Anyone make a bracket for the NCAA Basketball Tournament? To be honest, I've yet to tune into the March Madness action and only learned just yesterday who is in the final four (I know, shame on me). But anyway, how are those brackets looking these days? Most of the people I've talked to have mentioned that their brackets were pretty far off from what the results turned out to be. Sure, the brackets made by some sport experts are close, but the odds of predicting the teams that have made it to the final four are small. If everything went as it was "supposed" to, all the top seeded teams would have made it to the final four - as any basketball fan could tell you, that's not the case here. It is competition, anything can happen.
I was thinking the other day how some of the best games, races, and matches are usually those where something so unanticipated happens. Coach Peterson sent us a video of the men's pair at the 2000 Olympics. Great Britain and Australia were the favorites to take the gold, followed by the US and Yugoslavians. Off the start, Great Britain took an early lead over the field and was first for the majority of the race. At the 1,000m mark, it was Great Britain, Yugoslavia, US, France and Australia in fifth. The French were down by open water on Great Britain at the 1000m and many expected the British to claim the gold. France opened up their sprint (44spm!) with over 500m to go, walking them through the leaders to cross the line first, earning them the gold medal (I'd definitely recommend youtubing the race). Crazy, huh?
I have to mention the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees in the playoffs to go onto the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox were down by 3 games to the Yankees in a 7 game series. The Sox had arguably one of the greatest comebacks in sports and beat the Yankees in 4 straight games and went on the become World Series Champs - breaking the "Curse of the Bambino" and 86-year wait since their last championship. So what does this all mean? In sports, anything can happen. Just because something "should" happen doesn't mean it will. A lot can be said for the desire and will to win. If you commit to something above and beyond, I mean 110%, you'd be surprised with what you can accomplish. It sounds corny, but it's the honest truth. Put a boat's worth of people together like that all gunning for the same goal and I could guarantee you that boat will fly. Just because something has never been done before doesn't mean it won't happen. As the Adidas slogan says, "Impossible is Nothing."
IU Rowing is pumped for the Dale England Cup this weekend against Gonzaga, Boston University, and Michigan State. The team is really starting to build momentum after solid racing in Clemson along with Varsity 8+s and Novice 8+ wins against Notre Dame last weekend. The boats across the board are improving to be even faster and getting more in-sync as crews. Racing on Lake Lemon against a strong field of competitive crews is something we've been looking forward to since the fall and were excited to defend our home turf. Row Hoosiers!
The Hoosiers are getting psyched for our upcoming race this weekend in Indy against Purdue, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan. We are in the heart of training, toning physically and mentally to stay consistent through each weekend. This week we were able to set-up our 2K course on Lake Lemon, and it will be used a lot over the next couple months. With each high-rating piece, our fleet of crews look increasingly confident and sharp. While there is no such thing as a perfect practice, our student-athletes never run out of fight and push from the warm-up to the cool-down row to the dock.
We are also getting ready to sign up for Fall classes, which seems years away, but in reality that time is right around the corner. Speaking of the Fall, there is a welcome addition to the Indiana Athletics family that deserves some recognition. Coach Kevin Wilson is IU's new Head Football Coach, and he is exhilarated for next season! A few weeks ago, I was involved in a meet-and-greet where Coach Wilson introduced Offensive and Defensive coaches, answered questions, and shared with IU students that he expects Hoosier Spirit at every football game. This is very exciting, as we have a really great incoming recruiting class.
I was pumped to have had the opportunity to ask Coach Wilson a few questions for the blog. As the IU Athletics motto is "24 Sports One Team," our Rowing Team welcomes you to the Hoosier family Coach Wilson!
Regarding athletics, what do you look for in terms of leaders on a team? "Someone that is a great example guy. Leadership is best coupled with performance. Not necessarily a verbal guy, but someone who is doing things right all the time, on and off the field."
What is something you enjoy about coaching Division I football? "The opportunity to work with some great, young kids. Guys at the age where you try to finish off their growth process and teach them to be disciplined, hard working and structured. And putting that together and having a team that can be the best it can be. One, you get a chance to finish the individual growth of a young man and help develop him as a man on and off the field. Collectively, putting all those guys together to formulate the best team you can."
