Rowing is an excellent avenue to pursue fitness, sportsmanship, competition, and all kinds of fun. On top of these rewards, rowing finds a way to sneak little lessons into your life. It isn’t until after it’s all over, and you’re surrounded by people who have never touched an oar, that you realize how empowered you’ve become by the time you spent pushing yourself to row.
The attention to detail it takes to correctly and precisely rig a shell so that she performs flawlessly on race day. The ownership of personal weakness it takes to refine your technique and iron out your flaws day after day. The grit and spirit it takes to race your hardest to the very end, not quitting because you’re ahead, or behind, or not sure at all where you stand. The teamsmanship it takes to dedicate yourself to a group of people, and to strengthen yourself for them, and to receive their dedication and encouragement and use it to drive all of you towards your goal. The unbreakable attitude it takes to wake up so early every morning, to push yourself so hard beyond what is comfortable, and to so stubbornly demand the best from yourself and those around you.
The experienced oarsman will learn each of these lessons. When you leave rowing, the lessons will not leave you. Your peers will admire you for the strength in your character, for your resilience in times of struggle, for your confidence in your ability to improve yourself with nothing more than consistent effort. I feel so much stronger for my experiences in rowing, and I feel so proud when others recognize that strength in me. The best thing I ever did for myself was commit the time to learn these lessons in college, but truth be told, as a freshman I did not join crew to learn any of these lessons. I joined because I wished to make friends and have some fun in a boat. The gift of rowing is that, for those who participate and stick with it, it grants that wish a hundred times over, and then some.