After a long right shoulder reconstruction in the spring and hearing the news that I would have yet another on my left shoulder this fall, I made the decision to volunteer any help I could to the men’s rowing team. Why the men’s team many asked; with a new head coach, Colin Regan, and a shortage of coxswains, the opportunity for me to improve myself as a rower could not be ignored.
After a conversation with the head coach I thought my intentions were clear – my primary focus would be to assist the novice squad with their technical progress and fill in as a coxswain if necessary until the position was filled. I made it a personal goal to befriend the varsity coxswain, fellow blogger Peter Driscoll, and ensure every practice I learned from his skill and if possible, challenged his abilities. Not able to row myself I still wanted to “go fast”, a typical rower motto, and I knew this could happen by pushing myself as hard as the guys of the “Boyshouse” every day.
At some point in the season Coach Regan decided I would take the varsity boat out on the water more or less to give the rowers exposure to different coxing. This first practice on the water was just as awkward as the spring season had been; a rower would stretch over spilling sweat on me or accidentally spew a string of sweat across my chest. I somehow managed to survive and crash land the boat at the dock, thinking it was the worst practice the men had ever had. My coach looked over at me as I stumbled off the dock and said, “You know you can make a difference to this team”. And then later when I asked the men what they thought about the practice, none of their critiques were about my performance. Looking back, this first integrated varsity practice was when they formally adopted me as “one of the guys”, but it wasn’t for months later that I would understand what an honor it was.
Every day we made boats faster and at some point my goals shifted from just the novice crew to the entire team, even the four fastest men. I wasn’t aware of their subtle gestures – inviting me to study in the library, complimenting me as we took the boat out of the water, and offering to carry the coxswains into the boats when there weren’t docks at the race site. By our first major race, Head of the Housatonic, I felt part of the team but didn’t share the same pride in boat speed because I was no longer a rower. For me to reach that moment it took the bow man of the four I raced with at Head of the Charles, one of the largest rowing regattas in the world, to say, “I know you don’t like to hear it, but you are a good coxswain”. Racing Head of the Charles as a rower was the second best experience in my 11 year rowing career: the first was racing October 19th, 2013 as a coxswain. From the moment I stepped into the boat I felt connected to the guys, not just in our hull, but the other Coast Guard boat and the hundreds of other male competitors on the water. Being part of Coast Guard Men’s Rowing has made me mentally tougher, spiritually stronger, and confident that my teammates can accomplish greatness. At the last regatta of the season the novice men who I had started with won gold and bronze in two events, and two varsity boats I coxed brought home two additional third place medals. It has been an honor and pleasure to cox the men of Coast Guard Rowing this fall season. The Boyshouse has redefined my Academy experience and I look forward to abiding by the bro code for another competitive season this spring.
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