What are some Team Building Activities that you do? "Our team building focuses on how to create a competitive environment. A lot of things we do we have a winner and a loser, with consequences. We try and build every exercise in a confident way. If we are doing team-building activities, we carry ourselves in a very positive manner with high expectations."
How long have you been coaching for? "I knew I wanted to coach as a player. As soon as I finished playing, I started helping out with the team at the University of North Carolina. I became a student coach and spent three years as a student and graduate assistant after four years of playing. Then I spent a couple years at Historically Black Colleges and Universities working in smaller settings, primarily African-American environments which was a good learning situation."
From your overall experience as a coach, what do you think are some valuable lessons you've learned? "The last two guys I have worked for - Randy Walker and Bob Stoops - were leaders who were very humble and grounded with high morals. They had high integrity and were extremely honest. I learned to hold players to a very high standard, don't back down from that standard but also treat them with a lot of respect."
A hero is
very abstract term. It may be defined as a figure such as super man, or maybe a
mentor you look up to. This past fall I discovered the true meaning of the
word. Case in point, Jillian Costello, California Berkeley Coxswain. She is my
hero. If you have not read the article, published through Sports Illustrated, take some time to do so (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1178822/index.htm).
Jill is the most courageous, driven, and inspiring person I have ever heard of.
Her story made me re-evaluate my reasons for rowing, and forces you to take a
step back and look at life from a different angle. Jill's battle against lung
cancer and how she raced the spring season of her senior year is truly one
story that will touch whomever reads it. It is also an epic story of how the
Cal team came together in support of its sister; it should really be made into
a movie. Here is an excerpt from the article: "At 500 meters it was Cal by a
nose. At 1,000 it was Cal by half a boat length. It was there that Lofman
noticed something unusual: a dab of scarlet just below Jill's nose. Then the
smudge grew, blood snaking toward Jill's upper lip. Jill saw the fear in Lofman's
eyes and knew what had happened. With a quick, disdainful motion she wiped away
the blood with the back of her hand. Lofman felt a surge of energy course
through her. "It was like she wasn't going to let her body stop her from
doing what she wanted to do," says Lofman. Already close to maxing out,
Lofman dug even deeper."
Read it, it will rock you to the core.
Speaking of heroes, there is one coxswain in particular that is a household
name with anybody involved in the rowing. I am, of course, referring to Mary
Last year at the California Crew classic, a teammate and myself were gathered
for the coaches and coxswains meeting. I heard a voice from behind me, and from
listening to a number of her tapes I knew it was the Olympian herself. Meeting
Mary was something I'll never forget; she was so down to earth and inspiring to
talk to. Whipple is the current National Team coxswain and has competed in both
the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games, and will also race in 2012 at London. I am
deeply humbled that Mary took the time to answer a few questions for the blog.
It was great to get some insight before the kick-off to our spring season.
What is a favorite memory you have from
coxing in college? I have a lot of great memories from college. I was fortunate enough
to win a lot of races while at Washington. The memories that stick out
always include friendships, team BBQ's, practice, and traveling for races. The
community that forms from being on a rowing team is special and teammates truly
do become like family.
How do you keep your rowers motivated
when you are down in a race? Believing in each other and your race plan helps me stay motivated. A
good crew will feed off each other and back each other up when they are down to
create momentum that will help them work back into the race. As a
coxswain, I have to create 'buy in' from all my rowers so the upcoming move
brings us back and to the finish line first. I do that by thinking of
things that I would want to hear. That way, I truly believe in what I'm saying
and it comes out sincere and passionate.
What has been your favorite race (or
races) thus far in your career? It would have to be the 2008 Olympic race. It's not only because we
won, but also it was the way we started out the day, the feeling we had before
the race, and especially during the starting sequence. It all came
together and it felt amazing. Winning was definitely the bonus. Overall
for me it is my favorite race because of how we got to the line, the journey is
what made it my favorite.
the biggest mistake you've made on the water and how did you deal with it? The biggest mistake I've made on the water was hit a buoy. Not
just any buoy, it was a huge buoy that we had to leave on our Starboard to make
a turn during a head race on my home water. Since I knew that course like
the back of my hand and proceeded to take the turn like I have always done
everyday in practice, I neglected to notice that the race officials decided to
put a safety buoy before the channel marker that makes the real turn. The
buoy was right in my blind spot...right in front of me. We still managed
to win, but it was totally embarrassing.
