We’re not Denard Robinson or Mitch McGary. There’s no chance of being recognized in class, and if we happened to wear a Michigan Rowing shirt the typical response is, “Oh, I know someone that was on the rowing team,” or, “That’s a varsity sport?”
A Division I athlete was a label I never planned to have in college after turning down offers from track and field teams at smaller schools. I didn’t even know that rowing was a college sport until a few months before trying out. That didn’t make me any less defensive of the sport to which I had never expected to dedicate my heart, soul and time.
Believe it or not, rowing is really difficult. The team has a huge turnover of athletes every year, and there’s a reason for that. As 160 freshmen quickly discover, waking up at 7 a.m. for classes, heading to practice at 3 p.m., returning to do homework after 9 p.m. and then attempting to get to bed at a decent time in order to wake up the next day and do it all over again is no easy task. But the 18 freshmen who stick it out to the end are rewarded as the few, the proud, the Big Ten Champions.
As Michigan athletes, we are expected to be relentless at every practice, straining our bodies every day to our physical limits in order to make our team faster and stronger. The individual goals we meet and the glorious triumphs we earn with our teammates make these exertions worth it. Still, the amount we work outside of the competition context is what truly measures our dedication. What defines a student-athlete is how she functions in her other passions and relationships, while still being able to get into the athletic mindset of kicking ass. It often seems that there’s no personal choice — it’s all about the team, the team, the team. But that’s the choice athletes make.
Check out this week’s Visual Statement: Relentless Rowing by Luna Archey