Team Becomes Second Family

Team Becomes Second Family

The world of rowing opened my eyes to the importance of teamwork and personal ambition; the sport has been a life-altering experience for me, an individual with OI Type I who had never participated on a team sport.

My decision to join the high school crew came half way into my freshman year.  Many of my friends had joined as rowers, and they had told me that they still needed a petite, loud-mouthed girl to fill the role as coxswain for the freshman girl’s boat.  They told me about the jobs of the cox: to motivate, coach, and inspire the rowers at practices and races from her seat in the stern of the boat.  The cox is the only person facing in the direction that the boat is moving, so she also steers the boat.  

When I made the commitment to cox, the team was finishing up four months of winter conditioning and getting ready to start the regular season on the water in late February.  Since then, I have experienced the rigorous, year-round schedule of a rowing team.  While teams participate in fall rowing, which is comprised of long distance courses called “head races,” my school does not, and we begin training for the spring season in November.  Everyday after school I would run, workout on indoor rowing machines, and lift weights alongside my teammates.  Since the cox does not row, I was not technically required to participate in the workouts, but it was mandatory that I come to practices.  However, with only a mild type of OI, I was able to participate in the exercises with only some restrictions.  For example, I would use the stopwatch to time the stair sprints, but I would lead body circuits and run distances with the rowers.  Since the coxswain is known as the coach inside of the boat, there are very close ties between the coach and cox.  Whether it was discussing strategies and boat line-ups or taking down the rowing times of the girls, the cox and coach make important decisions regarding the squad.  So while the coxswain is not a rower, he or she still plays a vital role in helping a crew excel. 

Having OI was never a huge issue while I was on crew.  Since coxing does not require an individual to be in peak physical shape, my friends and coaches were happy when I worked out with them, not discouraged by my limitations.   As long as I kept in mind my personal restrictions with workouts, I was safe and motivated to exercise and push myself with challenging workouts.  In fact, my only injuries from crew were a couple of rolled ankles due to loose joints.  OI was only a minor issue when it came to my participation on the team.

Crew has become an integral part of my life, and my teammates act more as brothers and sisters than mere colleagues.  As the varsity coxswain and captain, I sometimes feel more the nagging mother than the cool older sister, but my leadership in and out of the boat fits well within the dynamics of a hardworking family.  Over years of sweat, tears, and whitecaps on the Potomac River, my team has overcome turbulence through our passion for the sport.  Between months of repetition in following the stroke of another rower, submission to Mother Nature’s changing temperament, and practices on the water before the sun illuminates the river, crew is truly a complete sensory experience. 

I have learned lots about myself both as an individual and as a member of a team, and I have made life-long friends with hardworking, smart, and dedicated men and women.  I’ve learned to be a leader as a vocal coxswain, and this past year I was a captain. 

Crew is not only a great experience to gain skills, friendships, and experiences, but it also helped me get into college.  In the fall I will be continuing my coxing career on the Johns Hopkins University’s crew.  I recommend coxing to anyone who is willing to put in time and dedication to the ultimate team sport.


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