What are your thoughts on the
relationship between coxswains and their rowers? My only thought is that they are my teammates and I would want to be
considered the same by them. They have a role in rowing and my role is to
steer and organize. Both roles need to be executed in order to make boats
What was your favorite part about the
Beijing Olympics? Other than the race, being able to watch other events and living at the
Olympic Village was pretty fun. The dinning hall was the happening spot
to be and hang out, especially the McDonalds. There was always a line for egg
McMuffins in the morning.
advice for collegiate athletes looking to continue on to the National Team? The erg is your friend. Having a good erg score will get you the
invite to train with the National Team and continuing to make progress on the
erg will give you more opportunity to be in fast boats and with fast partners.
Races are rarely (if ever) won sitting on the line
thinking, "Gee, I hope we do well." You want to know when the official calls to
sit ready, you and your teammates have done everything that you could have
possibly done to make your boat go the fastest it can on that day. No regrets.
Sounds intense, huh? It's actually pretty simple - not necessarily easy,
but simple. Train smart, push yourself, eat well, have a good attitude and you
have to have the desire to want it. At this level though, it's safe to say that
a lot of the teams we're going to race will have that. There are plenty of
things that each individual crew will have that will set themselves apart from
the others but I think one of the biggest x-factors is confidence.
Confidence is defined as "full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness or
reliability of a person or thing." I was searching around the web looking at
what others had wrote about confidence and many described it as something that
is felt and believed. In other words, it's not materialistic or something you
can physically hold and touch. Sure, some could argue a medal, trophy or cup
awarded after a race could serve this purpose but what about the beginning of
the season? It's a new year, new team. What you've done before definitely
gives you momentum but each year is different.
I remember back in the fall, talking with the coaches about where confidence
comes from. Some mentioned that you could get it from hearing words of
encouragement from teammates, family, coaches and friends. That might work for
some, but for others hearing that you're fast and that you'll do well may not
cut it. You need to be convinced and know you're fast, not told. You want
to know you're prepared - you have to do the work. Call me crazy, but I've
kept track of all our erg workouts since the beginning of the year. Everyone
individually has rowed over half a million meters - just on the ergs alone.
Multiply that times about 50 girls and we're talking about a lot of meters.
By no means does volume guarantee success, I know that, but it definitely puts
us in a good position to do well. We've done the quantity and we've put a lot
of attention and emphasis on doing it well. This past week we've been rowing in
line-ups gearing up for our race this weekend against Clemson, Alabama, BU,
Marist, Syracuse and Purdue. It's the first race and the results will really
set the tone for the season. We're getting used to our line-ups, going fast,
getting more prepared, and with that, more and more confident.
What do you think of when you hear the term "paraplegic
rowing?" Do you feel sympathy? Intrigue? Confusion? I think of the word:
courage. Take British Army Officer Major Phil Packer, for example. Major
Packer was wounded in Iraq, but rather than allowing his disability impact his
life in a negative way, he decided to row across the English Channel in order
raise money for the Help for Heroes charity. That's the kind of spirit and fire
that ignites this sport and makes it, in my opinion, one of the best
activities, if not the best activity, in which to be involved. Packer completed
his quest across the channel in 15 hours. In 2009, he had already raised £154,000
for the charity, and continues onward today.
Rowing brings the world together. It doesn't matter where you're from or what
level of fitness you're at or how old you are ... all you need is a little bit of
courage. It's people like Major Packer who not only make me thankful for the servicemen
world-wide who protect our freedom, but they also inspire me everyday on the
Speaking of being on the water, it is almost Spring-time in Indiana! It has
been a bit chilly in the mornings, but everyday gets a little bit better. I
still wear enough layers to look like the Michelin Man. But honestly, when we're
rowing, nobody notices. Whether we're focused on applying pressure as a crew or
walking-through boats beside us during competitive pieces in practice, no one
cares if it's cold, WE ARE ON THE WATER! We get to row and enjoy being outside
with the sound of our boat-run while our fellow IU classmates are most likely
still sleeping. The week is coming to an end, and we can't wait to for our
Spring Break training.
