Time and change.
It’s hard to believe how fast time has passed. It’s been eight years since my last stroke as a Buckeye rower. Eight years since I last felt the combination of happiness and pain at the end of a race. Eight years since going “up overheads,” since hearing “We are MOVE-ING!” and since singing Carmen Ohio in perfect harmony on a bus ride home. While time has gone by and there have certainly been life changes, the memories and lessons I’ve experienced as a member of the OSU rowing team remain close. These life lessons have shaped who I am as a person and have impacted my post-graduate journey as a nurse, then a medical student, and as a soon-to-be resident physician in emergency medicine.
Like many others, I began my rowing career as a novice walk-on. Rowing was a foreign sport, but there was a beauty in being clueless and experiencing so many “firsts” with the rest of the novs. We learned how to live away from home, to navigate an expansive campus, to handle college-level coursework, and we learned to compete in a strange, unfamiliar sport. At this unique time in life, almost everything was new and exciting. Rowing was vastly different from the previous sports I competed in, and it was my first experience with endurance athletics. Fortunately, there was an experienced coaching staff as well as a few girls on the team who had rowed in high school and they were able to provide context and meaning to the training. I quickly learned that following the example of more experienced athletes made transitioning to this new sport easier. This included both the technical and mental aspects of the sport, such matching a more advanced rower’s cadence on the erg and how to enthusiastically welcome the physical discomfort of racing. I’ll never forget how our Novice Graduate Assistant coach explained the later concept. With her native Australian accent, she said, “It’s gonna hurt! When it hurts you just gotta say, I want it to keep hurting” and she told us, “You’ve got to embrace the pain!” We laughed with her as she gave us these tips, but we also tried our best to take them to heart. As a team, we practiced pushing ourselves and each other and we progressed from “baby novices” to varsity rowers.
Varsity rowing brought with it a new set of exciting challenges and opportunities. The workouts got harder, but the training was broken into small daily or monthly goals and the ever-important concept of delayed gratification was effectively demonstrated with each calendar season. The thrill of racing was well worth the long hours of training, and the time spent logging kilometers was rewarded in full. Competing in Big Tens and NCAAs was an experience unlike any other and the times and laughs shared with teammates made truly priceless memories. There were ample reasons to be joyful and we found many an occasion to celebrate. However, between the highs there were also relative lows and these experiences were perhaps the most formative of all. The nature of rowing offered daily opportunities for success as well as failure, both individually and as a team. The heart, soul and time invested in the sport meant that each failure brought a deep sting of disappointment and opportunity lost. This experiential learning provided crucial life lessons, as effort, attitude, and the incorporation of feedback determined the ability to rebound from those humbling results. Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Witnessing individual teammates and the collective team proceed with courage after disappointment was inspirational and shaped my personal development in failure response.
Lessons such as these were invaluable and highly applicable to my post-graduate life and I’m sure to the lives of many other former rowers. Lessons of when to lead and follow, who to follow, mental toughness, goal setting, delayed gratification, failure, response to failure, and most importantly appreciating the journey and the people with whom you’re journeying. I’d be lying if I said I was an expert, as these are skills I’m still attempting to hone. Still, the culmination of four seasons of rowing has left me with life lessons that I will cling to during the next stage of my professional career as a new physician and first-year medical resident. As I look forward to this challenge, I can’t help but notice the parallels to Novice rowing. Anyone of us who embarks on a new life chapter, be it career changes, cross country or international moves, marriage, parenthood, etc., likely experiences some sort of these same emotions. Fear. Uncertainty. Excitement. Novice’s again. A beautiful cluelessness and transformative opportunity to learn and grow.
Ohio State Rowing and The Ohio State Department of Athletics has given so much more to me than I could ever give back. Fortunately, Woody Hayes provided the solution to this dilemma when he said, “You can never pay back, so you should always try to pay forward.” I’ve loved reading previous rowers’ encouragement to keep showing up for each other; this is certainly a brilliant way to pay it forward. The gift truly is each other.
Time and change will surely show, how firm thy friendship, O-HI-O!