From the time we’re born, we enter and exit different groups, communities, neighborhoods and teams. I, for one, hardly remember my friends and various teammates from middle school, let alone keep in touch with them. Even my high school friends are few and far between. Life moves on, you relocate, you get busy, your interests change, you change. It’s only the rarest of communities that once joined, remain in our lives for years and years to come. For me, and surely for countless others, rowing is that rare gem.
Rowers are obsessive; once you catch the rowing bug, you’re doomed. Whether you start as a junior, collegiate student-athlete or masters rower, there’s always another race to train for, another damn erg test and another Head of the Charles to look forward to. Whatever the level of competition or commitment, rowers are indeed a rare breed. And the rarest of the breed? National team rowers. You have to be a special kind of crazy to spend years of your life killing yourself on the water and on the erg only to increase the likelihood that you might maybe make a team. Oh, and all well-below the poverty line.
As many National Team rowers will say, “you gotta want it.” That 5:30 am alarm at the end of the week when you can barely get out of bed and have to somehow muster up the strength to eek out a 2 x 6k on the erg…as your second morning practice. You gotta want it. That moment in a 2k when you’re not sure you’re going to make it, you can either give in to the pain, the lack of oxygen and the tricks your mind plays on you or you can do whatever it takes to win. You gotta want it. That time of the year when everything matters, you can make no mistakes, it’s you against your teammates, the very people you see everyday and share jokes with in the locker room who you now will do anything to beat. You gotta want it.
It’s brutal, but so is life. For national team rowers however, this is their life, day in and day out, with only the next Olympic Games as the end point. These men and women are some of the hardest-working, most humble human beings you will ever meet. They do what it takes, without the luxury of million-dollar contracts and with the knowledge that no one, except perhaps their hometowns, will remember their name when it’s all said and done. I know I will always remember the years I spent rowing fondly. There’s no question that rowing changed my life and set me on a new and unexpected path.
The National Rowing Foundation is integral to the national rowing team livelihood. Without the NRF and its supporters, there would be no fleet of rowing shells, no facilities for the USA’s best to train at, no overseas trips to compete against the globe, and ultimately no chance at Olympic glory amongst many, many other items. USRowing can’t solely support the national team, the USOC can’t solely support the national team. It’s the NRF’s contributions that bring home medals. Support your country and support USA rowing by donating to the NRF.