Success in rowing comes down to patience. This is one of my least favorite words, because I like nothing less than waiting. But rowing has made patience necessary. Here's where you'll need it, too, to succeed as a rower:
Patience in the rowing stroke. Rowing is taking a stroke…then slowly, patiently, coming up the slide to take another one. Why is patience needed? Because the stroke—the oar in the water and the hard push with your legs and swing with your back and pull with your arms—is the fun part! But letting the boat move underneath you—the “patience” part—lets you rest, makes your strokes uber efficient, and makes your boat faster. So really, the rowing motion is all about patience.
Patience with your teammates, part one. As a member of a team, you are dependent on others for your success. This is part of the awesomeness, and sometimes, the ickiness of rowing. The errors of other rowers seem magnified, while your own mistakes are, of course, miniscule and of no consequence (ha). Patience swallows the goof-ups of others, while recognizing full well that you have goof-ups of your own.
(And remember, dear Novice Rower, refrain from correcting the errors of others. Because you will no doubt tick them off.)
Patience with your teammates, part two. Perhaps you picked up rowing to have fun. But a woman on your learn-to-row team is a five-time Ironman champion who sees rowing as her new ticket to medals and glory. Maybe you are a high school athlete taking up rowing to get into a good college…but your teammates don’t share that dream, and goof around too much to suit you.
It’s frustrating when your goals aren’t shared by others, and you feel that they are standing in your way. But having patience means no one can slow you down, or take away the joy of the sport for you, unless you let them. So make that choice! Decide to enjoy yourself. No. Matter. What. Your coaches will spot this, and good coaches will help you meet your goals—and help your teammates meet theirs, too.
Patience with your teammates, part three. I am betting you, dear Novice Rower, that at least three of the following will happen in your novice boat. Prepare yourself for:
· Receiving a hard blow to the back from the person rowing behind you who isn’t paying attention.
· Being struck by a piece of rowing equipment (usually an oar, but it could be the boat…!).
· Having your rowing corrected by someone who isn’t your coach. (Again, don’t be this person.)
· Setting your shoes in the wrong spot, making your stroke feel way uncomfortable, and suffering with your choice for the entire workout.
· Having shoes in the boat that don’t fit your feet at all, or other equipment malfunctions that make your row less than stellar.
· Riding in the launch or being left on the dock because a teammate is either late to practice or misses it altogether. Your boat of eight becomes a boat of seven, which means someone (maybe you) can’t row. To me, this is the ultimate test of patience.
Patience with yourself. This is the most important, and sometimes the most difficult act of patience. As a novice, your learning curve is steeper than Everest. Some days you can learn and assimilate a lot of new information. Some days not even the world’s greatest Sherpa can get you up that slope.
Please, don’t expect to master rowing in a single lesson…or in a season…or even in a decade. You will be disappointed. Instead, be teachable. Stick with it. Recognize bad days for the anomalies they are, and fight for your joy.
(Yes, even when that oar hits you hard in the back and knocks you out of those ill-fitting shoes!)