“Will It Make The Boat Go faster?”
By Yaz Farooq, Women’s Head Coach
In the final weeks, days and hours of a season, as the national championship grows ever closer, coaches, athletes, administrators, and alums hone in and coalesce on the smallest details that can enhance a team’s performance. This is true for every sport and community, when a motivated team, with faithful supporters, is striving to do something exceptional.
In rowing, at the end of the season, coaches agonize over the placement of rowers in the boat, the specifications of the rigging on the boat and the polishing of the actual surface of the boat. Rowers strive to pry an extra inch of water on either end of the rowing stroke. They monitor hours and minutes of sleep, and the quality and timing of meals to fuel their bodies for a peak performance. Alums and administrators ask if the team has any final needs going into each big race. During this time there is a lot of reflection on the journey, and all of the steps it took to get to this Moment of Truth.
As we pursue excellence in rowing, the question we ask ourselves, when faced with critical decisions, is… “Will it make the boat go faster?”
Which begs the question, “Is it possible to love this goal and process so much that a team can strive to pursue what ‘makes the boat go faster’ not just on race day, but on a daily basis over the course of an entire year?”
We’re in the process of finding out.
When I asked my eternally optimistic assistant coach Maggie Phillips, ’17, this question, she promptly replied, “Yes! Hashtag-MTBGF!”
#MTBGF on a daily basis requires complete ownership by every person invested in the team—from the beginning of the season to the end, one day at a time. It’s a true commitment to excellence, to a standard of performance on a daily basis. Coaches ask themselves what will make the boat go faster in designing the training, setting the schedule, and engineering the testing pieces on the erg and on the water. Rowers ask it in scheduling their study times, in ensuring they are sleeping and stretching, fueling and recovering, not to mention every time their limits are tested in practice. Administrators and alums ask it when making funding and fundraising decisions.
This year’s seniors have played a vital role in this team’s mission to be exceptional. Commodore Marlee Blue, Elise Beuke, Isabella Corriere, Amanda Durkin, Adele Likin, Calina Schanze, Jenn Wren are dedicated veterans, who understand that it will take our very best performances, day in and day out, to achieve this. They see it as an opportunity to be embraced.
I’ve certainly thought a lot about this over the years. But I’ve thought about it even more this season. Our resolve has already been tested this year with the loss of one of our key rowers, senior Anna Thornton who suffered a serious head injury last fall. And, sadly with the passing of Blake Nordstrom, an incredible alum and role model, who “extended himself” to this program on a daily basis because he was so deeply invested in the human beings inside each of the boats. These events no doubt weigh heavy on our hearts, but we are a tight-knit group, and we will persevere. In the words of our Commodore, Marlee Blue, “I’ve learned our team is stronger than I ever knew.”
And, our ability to stay focused each day, each practice, and the rest of the season is because of a simple and unified goal: “Will it make the boat go faster?”