Student athletes on the women’s novice rowing team formed this semester said the program has allowed them to improve their rowing skills in an environment with other athletes at their skill level.
Women’s rowing formed a novice team this fall composed of students from many athletic background to bolster the ranks of the varsity program. Assistant coach Ashley Myles, who began leading the team in August, said she has taken charge of the team with the goal of putting novice rowers in the A-10 boats which would allow some athletes to move up to varsity status.
“The athletics department recognized that in order to be competitive, most of the top programs in the country have a novice squad,” Myles said. “Not a lot of high school programs have rowing and there’s so much raw athletic talent, athletes coming into college that are not pursuing their sports or have been burnt out.”
Myles said she and the other coaches created a structure to allow the team to build relationships and work together to strengthen the unity of the team as they learn together.
“Just as far as the training, we set up a trajectory for them to go from being nonrowers to now they’re integrated with the varsity as of this past week, doing full varsity workouts after two months of rowing,” Myles said. “So I am really proud of them, they’ve done a really great job.”
Freshman Caroline Crutsinger-Perry said she rowed throughout all four years of high school but wasn’t sure if she wanted to stick with it in college. She said the novice program offered a manageable way to continue the sport that she could enjoy.
Crutsinger-Perry said she has also appreciated the transparency of the coaching staff as the team tries to get over the learning curve and maintain a positive attitude. She said the staff has emphasized preparedness to help them adjust to the possible overwhelming feelings from the new sport.
Freshman Maya Rezende Tsao said she first became interested in the team because she saw it as a way to become more involved with campus culture, though she had never rowed before. She said she used to be a gymnast and didn’t get a lot of satisfaction out of the sport because once she mastered a skill, she didn’t feel rewarded moving forward.
“With rowing, after every single workout, after every single row, you feel that satisfaction that I did that, I made that happen,” Tsao said. “And then when you’re on the boat, and it’s moving, you feel like you’re floating almost and, I don’t know, it’s pretty amazing.”
Tsao said she is looking to improve both her speed and strength as a rower but also trying to maintain the sportsmanship among the rest of the team.
Crutsinger-Perry said it was “crazy” how quickly the team formed a community around each other both on and off the water.
“When you have those relationships with your teammates, that bond and that connection, then that really enabled me to move faster on the water because you’re doing it not for yourself, but for other people,” Crutsinger-Perry said.
After months of training, the team finally made their debut at the Head of Occoquan, finishing in fifth and 13th place in the 8+ while the 4+ boat came in sixth. Myles said she was impressed with the way the team carried themselves in an unfamiliar environment.
“At no point of the day did I think that they didn’t know what they’re doing or the nerves started to sink in,” Myles said. “They handled it like a team, which I love to see.”
Tsao said it was a “surreal” experience being on the water because she became completely absorbed by what was happening in the boat.
“Once you’re on the water, you just forget about everything else that’s going on,” Tsao said. “I just remember staring at the person in front of me. There were three stars on the back of her shirt, and I’m just staring at the middle star the whole time, watching her, making sure that I was matching my strokes. And I just remember thinking ‘one more stroke, one more stroke, one more stroke.’”
With the fall season wrapped up, the Colonials will use the rest of the fall to prepare for the spring slate and improve upon their second place finish, matching a program best, at the A-10 Championship last year.