My Transformational Rowing Journey

Q and A With Author and Olympian Jeremiah Brown
Q and A With Olympian and Author Jeremiah Brown
January 2, 2019
rowing stronger strength training to maximize rowing performance book review
Rowing Stronger – Strength Training To Maximize Rowing Performance
April 13, 2019
Show all
my transformational rowing journey(1)

Rowing: Getting Back In The Boat Since 1987

Who Am I?

I wrote this piece to help me reflect on how I found my way from a place of uncertainty and lack of knowledge about who I was, to a place of self-acceptance and identity. When I was very young, the elementary school playground was a difficult place to be for a number of reasons. My peers seemed to value the ability to kick a soccer ball around or run a hundred meters as fast as possible.

I wasn’t very good at either of those things.

On one occasion, I was running in a sprint race and it didn’t go well as usual. Halfway through the race, I was already twenty or thirty yards behind. I stopped running because I was so far back and started to cry.

I also was bullied, so that didn’t help things. It was a frustrating time for me. I was searching to find out what I was good at and understand my place in life.

Parent Support

My father and mother were very instrumental in my development. I participated in early morning swimming when I was ten to twelve years old. They took me to the training session that occurred early in the morning. At no point did I think I was ever pushing myself or understood what it was like to push myself. I did these things because my parents felt that it was good for me. On some level I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t really that great at it. I was one of the lower performing athletes on that team. However, what happened during this time of training was the development of my cardiovascular/aerobic system.

In the sixth or seventh grade, I started to run cross country races. I became pretty good at that because I had a set of lungs developed from all of the earlier swimming. I enjoyed the ability to run fast for more extended periods of time and finally I had a sport that I was good at that didn’t require fast sprinting or hand/eye or ball control of some description. As time passed, there were more opportunities for me to shine in the area of long-distance events and my confidence started to build.

Catching the “Row Bug”

The eighth grade was the first time when I had the chance to row. I remember going out in a boat for the first time with a friend. He had been in a shell a few more times, so he gave me some instruction on how the boat worked, and I immediately fell in love with the sport. It was something that clicked as no other pursuit had. The discipline was something that was unique, and I caught the “row bug” pretty quickly.

I loved the feel of rowing on the water and the outdoors. I enjoyed the feeling of moving the boat fast but also the teamwork component of it. It was something that I immediately took to.

Perseverance

I remember the first time I went out in a single and I flipped the single scull almost within the first five minutes of being on the water. Those that are familiar with rowing understand this event is a rite of passage. I’m not sure what happened as it occurred so fast. However, it probably had something to do with letting go of the oar handles and panicking. Lesson learned.

After my coach had realized that I had flipped, he brought the launch up next to the single scull, grabbed me and the boat and put me in the coaching launch. Next, we headed back to the dock.

I remember thinking – OK we’re done now, right?

Wrong.

Get Back In The Saddle

My coach put me right back in that single. I didn’t want to go out and row again. I felt fed up and was drenched. However, I got right back out in that single scull and continued to row around. I was probably a little bit more cautious after I had sat back in the boat in the boat for the second time. It was one of those experiences that have stuck with me where one of my coaches did precisely the right thing: put me right back in the saddle. I learned a valuable lesson as a result of this experience.

While I participated in my first couple of years of rowing, I continued to run on the cross-country team where I was doing pretty well because of all of the swimming I had done earlier in my life. It became clear to me that my gifts lay in the longer endurance sports and I started to figure out what my strengths were. The extra running also helped with my performance in rowing, so it seemed like a good compliment. I ranked third in Southeast England by the end of the 9th grade.

Love The Process

During the five years of rowing in high school, I loved the training process and all of the aspects that came with learning how to row all different types of boats such as eights, quads, fours, doubles, and singles. I was fortunate that I was at a school which emphasized learning how to move all kinds of boats. This environment allowed me to develop as a sculler (rowing with two oars, one in each hand) and a sweep rower (longer oar and one per person).

love the process
Love The Process!

Rowing also provided the environment to help me learn how to push myself even further. Earlier when I swam, I didn’t understand this. I figured that if you train you should be good to go. It wasn’t until my rowing coach explained one day that “we needed to learn how to hurt ourselves” when we trained. To clarify, he wasn’t advocating that we push to injure ourselves. He was making the point that there is always more you can do and to push yourself farther than you think is possible.

Travel The World

Rowing has created opportunities for me and allowed me to travel the world and visit other countries.

In my 11th grade year, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Great Britain national team. I represented Great Britain at the Junior World Rowing Championships in the coxless pair in Montreal, Canada. We finished 9th in the world.

You can read about my experiences earning a place to row at the junior world championships here >>

During senior year of high school we had a very fast eight, and we competed in events such as Henley Royal Regatta.

Kingston Grammar School - Henley 1993
Kingston Grammar School – Henley 1993

The first year we entered the regatta we were knocked out in the first round and then we were knocked out in the third round the following year. My senior year we got knocked out in the semi-final which was one of the best performances that our school had ever achieved up to that point.

All of these experiences are special to me.

You can read my blog about my last high school rowing race here. >>

College Bound

My senior year of high school my father started to ask me about my thoughts for college and university. I credit him for putting the idea of going to the United States for college. As a result, I got recruited to be a member of the Boston University rowing team, and I studied in the School of Education for four years.

I rowed at Boston University for four years earning a B.S. in education. When I left Boston University, I had done an awful lot of training, and physically I was in really great shape. At that point, I started to coach at a boarding school.

My Coaching Journey

One Of My Proudest Coaching Moments – Launching the Tulsa Rowing Club Thames Cup Eight – July 2013.

I was twenty-two when I started a coach I’m now forty-four.

I’ve doubled my age since starting coaching, and the journey has provided me plenty of opportunities. It’s given me the chance to give back and help high school athletes and middle school athletes have the kind of experience I had with the sport.

Haven’t Found Your Sport Yet?

To conclude, if you are reading this and you are a high school or middle school student-athlete, or you are a parent, and you have you have a child who hasn’t found their sport yet, rowing you could be an option worth checking out. The journey could be the ticket to self-awareness, focus, positive mindset and developing confidence. I am very appreciative of all the sport has done for me.

College Opportunity

Additionally, participating in the sport could be a chance at a college placement or a college scholarship. Your experiences can provide the purpose to build the skills to help others later on in life. I recognize the impact the sport has made on my role in the development of youth and the development of their mindset. The process of rowing helps build confidence and ability to be physically literate.

Rowing has been instrumental in transforming me and giving me confidence and a sense of identity. I began to understand who I was even more as I grew up and pulled more strokes. I learned what I needed to do to go fast and the sport has instilled a strong personal work ethic in me.

This piece is a short account of my journey, and I hope that this gives you a little bit of perspective into the possibilities and opportunities the sport can provide.

Learn To Row

If you are interested in learning how to row and trying the sport for yourself, here is a link to the USRowing website to find out about National Learn To Row Day which is held on the first Saturday in June each year: http://www.usrowing.org/learn-to-row/

If you want to talk more, you can contact me at neil@coachbergenroth.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply