Returning to GoCrimson.com for a second season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrative. For a full list of blog entries, click here.
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April 27, 2016
“Should I take a practice test . . .” one girl wearily asks aloud as we board the bus to head back to campus. We’ve been racing all morning at a regatta in New Jersey. Spirits are high, but everyone is exhausted. “Oh I should too—I’ll take one with you,” another teammate responds. This support for endeavors outside of rowing is characteristic of our team and makes me proud to be a member of Radcliffe lightweight crew.
As I continue to row and am expected to perform well at every practice, my mind and body have learned to reset when I enter the boathouse. The mindset shift sometimes happens even before I enter—when I’m walking to the boathouse from class listening to music. The body shift sometimes requires a warm-up period, but it usually arrives eventually. If I am unable to focus completely on rowing during practice, it is much harder to perform: this outcome can not only be discouraging but also undermine the work and attitude of the team as a whole on that day. But I have found that, in unison with my team members who make the same transition, I have been able to consistently focus on taking one practice at a time; improving one small thing, whether mental or physical, every day; and even finding a way to make the “off” days still worthwhile. Just as a race can be turned around midway when a crew takes a move together, so a day can change for the better with a simple reset.
This ability to focus has translated to other avenues of my life. The crew team and “rowing lessons” have enabled and encouraged me to continue pursuing my other passions: music and engineering. If I have a yangqin (Chinese hammer dulcimer) performance, my teammates come, en masse, to watch even if it takes place right after practice and even if coming means they’ll have to grab a quick dinner. If I am taking a class with a teammate and there is an end-of-semester project, we can decide to work together to learn something about the sport we spend 20 hours a week doing: for example, in my fluid mechanics class, one of my teammates and I are analyzing the fluid flow around rowing blades of different curvatures using modeling software and a 3D-printed small-scale model. If we go for a run, one of my teammates might ask me how lab work is going and listen as I explain about hydrogels and laboratory experiments; I in turn might hear about a primary source Irish immigrant text my teammate read about for her history class. In this subtle way, we are each encouraging the other’s academic interests.
My team is a constant support network, even outside of the boathouse and the weight room, and even beyond rowing. A frustrating class. A tiring homework assignment. A mediocre exam grade. Rowing and the crew team have been with me through it all, carrying me through even the roughest water.