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Men’s Season Preview: Leadership, Excellence, Resiliency

By Michael Callahan

George Pocock knew the truth about rowing. He knew it was not just a sport of winners and losers and next seasons, but of much more. He found that truth early in his life, and it became his life.

We – the coaches – have talked with the team about the intangibles of our sport throughout the year. In fact almost every day. We talk about leadership, commitment to excellence, resiliency; and how these characteristics don’t end on the water, but become a part of who we are.

“Harmony, balance, rhythm…these three things stay with you your whole life!” That was George Pocock in 1965, and it was no truer at that time than it is today.

Confidence and character go hand in hand. We strive to build those attributes piece by piece, block by block. We do it in January and February when the days are dark and the rain comes in sideways (all of our alums know what that means!) We do it with the Beyond the Boat program. But we also do it in the classroom and in our community; I like to tell our student-athletes “Excellence is fluid.” Meaning become excellent as a person – and everything you do will have that touch to it.

But how do we measure that? How do we translate personal growth to the water? Taking the step last year from 4th in the Varsity 8 at the 2016 IRA to 2nd in 2017 was a big step for us. But the step from 2nd to 1st is even bigger. It is a real challenge, but there is nothing we like more at Washington than a challenge.

Our season begins this year in Las Vegas with a 2k race against Dartmouth on March 3. This is one of the earliest beginnings to the race season in recent memory, but it is an opportunity to get out, get the racing jerseys on, and face some real competition in early March.

Class Day weekend promises to be one of the best ever, and I cannot thank our alumni and parents enough who have volunteered their time to plan and make this weekend what it is. From the Banquet to the Alumni rows, the Class Day cruise to the Stewards’ BBQ, this weekend is a strong reminder of what it means to be part of the Washington Rowing family. See you there!

The UW/Cal Dual—the 107th running of this tradition—will take place on California’s Redwood Shores course this year, and it will feature two of the strongest all-around (men and women teams combined) collegiate programs in the country. We know we have a strong following in the Bay Area, so Husky fans north and south, we hope to see as many of you lining the course on April 21 as can make it. We want to hear your “Bark in the Bay!”

The Windermere Cup will be one for the ages and you will not want to miss it. Oxford-Brookes— the defending 2017 British Collegiate National Champions and 2017 Henley Ladies’ Plate Champions—is coming out to race us. Not only are we thrilled they accepted Windermere’s invitation, this sets up to be one of the most competitive men’s collegiate rowing races of the year, anywhere. Just consider it a Henley Final, only on the Montlake Cut. Mark May 5 on your calendar and let’s “Pack the Cut” again for this exceptional, global event.

As we prepare for the season, I want to thank all of you who have supported our program this year. We cannot train and compete at the level we do without you. And all of us here recognize that, and thank you for being a part of this truly special program.

“In a sport like this – hard work, not much glory … well, there must be some beauty which ordinary men can’t see, but extraordinary men do.” This is George Pocock at his finest. He knew firsthand what rowing means to the soul and spirit. He knew how it built the oarsman to be a whole person—an extraordinary person. And that is, ultimately, the entire objective of Washington Rowing. Thank you for being a part of it.