In the sport of rowing, strength is important, but not as important as disciplined technique.
No other sport relies so heavily on the ability of each member of a team to repeatedly perform the same task in unison. Catching the water with the oar, releasing the oar at the end of the stroke and returning to the starting position with precise timing to propel the boat with speed and to keep it on course.
Regardless of the prestige schools derive from the tradition of collegiate rowing, the lifelong benefits to those students who make the team can be seen on the water and off. It is a sport that builds character by putting an emphasis on the humility required of individuals to work as one toward a shared goal.
As training began at the start of the spring semester, the river was dotted with ice flows, but as long as Coach Kevin MacDermott could find stretches of open water, the wind was calm and the temperature above 25F, the team put on their layers and headed out.
Twenty-nine men and four women make up the Trinity varsity and junior varsity teams. The women serve as coxswains. One of the women, Abby Hart of Vermont, was chosen by the team to be one of three co-captains. In the opinion of some rowing experts, coxswains leave their collegiate careers best positioned to work as coaches.
Young men are inclined to resort to - or rely on - their physical strength when asked to complete a competitive task. It takes practice, and the wisdom of the coaching staff, to convince athletes who may be at the peak of their own physical capabilities, to direct as much attention to perfecting the subtle wrist, hand, and arm movements that truly make a difference for the winning team.
Nature is also an opponent in rowing. This is most evident in the cold water, gray skies, and bare trees of winter. The body is warmed by movement, but the hands struggle to maintain a tight grip and the feet slowly numb as the boat skims just a few inches above the water line.
© Dean Pagani 2019