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Bantam Class Trinity college men's rowing - part one

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.

The Trinity Boat House on the Connecticut River.

I spent several weeks in February and March watching the Trinity College Men's Rowing team train for the spring season.

Their training ground is the Connecticut River, a few miles from the school's main campus in Hartford. Their boat house, a large barn like structure architecturally evocative of both maritime tradition and the farm history of the Connecticut River Valley, is their home port where they store and launch dozens of specialized boats in practice of a sport that rivals the simplicity of running.

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.

Clockwise: Rowing machines at the Trinity Boat House; in "the tank"; yoga to improve range of motion; competitive spirit.

When outdoor training was impossible, the team rowed inside the school's athletic center where one room houses a tank meant to simulate the on water experience.

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.

Clockwise: Coach Kevin MacDermott. Shoving off. An oar skims the water.

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.

Clockwise: Tri-captain Jack Reid and Peter Tell, Duuluu Naranbat; MacDermott; Nicholas Roll.

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.

Four man boat practice. Tri-captain Paul Swetz, foreground in red jacket.

The ultimate goal of participation in any sport is to test your skills against other teams. To compete. But in amateur athletics - especially involving young people of college age - the effect participation has on the shaping of personal values and character is fully on display.

During practice and during competition the eyes focus on the immediate goal. But when the boats are pulled from the water and members of the rowing team look back at the river and the miles they have covered together, you can see how each stroke and each race sinks in and teaches its lesson.

No matter where they go in life, when they face a challenge there will be an analogy to rowing that will help them get through. Winning is today's goal, but wisdom is the lasting result.

(Below: Andrew Jensen, Aidan Lee, Naranbat, Swetz)

For collaborations:

Dean@DeanPagani.com I DeanPagani.com I ThisDecisiveMoment.com

© Dean Pagani 2019

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© Dean Pagani 2019

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