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2017 Men’s Season Preview: What Does it Mean to Earn the W?

By Michael Callahan

On Sept. 15, the team reported to the Conibear Shellhouse two weeks earlier than in years past.  It was this season’s first act of commitment to a championship culture and a time to redefine what it means to row for Washington.

On day one we defined some key values of the team.  First, everyone from freshman to senior would have to earn the right to race with the W.  Everyone was back to their first day of being a Gruntie and we would begin again to instill our Washington values, including letting each athlete earn their W again just like they had freshman year.

What does it mean to earn the W?  We used Kipling’s Law of the Jungle poem to define that the strength of the team is the individual and the strength of the individual is the team.  Everyone has a role in this team.  We work hard. We don’t whine. And we respect everyone.  Competition is important in bettering the man next to you and reaching your ultimate pinnacle.  We are committed to each other and trust is the key in everything we do. Humility keeps us hungry and motivated to keep learning and improving. This is what you must learn before you can race with W.

To test the resolve of the group we practiced from Tuesday to Sunday and rested Mondays. That meant no weekends off.  It reminded me of Conibear’s rules: Rowing on this team isn’t an ordinary life. We wanted to know who would embrace the extraordinary.

No rower raced with a W (or anything saying Washington) this fall.  The Head of the Charles was the first time we had an opportunity to test our new commitment to the values. The guys embraced the blank white tanks and rowed the fastest time over the course that day. This was a positive move forward and reconfirmed that values come first and speed follows.

For 2017 the results aren’t the goal. Building trust in each other, our team, and our core values is our goal.  We have talent on this team and if we commit to the pillars I know the speed will come.

We have a team that is maturing and learning. A lot of growth is taking place and that’s awesome for a coach to see.  We have leadership from coxswain Stuart Sim who took the 2016 season off to pursue his Olympic dream in Australia last year.  Stuart has been an important person to help direct the team from within.   Ben Davison also returns from USA Olympic trials and has brought a rower’s work ethic and desire to excel that are contagious.  Arne Landboe is the physical and emotional leader of the team. Viktor Pivac is the top oarsmen and is driving the team forward on every catch.  The freshmen are a solid, raw group that will need a few years of physical development. Time always tells but so far they have embraced the reinvigorated culture. Gruntie Simon VanDorp will play a role in pushing Arne physically in the engine room of the varsity team.  Nine of our 14 graduating seniors are from Washington State and they are led by Jake Zier from Orcas Island. Top to bottom, these are just some of the Dawgs who have welcomed the ethos that they as individuals will strengthen the team and the team in return will make them stronger.

Pack the Cut

The strength of Washington is our pack.  We need you to pack the Cut for the Cal Dual on April 22, the day our team will race for the first time with their W’s.  This team doesn’t know its limits and is discovering it on every stroke.  It should be a sea of purple lining the banks and not of blue and yellow.  The men and women racing that day will have earned the right to race in the W. I know whatever the result that day they are working now to represent our pack well.