Why Do Friends Select Rowers Love Crew?


Image Courtesy of FSS Flickr

The shouts of supportive fans are muffled by oars splashing into the Schuylkill. A mixture of sweat and water drip down the faces of four Friends Select rowers as they pull their quad toward the fast-approaching finish line. As soon as they feel the cool shadow of the bridge they know they have completed their race, and by their aching bodies, they know they’ve done their best. This sense of victory is why Friends Select rowers love the sport so much. 

While some sports require extensive equipment to play, crew is unique in that the only equipment needed is a boat and a smooth body of water. This aspect of the sport, along with the mental strength needed to succeed, is what initially drew many Friends Select students and coaches to the sport. Friends Select Crew Coach Amy Messersmith started rowing not in high school, but in college. As soon as she stepped foot in the boat, she fell in love and decided to continue to indulge her passion for rowing by picking up coaching. “I started rowing in college as a non-athletic person and it genuinely fit with my personality and physical abilities. No balls, no contact, and I loved being outdoors and traveling for races.” She decided to stay in the rowing community even after college: “I went on to coach at other collegiate programs, juniors and masters programs, and the learning process and excitement I get from coaching hasn’t changed. I just get to meet new people, share my love of the sport, and look for ways that it will change their life, too.”

Some FSS rowers started rowing because of how different it was from other sports, like Hayden Pastor ’23 and Sophie Cucinotta ’21. Hayden says, “I did it because I thought it would be fun because you can’t really row anywhere else, when else are you going to get a chance to row on the river and compete?” Being on the water was one of the main reasons Hayden was drawn to the sport and it even prompted him to join a rowing team at Drexel during his time in middle school.

 Sophie was drawn to the team aspect of the sport: “I started rowing because I was really tired of soccer—which was like my main sport—but I didn’t want to do a sport where everyone else was already going to be super good, like everyone was learning at the same time.” While she initially started rowing to look for something different than her old sport, Sophie stayed because of the memories she made. “We had such a great friend group in crew in 9th and 10th grade. My favorite memory is when [Coach] Megan dropped her phone in the river and we spent all of practice looking for it.” 

Crew is notoriously a hard sport, but for some rowers, the struggle is worth the reward, and the hard workouts are what makes practice fun. One important part of rowing is building up one’s endurance. Rowers partake in three 2k tests throughout the season, which means they have to sit on an erg (an erg is a stationary rowing machine used for practice when rowers can’t go out on the water.) and pull two thousand meters as fast as possible. These sets test a rower’s physical and mental strength and can be extremely difficult, though some rowers enjoy the challenge. Izzy Ebede ‘21 says, “As hard as racing and erging both are, it’s really satisfying to finish a race or a 2k knowing I did well and pushed my body to its limit,” It’s the end goal that Izzy enjoys, that feeling where she knows she put her all into improving. 

Not only do some rowers enjoy the workouts, but they also like the strong bonds made from the sport. Ewilca Nicolas ‘21 has made a lot of friends on the team by working as a manager: “It’s just really nice helping out the novices with their rowing, helping them with their form and technique. For the varsity, I just love seeing how far they’ve gotten because I rowed in 10th grade.” Even though she took a season off from the sport, Ewilca is happy to rejoin this year and help out the team as much as she can.

Although the sport seems to be intimidating, there are more fun things about crew that cancel out the hard workouts. Even considering the pandemic, rowers’ hopes are still high for the upcoming season. Amy is feeling the upcoming spring season. “I’m hoping for water time in the spring, but plans are uncertain. […] The goal for this fall was improved performance – and we’ll see how far they can go from now until spring.” 

In the spring Hayden hopes to “Get on the river, I just want to row. I also really want to do a 2k and start competing in regattas.” According to FSS rowers, there’s a lot to look forward to, whether it be getting back out onto the water, starting up test sets to see one’s growth, or even just being part of a team again. 

Hayden, Sophie, and Amy have a few words of advice to those who may be thinking about joining the team in the upcoming spring season or even next school year. Hayden says, “It’s definitely not as hard as people say it is. When I first started I didn’t think I would make it. I thought it was going to be ridiculously hard, but it’s really not that bad.”

According to Sophie, having friends on the team makes those tougher sets seem more fun: “Try to make friends who can support you, it makes it a lot easier, and when you’re erging don’t watch the time and distance, watch the split, it makes it go by faster.” 

Lastly, Amy says, “I’d like to pass on to the team the importance of knowing their ‘why’ for what they do and how they do it. When practices are hard, or you just don’t want to run that day you’re learning at home, it takes discipline to keep up the work that will pay off when you get in a boat with your teammates.”