Coach Steve is pumped and down to business. He is getting us fired up and knows
that IU is a powerful force: "I see it every day in practice, and I see it
every day in each and every one of you."
Hello Lake Lemon!
This week was a busy one for the Hoosiers. Midterms, a 2k test and we had
to leave the erg room and start rowing on the water again. Kleenex boxes
were running low as we wiped our tears away and headed to the boathouse to row
on the water again. We made a compromise with the coaches and were
promised a few erg workouts a week, at least until spring break.
Who am I kidding!? Hello Lake Lemon!
Not many things can beat getting back on the water after a
few months spent on the ergs. It's funny how with erging and rowing you
do the same thing, and yet rowing on the water is so different (and preferred).
Ask any rower anywhere and I could guarantee you rowing on the water
would take the cake. The biggest difference that comes to mind is not
seeing your split. The erg is brutally honest - you're either going as
fast as you should be or you're not, there are no shortcuts. It sounds
like a negative thing, but if you think about it, it's one of the best rowing
tools out there. If you have anything to improve on, the erg is the place
to go. Yeah, it's definitely hard but you're better because of it.
Ok so we finally left the ergs and now I'm writing about how great they
I came across this quote and I think it ties everything
"Rowers like pulling hard. On the erg and in the boat. It's what gives us speed
and makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we're doing something honest and
playing by the cardinal rule of rowing and erging - pull hard and go faster." -
It's one thing to pull hard and see the split you want.
It's another thing to pull hard and move with eight others to surge your
boat ahead of the one next to you. Everyone has had those rows where
everything feels right. You feel like you're flying and it feels as if you
could keep going forever. Honestly, that's tough to top. Our time
spent on the ergs was definitely well spent. We've had some really good
rows just only a few days being back on the water and it's encouraging to think
about how fast we'll be at race pace.
This time next week we'll be rowing in Clemson and all of
us are really pumped and looking forward to it. We were practicing racing
starts and it's crazy to think that in two weeks we'll be sitting on the
starting line getting ready to do the real thing against a solid group of
competitive crews. Spring racing season, here we come!
To all you athletes out there, take a minute today to
thank your coaches and parents. Being driven to those 5:30am practices, food
tents at regattas, seeing their proud faces ... Mom's and Dad's, you make our
hard work worth it just to see your smiles when we get off the water. It doesn't
matter how well or awful a race went, you are still there to support us through
and through! So, thank you!
And to coaches, you make or break a team. Without you guys, we would be a bunch
rowers and petite coxswains rowing around in circles with no sense of
direction. You have such great experience and knowledge of this sport... Thank
you for caring as much as you do, and for having confidence in our abilities
and commitment to the Hoosiers! ...
The time is upon us. Midterms. Spring break is right at our fingertips, but
there is one very large obstacle to tackle before heading to South Carolina for
training: MIDTERMS (insert dramatic music here). The time for procrastination
is over. Not that myself or any of my teammates ever procrastinate ...
Personally, I love schoolwork, but midterms and finals are
another story. Sitting down in a lecture hall and being handed a scantron is
about as nerve-racking for me as sitting at a starting line. But we all have to
go through it, and the hard work and studying will pay off when we are handed
that flashy diploma.
