If you had told me two years ago that I would be where I am in terms of rowing now, I wouldn't believe it for a second. Two years ago I had never even heard of rowing, yet, it has undoubtedly become the most major component of my life.
In the past two years, I have sacrificed many things for rowing. Many rowers have. Some of these sacrifices I have come to regret, but most have led to me where I am today. For example, I've missed family trips and holidays, and a friend's wedding all for training and competitions.
This is because rowing is not a sport where you have a substitute to take your place if you're tired, sick, or can't show up for some reason. It is not a sport where you switch positions to accommodate missing people or have spares. There is one seat in a boat, a seat in which you sweat, cry, and bleed to earn. Your responsibility in earning that seat is that it then owns you. If you fail to come to a practice, then your entire crew is left to work out on the land. There is no excuse good enough not to be at a regatta. You are part of a system, and with even just one part of that system missing it cannot run.
During the fall season, we are required to be at the boathouse at 5:20am. It is approximately 3-4km from most of our houses and running or biking are the most common modes of transportation available to us as students. It is usually very cold in the fall season, and we row- rain or shine. We then row until about 7:50am doing various workouts, but always giving it our all. We then put away the equipment and are lucky if we make it to our 8:30am classes on time. You are blessed if you have enough time to have a warm shower after being in freezing rain for three hours. Usually you have to choose between food and a shower; most often, the shower wins. You fall asleep in most classes and spend the rest of your day eating or doing homework while inspecting the new blisters your palms have earned. You hope that the blisters are not too large, because, if that is the case, they will most likely be ripped open 12 hours later at the 5:30pm practice. Or, even worse, it may be weights day and you will have to fit in a third workout.
A lot of people ask me why I row. Why would I put myself through something so unpleasant? The usual topics of conversation amongst rowers are how sore they are, how much they were hurting during practice, how seat racing was unfair, how tired they are, how they injured their back, how they have tendinitis, how they almost killed themselves to get a seat in that boat, how they lost to an opponent by a bowball, and how their hands have gotten so infected that they cannot use them, but are still required to come to practice. It does not sound very pleasant, does it? Maybe we are all masochists. Maybe not. My personal reasons for being a part of this sport are my own. But, a big reason is because I am in love. I love being part of a sport where I get to see the sun rise and set each day. I love being part of a sport where I am on beautiful, flat water. It is a sport where the effort given is commonly equal to the results. There is always something new to learn or work on; ways to improve your strength on the ergometer and efficiency on the water.
Even having been an athletic person my whole life, I have never felt so fit as I do since taking up rowing at university. There is something so tranquil about being on the water, gliding along in the stunning wilderness. I love summer rowing. I love the feeling of earning a win. I love making new friends on the bus rides to regattas. I love meeting new people at regattas. I love wearing the varsity gear to represent my school and team. But, most of all, I enjoy the rowing community. You can go to any city, province, or country, and find a boathouse. You will find people going through the same things, feeling the same pain and love for this sport.
Yes, I have sacrificed a lot for this sport. Yes, I sometimes regret it. Yes, some days I want to quit. But, ultimately, above all else, I am madly in love with rowing, and can't see myself stopping anytime soon.
Lightweight Women's Rower
Hi, I’m Danielle and I just completed my first year at Queens as a varsity lightweight women. I started rowing around 4 years ago in my grade 10 year of High school. Before rowing the past 10 years of my childhood revolved around competitive dance until an overuse injury forced me to try new sports in high school, which lead me to horseback riding, track and field and hockey. However, nothing was fulfilling the competitive drive I had developed from my childhood, and everything I tried I was told I wasn't the right size for.
I came across the rowing team after my brother had been a part of it several years back. When I joined I was one of two girls on the team and my fitness level was well below average, I could barely run for 10 minutes and my initial thought was “If I’m not good enough maybe I can just come to the practices for fun and not race.” Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Eventually I discovered that through hard work and making sacrifices I was beginning to improve inch by inch in the sport, soon the phrase “Sorry I can’t, I have rowing” was being used on a daily basis. I realized that as I improved, more sacrifices would have to be made. In grade 11 I sacrificed hockey and track to focus on rowing, and in grade 12 I had to make a tough decision to step aside from horseback riding and my job to commit all of my time and energy into rowing so that I could have the success I was looking for.
