"On the water, nobody can hear you scream." ~Unknown Hiya,
When I was in college I began my rowing career. I went to an introductory meeting after seeing a flyer. I had been told by a sophomore that I could row without any prior experience. She has done it and thought that it would be perfect for me after I told her that I was looking for a sport to do. I knew that there would be something that would work for me though I was not a basketball, volley, or any other ball player. I was tall and athletic but with no real direction to my athletic endeavors. So, I joined the rowing team… the crew, and my career began.
By my sophomore year I had shown enough promise that I was really in a league of my own. In the United States, at the time, in order to get noticed by the US Rowing National Team you needed to pull certain numbers on the erg (Concept II Indoor Rower). Each month you were required to do an erg test (2000 meters during the sprint season and 5000 meters during the fall season). Your coach would send in the scores and, fingers crossed, you might get the attention of a National Team coach. I began sending scores in during my sophomore year. I remember wanting coaching and not getting any (my head coach was pretty unfortunate in lots of ways). I did my testing on my own that year. I felt pretty alone in it and after the summer I stopped sending my scores in and let the dream of making the team dwindle.
After I graduated I became a rowing coach. It was fantastic. I was so excited and ready to start molding champions. I did just that. I was wildly successful, especially in my early years. I also kept rowing for myself. One day I was approached by a coach who'd been training National Team Athlete Cindy Brooks. She offered to coach me for free. She said she saw potential and, if I was game, would train me. YES! Of course I would train and be coached! Yippeeee!!! I was pumped. I didn't have a boat that was mine (I worked at Wesleyan and was paid $5300/year to coach the novices) but could use the Head Coach's boat to train in. I had been rowing in it regularly anyway. I would also be rowing in a double with Cindy and Cindy owned a few boats, so I was covered, for the most part.
I trained for some time and ultimately had to stop due to lack of support financially. My numbers were great and always getting better, my dedication was unwavering, but I had to choose. Make $ or lose $. I was offered a coaching job at Rutgers University out of the blue. I would be making more money than I had ever made at that time and, due to feeling overwhelmed with bills and barely evading eviction, I jumped at the offer and gave up the dream of competing on the National Level for my country.
Every time I watch the Olympics I think a little about my journey to train 4-6 hours every day. Waking up and rowing for 3 hours, lifting for 2 or so and eating more calories daily than most people need to eat over several days. I remember being told that I could have two out of three of these things: job-rowing-relationship, but not all three. I had to pick. I think about how important the ego is to get you to a point where you can compete on such a high level. I think about love; loving something so much that you give yourself over to it completely. I think about how lucky I am to know how that feels.
I hope you enjoy the Olympics for what it is, in my opinion: a display of love-pure, true and unrelenting.
"Real athletes row. Everyone else just plays games." ~Unknown