As we near the last week of school before break, it means that in a few short
days the rowing team will pile onto a bus and drive to Clemson, SC to prep for
Spring Racing. We will compete against a number of schools at the conclusion of
the trip, and having been on the water for a short while, it is already clear
that we will have some very fast and efficient crews. Today we tackled a mixed
eight (along with several other lineups) made up of Novice and Varsity, and we
found rhythm in the boat quickly. To the cold weather, we're not letting the
elements decide how we row, which is crucial to success in this sport. Although
it was cold on the water this morning, Lake Lemon never fails to deliver a flat
water and a beautiful sunrise. We couldn't have asked for a better way to start
On Wednesday, some rowers and our head coach Steve Peterson headed to
elementary schools around the Bloomington area to participate in "Read Across
America." It was such a blast! One of the captains, Cara Donley, was kind
enough to drive me and a few others to a nearby elementary school, and we each
read Dr. Seuss books to the students. We answered questions about rowing,
signed autographs, and talked about the importance of reading. Each one of us
walked out smiling. it was wonderful to see such enthusiasm from the young
students, and although we were a little tongue tied from Dr. Seuss, I hope to
visit more schools in the future in order promote healthy learning habits and
For this week's senior spotlight, we salute Ellie Benson. Ellie is a four-year
senior and one of the most dedicated and reliable people you will ever meet.
She is always there to support her teammates with a big smile. She also has a
really cool tattoo of Africa on her ankle. Coach Conny Kirisch says, "Ellie is
an inspiration to the Hoosiers. Without a doubt, you can always rely on Ellie
to perform with enthusiasm and confidence. She is a leader."
How did you get your start in rowing? In eighth grade, we sometimes had "weights" during P.E. class.
The tiny weight room had an erg, so I decided to try it. My gym teacher at the
time told me I should definitely try-out for the rowing team the next year in high school. At that point I had been through so many sports and
thought that maybe I would finally find my "niche" in rowing. The
next year I went to the rowing call-out meeting, decided to go to a couple of
rowing practices (which were extremely intimidating), and pretty soon I fell in
love with the sport.
What are your post-graduation career
plans? Since I wanted to be a four-year athlete, I decided to postpone my student
teaching for one semester. I am an Elementary Education major, so in order to
get my diploma I will have to student teach for about 16 weeks. I am walking at graduation in May, and then coming back to Bloomington
in the fall to complete eight weeks of student teaching. After that, I will be
New Zealand-bound to complete my student teaching! So, after I complete my
field work in December, I am hoping to find a job somewhere as an elementary
school teacher. Who knows, maybe I'll stay in New Zealand!
Looking back on the past four years as a
D1 athlete, what's one significant thing you have learned? I have learned how important it is to have balance in your life. I know
that sounds cliche, but it's true! My busy schedule with rowing and school can
be a lot to juggle at times. That is why I feel it is so important to make time
to relax and do things for yourself. Granted, it can't be all day every day,
but at least once a day, try to do something that makes you happy. Personally,
if I don't feel like going somewhere or using too much energy, I like to either
play Rockband on Wii or watch YouTube videos thanks to my lovely YouTube
What advice do you have for incoming
Hoosier Rowers? Get to know people and attend as many campus events and athletic events as
possible. It's really great to have an awesome group of friends that are there
for you when you need them, or even when you don't. Getting out and doing
everything with your friends that Bloomington and IU have to offer is a must because
the four years you have at college go by way too fast. (Once again, cliche but
You can do a lot of things in four minutes. Eat a
quick bowl of cereal, listen to a song, start a load of laundry ... or how about
120 reps on a leg press? That last one sounds like an especially good
A big part of our winter training is "the circuit." The circuit is a
series of timed exercises where you try to get as many repetitions as you
possibly can - your goal is 30 reps a minute. Every two weeks or so, the
time is bumped up. This week, we were up to four minutes. I'd love
to say that time flies when you're having fun (like when you're doing the
circuit) but four minutes is a decent chunk of time. At the half
waypoint, you've done 60 reps and you need to keep that same pace until the
end. If you think about it, it can seem pretty daunting- so don't think.
The funny part is, it actually takes a lot of practice. If you were
to walk around the weight room during these four-minute circuits you'd hear a
lot of "just breathe and go, breathe and go" and "be a machine." Like any
race, you have to go after it and focus on what you and your teammates are
doing. Yeah, you definitely need to know where the competition is, but at
the end of the day the only thing that can really affect your boat speed is
you, not the crew in the next lane. The circuits have been doing a lot
for the team, getting us in an "attack mode" and racing mindset.
