Lessons I learned from crew that have nothing to do with rowing

I started rowing in college in 2004 because a friend in one of my Spanish classes told me about it and I was craving a good exercise and an outlet for my competitive side. Rowing was the perfect answer. I rowed from the winter of my second year all the way through my second senior year of college. Then, unable to get enough, picked it up again as a rowing coach from 2009-2013.

Rowing combines teamwork, dedication and workouts that could make even the strongest person tear up. In addition to finding a school of fish in a big ocean that was (is) Ohio State University; I learned a lot of things that are EASILY transferrable to life in general. These may be more than lessons, mantras perhaps.


This is sooo obvious, it’s annoying. This aspect of rowing is the crux of the sport. Unless the boat of choice is a one-person single, it is imperative that the entire crew work as a team at all times. And not just working toward one goal, but doing the same things in perfect synchronization. The more alike each movement of each person, the faster the boat goes. Despite differences in personalities, abilities or attitudes, working together propels the boat faster and more efficiently. I won’t dumb it down with an explanation of how that may apply to work or life.

Never underestimate

Anyone. The people that I have met because of and in the rowing community amaze me and have set the tone for how I approach new relationships. Rowing, as a sport teaches many things, but this I take the most for granted. People in general are capable of such giant things if provided the chance to prove themselves. I think the biggest travesty is when I don’t apply this to myself. I try to remember what I have done and accomplished in spite of my preconceived notions of what my abilities and goals should be/were.

“Early is on time, on time is late and late is left”

Let me tell you, being early to a 5:30am launch time is a daunting task at best, but that is where the day’s prep all happened. Warm-ups, boat assignments, stretching, etc. were all necessary parts of practice and Coach noticed if you rolled in “on time.” Now, if I agree to meet friends at a bar or for dinner, I am perpetually the first one there. Because of crew, being late now makes me anxious. This one does not apply to the concept of “fashionably late,” that is intentional.

Choppy water makes you appreciate flat water

Both a metaphor for life and a literal statement as it pertains to rowing. When the wind picks up, the water can get pretty choppy. Rowing on those days meant soaked clothes, beat up hands and a frustrating practice. But damn, if choppy water doesn’t, A. teach a rower to appreciate calm, flat water, and B. make rowers more skilled. In life, as in rowing, the hard times are difficult and we may want to cancel those days, but when it all boils down, they make the good days that much more enjoyable and prepare the unskilled for greatness.

Take a break and look around once in awhile

I got scolded once or twice as a rower and then did some scolding myself as a coach about “keeping your head in the boat.” Rowing takes a lot of focus and attention to detail to stay in sync with the others in your boat. Sometimes though, the surroundings were just too breathtaking not to inhale. That’s what happens when you are awake for the sunrise six days a week. Now, even though I don’t see the sun come up everyday, I try to take a moment or two to appreciate the beauty of nature or of life’s interactions.

Rowing was such an important part of my life, and the list I have made here only just scratches the surface of what I learned about myself and about life from the years I spent involved with the sport.

This post is dedicated to the coaches, teammates and rowers that I coached that taught me these lessons. I am indebted to you for helping to make me the person I am today.

5 views0 comments