Why I Fell in Love With Rowing

By Aleeyah Marrero

There is no preparation for what you will experience through this sport. I can’t prepare you for your first erg test or your first race. Rowing is about handling variables when they appear. Rowing is about growing up as an athlete, and as a person. When I started my time at Row New York I expected myself to show up to practice everyday, to sit in a boat, and move a paddle with the expectation of the boat moving fast. In reality, when you pick up your handle, your heart will race faster than you ever thought it ever could. Goosebumps will run through your entire body while feeling the run of the boat. Those strangers sitting in your bow and stern will become your family; they will be a part of your life in more ways than one. You will spend every day with those people by your side. The comfort you will take in the knowledge of knowing they will always have your back is something I can’t prepare you for.

Working hard for something you don’t care for is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion. Rowing will become your passion. It will seep through your skin and take home in your bones. It will grow with every stroke. That passion won’t diminish with time. It will grow every day. With every stroke, that passion inside will burn brighter. It will be the strength you have when you can no longer feel your muscles. Those coaches breathing down your neck to pull harder or sit up taller will support you through any wake. They will always stand next to you and continue to push you past your limits. Their job is to make you push past your boundaries and improve every day. They will provide endless opportunities. They will give you chances you never knew were possible. A second parent is what they will become to you. You will become entwined in the sport for infinitely many different aspects.

Although rowing has many benefits, the process to achieve them is quite painful. The pain you will experience in rowing is unlike anything else. A 2,000 meter race is around 8 minutes. The average 5K takes about 20 minutes. You push your body to the furthest it will go during those pieces. Pushing every second to get that extra inch or lean out a little farther. Any rower will tell you the rowing machine – erg – is a torture device. It tears your body and leaves you lifeless. However, this machine will force you to grow in ways you’ve never had to grow before. It will push your mental limits and your physical strength. It will hurt, a lot. In the end it will be worth it because you will realize how strong you’ve grown as person and what your capabilities are on the erg and water.

This sport will demand more out of you than you have ever given. Nevertheless, the pain you feel through this sport is what makes you come back. Embrace it. The faster you accept the pain, the less pain you will be in. Your lake and river will become your second home. It will be where you can go and be yourself. I can’t prepare you for how you will grow attached to the little and crazy terminology you will learn when you join this sport. It will become a second language to you. I can’t prepare you for the endless hours spent repeating the same motion over and over again. It’s not like any other sport; you learn a new skill and what you did on day one, isn’t what you do for the competition. For rowing, that one motion will be repeated over and over again for the chance to perfect it. The motion you learn on day one, will be the motion you use on race day.
Enjoy the novice boats that have different shoes in every seat. Enjoy the wooden handles and the blisters you’ll get from them. Those are the boats you will gradually fall in love with. You’ll quickly learn that the water is your home. You will fall in love with those rows where each stroke makes you want more. The run under your boat is something you will strive for. Preparing you for the secret world you’ll find inside of a boat isn’t possible. You need to strap in your shoes, push off the dock, and row. Row till your muscles ache and your butt hurts. But most importantly, never, ever, weigh enough.

Aleeyah Marrero is an 11th grader at the Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts. She is in her sixth year of rowing at Row New York.  

Row New York began in 2002 with the simple idea that competitive rowing paired with rigorous academic support for underserved youth could change the trajectory of their teen years and beyond. Since then, Row New York has taught thousands of young people the sport of rowing, and through it the values of tenacity, focus, teamwork, and confidence.

To learn more about Row New York visit www.rownewyork.org

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