team effort; without a full boat, we are incomplete.
Rowing has allowed me to participate on a team, while simultaneously maintaining my independence. This entire experience, from hesitation to acclimation, has shown me that desire and determination can create possibility. Thinking positively allows you to achieve more. I have proven this by overcoming the odds and adversity. Today, I am a senior rower on New Trier’s varsity team. As I look to the future, I am eager for the new challenges that await me, as I enter my freshman year of college.
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