I Believe in Determination

A cool breeze and the squawk of a lonely seagull are for the most part the only two movements on the bay at 6 am, that is of course excluding rowing shells. It seems as if no one can muster up a good mood before the sun comes up over the horizon. I struggle to keep my tired eyes from shutting heavily.

My teammates and I walk into the cold cement boathouse, the walls are covered with boat and oar. An oar is mocking me and my hands are blistered and bloody from the previous morning’s practice. My memory is crystal clear of what the oar has done to me. Every pain acquired helps to push me closer to perfection. Our team of eight men prepared to carry a 400-pound fiberglass rowing shell into the blistering cold water. The weight is distributed among us but the blunt rail begins to induce a sharp pain as we make our way to the water.

Once my feet hit the water a sudden jolt of energy runs through my stiff body. I’m awake! My mind does not have time to process, and before I can think the coxswain is shouting commands. She is our leader and even our lifeline to advert danger in the water if necessary. Ali, my coxswain, sits directly in front of me bundled in three or four layers, looking much too cute and composed for that time of day. Her voice does not match her physical self. She transforms from her five foot three body to a commander, overseeing every detail within the boat. She yells every command precisely and strives to motivate us when fatigue and pain flood our minds.

The first five minutes determine the success of each day’s practice. Everyone is in sync today; every movement cloned from the bow to the stern. The oars glide gracefully inches above the water. Every stroke is the same; legs, body, arms. The boat jumps every half second from its newly acquired power of all the oars, only to be forgotten seconds later as the boat settles and coasts across the glassy water.

The lunge and fall of the boat does not look fluid from an observer’s point of view. Within the boat though, every member of the team is feeling the precise rhythm. Pain shoots up my legs with every stroke, just in time to catch my mind from wandering.

I would like to say I love crew but at times I struggled to appreciate the lessons these strenuous practices taught me. Seasons have come and gone and crew has often clogged my schedule.

Each day brought the same routine. Challenges would present themselves only to be conquered. The work that I put into crew gained me a new self-respect. The blisters and bruises on my hands became a token of something bigger than myself. I gained the power to put every ounce of effort into achieving my goals and reaching my full potential, and for this- I believe in determination.

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