What the Aggies do is strenuous. They are required to work out twice a day — once with the team as a whole in the early morning on the water and then again later in the day lifting weights and rowing on the indoor rowing machine. A typical day usually begins at 5 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. with two practices, classes and homework in between.
Being that club sports cannot offer athletic scholarships or any sort of financial compensation, these student-athletes’ ability to remain at UMass relies solely on their academic standing. And with majors ranging from mechanical engineering to building and construction technology, handling rowing and academics becomes a complex balancing act.
Otucu, the eight seat rower, is a neuroscience major on a pre-med track. The sophomore has his hands full with classes but says that rowing provides his life with balance.
“So you know that when you get out of class in the afternoon you know you have to come to Totman [Gym], do your afternoon erg workout and you know you have your homework to do,” Otucu said. “And so it’s just very clear-cut. I think a lot of people have a hard time finding a way to structure their lives because they don’t have enough commitments in their lives.”
Essentially, club athletes like Otucu and the rest of the 1V do not have the National Collegiate Athletic Association athlete status to account for any excused absences for rowing over school. Balancing their life is an all-day affair that they are expected to maintain.
The day starts off early for Otucu, 5 a.m. to be exact. He puts on multiple layers to prepare for the cold, early morning temperature on the river. He then proceeds to make his way to the carpool spot and waits for his teammates to pick him up.
The sun is not fully out yet, and will not be for another hour. Otucu assumes his place in the eight seat of 1V boat and the Aggies make their way up and down the river for the next two hours. With some of the Aggies having classes at 8:30 a.m., the turnover from practice to class is a quick one. But for the others, breakfast at Franklin Dining Commons is the next move.
After breakfast some of the rowers head to classes, others back to their dorms or houses. Otucu heads straight for his bed. “Then a mandatory nap, because there is no way you’re going to be able to function for the rest of the day if you don’t get a nap in at that point in the morning.”
Following a 6 a.m. practice and a midmorning nap, Otucu goes to his classes much like every other college student. Then 4 p.m. rolls around and the focus shifts back to rowing where Otucu and a group of other rowers will do their afternoon workout for roughly two hours in Totman Gym.
When it comes to scheduling practice times, the Aggies are fairly lucky compared to some club sports. The Aggies have their boathouse on the river and small space for storage on campus in Totman. When the women’s club rugby team wants to schedule a practice, it needs to reserve a certain space for a certain amount of time, according to Shannon Kelly, a member of the women’s club rugby team. Sometimes even a reservation is no guarantee.
“The other week we were able to get McGuirk [Stadium] scheduled from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and our entire team showed up,” Kelly said. “Our coach drives an hour and a half to coach us and the men’s soccer team was just there, playing a scrimmage.”
Kelly said the women’s rugby team’s practice was moved to 10 p.m. until midnight.
Much like the other club sports on campus, financially speaking, most of the Aggies' funding comes from $1,000 dues that each member is expected to pay. The payments are broken up throughout the course of the year into approximately $200 increments.
According to Cronin, the dues go toward the Aggies’ uniforms, travel fees and race entry fees, among many other aspects of running the program.
“So it’s not like their $1,000 is just here and then everything is on top of it,” Cronin said. “That $1,000 is everything that we do. It gives them a food stipend when we travel, it gives them transportation to and from these regattas, transportation to and from these camps every year.”
With club sports all but completely neglected, the Aggies continue to work. They meet on the second floor of Totman and they push themselves to improve. Red in the face and glistening from the sweat, the Aggies continue practicing with the erg. Sometimes they even race each other.