crew

Success!

Aloha! The rain is coming down on Maui on my last night here.  It is appropriate since I will be heading into the rain of the Pacific North West.  The cruel truth is that rain here is warm and tropical, in Seattle it is cold and brutal.  My trip has been a fantastic journey, travel and food and working out and meeting awesome people.  However, I am very excited to come home.  I miss my bed, my things, a closet, a room without spiders and geckos.  Though the gecko is a spiritual creature according to Hawaiian lore, I am ok with not sharing space as much as I do right now.  Tonight, I picked up the sheets (to check for creatures) then lifted my pillow only to find a baby gecko that wasn't in a very safe place.  I put him outside only to see another baby on the other side of the room.  It is like they are gremlins; multiplying with water after midnight.

I also miss my work.  I was in college when I decided that I wanted to become a rowing coach.  It was my sophomore year and I was participating in National Team Testing.  I was new to sports and barely called myself an athlete, but I was good and I knew that much.  I was also good at describing the rowing stroke to my teammates and I loved helping.  I, after all, was a peer counselor in High School and an RA in college.  At the time I decided to become a coach I had a rather socially challenged Head Coach that needed a lot of assisting.  I filled the role of translator when I could.  It was then that I realized coaching was an option.  I thought the thought and then put it away.  I still had to finish school.  After graduating and picking up a coaching job almost immediately I was enthralled by the Olympics.  It was 1996 and cycling was being shown quite a bit.  I knew that I needed to find another sport to do alongside rowing and cycling seemed to fit.  It looked like it was mentally and physically grueling (a requirement for me) and I liked the way it shaped the body (another requirement).  I also sent into the universe ad dream of being able to work out for a living at the same time I was helping others.  I thought I would have to become an Olympic athlete (and I worked on that) or be a professional athlete in order to do so.  Turns out I was wrong with the means by which but dead on with bringing my dream to fruition.  Working out for a living is doable and exciting and literally a dream come true.

Because I love what I do it is hard to pull myself away from it.  So taking vacation becomes a challenge.  I do need space away from the daily grind in order to gain some perspective, stay fresh and study up.  However, it is a joy to come back to what I absolutely love to do day in and day out.  The music, the people, the love.  I am lucky because I worked my ass off for years.  When I began this journey I made $5300 annually for my first collegiate coaching gig.  I got a raise the next year to $5700.  Loving what you do and doing what you love means you may have to wait for the financial reward, but it is worth it.  No amount of money would stop me from teaching/coaching and training.  I always ask myself this question:  If I were to win the lotto would I stop working.  The answer has never been 'no' when it comes to my work with motivation and health & well-being.  When you would do what you do for free you know you have struck it rich!  That is what I would call success.

What are your passions?  Are you living them?  Are you going after your dreams???  Why or why not?

xo

a

Ready All, Row!

"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.

xo

a

"Real athletes row.  Everyone else just plays games."  ~Unknown

Coaching

"I have learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou We all have people who motivate us, encourage us, inspire us to change for the better. One of those people for me was/is Heather Smith.

I was a rower in college. I LOVED my time as a collegiate athlete and have to credit Heather, my novice rowing coach, with instilling in me a love of rowing, coaching, and athletics in general. I remember when I joined the rowing team and was told that we would be running 3 miles on one of the first actual training days. I immediately became nervous because I hadn't run 3 miles before. I didn't do a sport in high school due to the fact that I had gone to 3 different high schools in 3 different states. There wasn't much consistency and, though I did very well in school, I didn't enjoy it. I was excited to go to college for several reasons, one of which was athletics. I began training for my sport (I didn't know what sport it would be, but I knew that I would find it) the year before I went to college… actually it was more like the summer before. That summer prior to college I joined the local YMCA and began running 2 miles a day. I thought I was doing great at around 12 minute miles… and I was, for the beginning. So when I heard, during that first rowing practice, that I had 3 miles to run I thought, "Dammit! one more stinking mile than I had ever done!" I finished the 3 miles by bringing up the rear and by walking here and there… but I finished. My coach was encouraging the whole way. She would run ahead to talk to the lead pack and then slow down to talk to the ones having a hard time, like myself. I remember being amazed at how she never seemed out of breath.

I remember when we did hills a month or so later and Heather ran past me saying, "your butt is looking good!" It made me feel GREAT! My body was changing and I hadn't even thought about it really. I was rowing because I was enjoying every detail, every moment, everything. My body getting toned was just a by-product. Heather was always there, cheering us on, keeping us focused, and pushing our limits. We did what she told us because we knew she had a clear vision and, well, we won… everything. Besides, how can you complain about working hard when your coach barks orders at you while she is doing pull ups using only her fingers? At that point you will do whatever she says because she is badass! Seriously. I mean, what an example! She was (and still is) a Goddess!

A couple more months passed. We did stairs and I was in the lead. She looked at me. She congratulated me and I felt great. I was feeling good about being a competitor and getting better. I didn't know what it all meant but I loved it and kept going.

In February of my freshman year the rowing team had an indoor rowing event. We raced on the rowing machines (we call them 'ergs' for 2000 meters. Basically for a rower 2000 meters is death. It sucks. You lose sleep over having to do a 2000 meter piece, an erg test, as they are commonly called. Well, during this event we had to do TWO erg tests!!! One for the "heats" and then you get placed into the "finals." All the women, varsity and novice compete as a group and the same with the men. Somehow I ended up in the Grand Final… the only novice that did. Being a novice and new to sports in general I took a nap after my heat and basically didn't think about it. I was relaxed because I didn't know I was supposed to be nervous. Heather knew that I would probably need a little encouragement because I didn't really grasp how awesome it was that I was in the grand final. She came over to me after I woke and said, "All of the varsity girls are saying that you won't do well… that experience always wins." Well, I have never had a shortage of ego and was shocked at their complete disregard of me as a true competitor. I got on the erg, in the middle of 7 other varsity women and sat ready. Just as the coxswain said, "ready all, row!" LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out' played through my head, "Don't call it a comeback, unh, I been here for years, rocking my peers, puttin' suckers in fear…" I pushed all the way to the lead, all of the women not in the grand final and all of the guys were standing around us, screaming my name! It was awesome and I won! I won.

Heather pushed me to be more than I knew I could be in rowing. She also showed me how to be a completely present and solid coach. She saw something great and made it better. After that year I knew that rowing, sports, and coaching would be in my future somehow. Each day I get clearer and clearer on my future in sport, athletics, and motivation. It is a beautiful journey.

Who has motivated you? Pushed you? Seen more in you at some point than you have? How have you risen to their fantastic expectations? Who are you encouraging and shining light on?

"You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself." ~Galileo Galilei

xo

a