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The Case for Being an All-Around Athlete

BY OLIVIA COFFEY
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER

When I was in high school, I played four different sports, and if you asked me back then to name my favorite, rowing wouldn’t even be in the top two. I loved my teammates, my coach, and the program, but rowing, as many of you know, is hard.

It’s especially hard for those just starting out, mostly because they lack the fitness and strength to cope with the demands. The first few weeks of the season were always tough, and I remember thinking in the middle of a hard practice that I’d do just about anything to swap places with the coxswain. The coach never switched us, though, and I’d struggle my way through a lot of the early-season workouts.

Gradually, as the weeks progressed, I got fitter, and by our championship regatta, felt a little more confident in my ability. The feeling was short-lived, though; our season was only three months long. By the time I was getting my feet under me, I’d stop rowing altogether.

I’d spend the rest of the year playing soccer, basketball, and ice hockey, and when spring rolled around again, I’d be just as unprepared to row as I had been the year before. I could have avoided all this by rowing year-round, and probably would have had a much faster erg score for college recruiting, but I’m really glad I didn’t.

Playing other sports allowed me to develop as an athlete, avoid injury at an early age, and gave me time to learn to love rowing and all the effort it requires. So if you’re a younger athlete struggling with the sport, give yourself a break from the boat. Grab a tennis racket or a basketball and go play some games. You’ll have plenty of time to log meters when you’re older.

The Workout 

  • If you can, try to be a multi-sport athlete throughout high school.
  • If you row in a year-round program, use the offseason to take a break from the boat and develop skills in another activity.

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