On Friday, we went out to the boathouse and rigged the boats so everything is
ready for when we go out on the water. The lake is completely thawed and
we're waiting for the conditions to be right to get the launches and docks
ready for practice. I know I said it last time, but I really think we'll
be on the water this week. It's crazy - this week is midterms and we're
half way through the semester and two weeks away from leaving to go to Clemson.
Spring is in sight!!
First, I will begin with a "congratulations" to the IU
Women's swim and dive team for owning their third Big Ten title in a row last
weekend! The IU Men are taking on the Big Ten this weekend, best of luck!
It's been an exciting past couple of days. The novice experienced their first
real exposure to racing starts and the difficulties and thrills that sprinting
entails. Varsity is also working with the first strokes of pieces, and
excitedly can feel how close we are to hitting the water. We were able to head
out to the boathouse on Friday to rig up the shells from the Tampa winter
training trip. With water level finally at an appropriate height, faces were
beaming as we caught our first look at Lake Lemon of the spring. The coxswains
were also exited to see an array of brand new cox-boxes, charged and ready to
be plugged into the boats. In other news, next week Hoosier Rowing will be participating in "Read
Across America Day." The Hoosiers will be visiting a local school and
participating in story telling and crafts, we're really looking forward to it!
This past summer, the US Junior National team traveled to the Czech Republic to
compete against some of the most disciplined and assertive athletes in the
world. The results were quite impressive, with the Men bringing home a gold
medal in the 8+, along with the Women's 8+ taking silver, and Women's 4- also
with a silver. When asked what was on his mind as he sat at the starting line,
looking down the 2,000 meter course, coxswain Patrick O'Hara (JRM 4+) said, "I
was motionless, staring down the course at the finish line and wondering what
the results would be. Knowing that the Italians along with Australians would be
fast of the line, we understood that we needed to have a strong first 1,000
along with the well executed "move", and an even stronger last 1,000
with a clean sprint. We all knew that what we were about to experience would be
the most painful and important race of our lives. Eventually after waiting for
what felt like an hour the official started the race." The US Juniors proudly
defended the red white and blue. O'Hara stated that "[His] favorite part about
working with the U.S. Junior National team was the initial shock, but understanding
that you are rowing with the most elite rowers at your age, and with the
eliteness comes the ability to experiencing Junior Worlds standard speed in a
hull that you have never reached before."
It's important to share stories, such as Patrick's, in order to encourage youth
to get excited about the sport of rowing, and to get involved! I asked O'Hara
if he has any advice for high school (coxswains) looking to continue onto a
college career. "It is important that they involve themselves in some type of
summer rowing camp. It is a good way to get your name out to the collegiate
coaches, and more importantly you improve yourself as a coxswain. Furthermore
when eligible to become contacted by college coaches, stay in contact with them
and be respectful, even if you are not interested in attending their
institution. Lastly and more importantly maintain good grades." Rowing in
college is an incredibly rewarding experience, and with wonderful academic
advisers to help athletes, obtaining a solid GPA and competing can be
difficult, but it makes us better students, more disciplined on the water as
well as in the classroom. O'Hara wisely says, "While making the transformation from a high school
rowing team to a D1 collegiate team comes with its challenges, college
academics is another story. While you may be dedicating four hours a day to
rowing, you need to focus the rest of your time on academics. Because once you
put your sport in front of your academics, you will have work building up very,
very quickly. You are a Student-Athlete, not the other way around." Balancing school and athletics can be tricky, but it's one of the key
aspects needed to maintain a good status as a team. This semester, Hoosier
Rowing is focusing on grades more than ever, and it's already turning out to be
a successful semester.
I would like to thank Patrick O'Hara for taking the time to answer some
questions for the blog! As one final comment, I inquired as to what his
favorite race in his coxing career has been. "I've been a coxswain since the
fall of my Freshman year in high school (2006), and although there have been
many memorable races, practices, and experiences, my most favorable memory,
which motivates me to become a better coxswain with each day that passes, was
waiting at the starting docks for our heat at the Junior World Championships.
As the official calls out the names of the other countries, you forget
everything else that matters but the race you are about to experience. Although
it was the most gut-wrenching feeling I have ever experienced, it is still my