People kept telling me how I’m missing out on living a “normal” teenage life, but what they don’t realize is that the rowing lifestyle has became my normal, from the early mornings, to the restrictive eating, and physical exhaustion which may seem like insanity to others, is just a typical day for me.
I have made sacrifices such as missing my own birthdays for development camps, and I sacrificed prom so that I could stand on the podium at the Canadian secondary school rowing championships. My family and coaches have also made sacrifices to take the time out of their lives to get me to where I need to be, and help support me on my rowing journey.
Coming to Queens for the first time I did not know anyone when I first came here. I had to leave my friends, my family and everything I grew up with and became close to behind so that I could continue to achieve my goals.
Truthfully there have been times when it seems easiest to just throw in the towel and walk away. However because of the sacrifices that have been made to get where I am today, and the indescribable love I have for the sport. I’m able to persevere through any setbacks I may face, and focus on the goals ahead of me instead of dwelling on the problems or bad races I had faced in the past, and I’m reminded every time I sit in my boat, don’t look back.
After four years of rowing at the university level, I know what it is like to make sacrifices: going to bed early, turning down party invites, and working around the clock to make sure you're on top of your classes. It is all worth it though; making many smart short-term decisions can accomplish a lot in the long run. My example is about how I have come from having no experience in rowing in my first year in university to contributing to a gold medal last fall for the varsity squad at both the Ontario and Canadian championships. I'm 5'7", and by no means do I fit the typical rowing build. However, I have continued to stay focused on my long-term goals, and that is why I have been able to succeed. I hope my story reaches out to you in some way, and can help you succeed in your life.
I came to university looking for a new sport, because I knew I could not go a season without focusing on some sort of physical activity. In each year of my adolescence, I had been a part of a competitive sports team. Outside of school, I played lacrosse for seven years, hockey for six, and basketball for five. At school, I played volleyball, rugby, and even football for a season. I knew there was no way I could not participate in a sport at university.
Originally, I had planned to tryout for the school's lacrosse team, but informative emails from the coach were being sent to my junk folder, which I did not open until it was too late. I received a handful of recruitment cards from the rowing team during frosh week, so I decided to do the ten minute tryout; the rest is history.
Higher performance recruitment has since been focused on finding those athletes who have a body optimal for rowing, but luckily I came into the sport before there was such a strictness. I am thankful for this, because rowing has become a huge part of my life. I stand at 5'7", which is, on average, quite short for a rower. I look back at those tryouts as my gate-way to the sport: if I had not been given a brochure on the street that week, where would I be now?
Fighting against the stereotypes, in the past four years I have attained four gold medals at the annual national regatta (Royal Canadian Henley), one gold medal at the Ontario university championships, and another at the Canadian university championships. All of this stems from having no experience in my first year of university.
So, if you want something badly enough, and continue to focus on long-term goals, you can accomplish anything. When you find something that really clicks with you, go with it; you never know how your life will change, who you will meet, or where will you be as a result. Good luck!
Men's Captain of Queen's Rowing
2012 Canadian University Lightweight 4+ Champion
My name is Matt Christie, I'm a rower from Ottawa where I started the sport as a junior, 8 or 9 years ago. When I started I was 5'4" and almost 180 pounds (not of muscle...) and thanks to all these years of rowing 2-3 times a day everyday in the spring, summer and fall months and erging twice a day in the winter months I have changed quite a bit.
Rowing is a sport of incredible sacrifice to anyone who takes it seriously. Using myself as an example, I have passed up on going to countless parties with friends, I moved away from family and friends for a school with a good rowing team and now moved even further from new friends, my girlfriend, and my family to train at Canada's National Development Center.
I have learned to balance my studies at Queen's University in my program of Environmental Studies and Geography with being a Varsity athlete on the Queen's Rowing Team. Everyday I wake up between 4:30 and 6:00 am depending on the season to train and practice and then head straight to school, work, or in my current situation at the training center, home to rest right after and then practice again later in the day, or lift weights, or both.
I'm now 6'2" and 160 pounds (in much better shape than before...) and today I have just been invited to try out for Canada's under 23 national team. I would not be who I am today without the sacrifices I've made for this sport. It has brought me more friends and connections than anything I've ever done in my life.
The people I've met in this sport understand the effort it takes to excel in this sport because they too are striving to be the best they can be and work just as hard as I do. I will stay close with these friends forever because without their support and that of my parents and coaches, I would not be where I am today. Rowing is the most important part of my life and I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world.