Life on the Schuylkill
It’s the day before race day. I’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow for a week now. What if we crash? What if something breaks or goes wrong? Everything will be in my hands as we go down the Schuylkill River in a bright red boat, the white
letters popping out in front of you, representing my school, Ocean City. I go over the race plan in my head a thousand times just to make sure I get it right. How many power tens should I call? What if someone catches a crab? Or what if we lose? The team depends on each other but I have to push them to never give up. I think about the race as I pack my red and white spandex tank top into my bag along with my lucky grey socks with tassels on them. I remember to breathe. I let the air travel through my lungs, out through my mouth and back in again. My throat’s beginning to feel rough and dry as race day is coming.
The Schuylkill is a place where anxiety is brewing and teeth are chatting as race day is finally here. I look across the smooth water as tiny yellow and red buoys are transitioning and bobbing up and down, in and out. I see rowers glide across the water as they warm up for their race. The slide moving swiftly forward and back; the oars just lightly grazing the river, droplets of water penetrating their skin. My coach snaps me out of my daze and calls for us to start getting ready. I feel the roughness of my tank top as it slides over my head and squeezes my body. I hear the pitter patter of other teams as they run past our trailer, scanning us up and down to see our strength and skills. I call out to lift the boat quickly off the slings. It’s heaved through the air and onto eight weight-bearing shoulders. As we walk to the dock I’m listening to the thoughts in my head as my coarse feet scrape the black cement ground below me. My grey socks start to get damp as we walk in unison across the grass. When we arrive on the dock, the Schuylkill is patiently waiting for us. We place our boat in as the water surrounds and cups us in its grasp. I place my foot on the vibrant, sand paper-like tape as I call for all eight rowers to sit in the boat. I place my hand on the wooden blue dock as my finger nails press into the rope on the side. One hand on, I shove us off into the water as now we’re on our own, and it’s time to make our way to the start line.
My head strap clenches my head as we sit ready at the start line. Five competitors, one winner. I feel each and every muscle in my body start to tighten and squeeze like the wringing out of a shirt. I keep my point straight ahead as I wait for the starting sound. The silence is unbearable. I hear my heart beat... “BEEP”. My head gets cloudy as the sound travels through my body into my veins and through my heart. The race has begun and we’re just 1,500 meters from the end. The water jumps out of the river and soaks my skin as we make our way down the race course. The rowers start to get discouraged as the other boats pull away. The officials are screaming at boats to stay in their lanes. There are only 500 meters left and the season is done. This is our time to show everyone what we’re made of. We approach our sprint with sweat and tears streaming down our bodies. Legs driving back to the finish and arms moving faster as the end gets closer and closer. Throats start getting soar as the air travels rapidly through our lungs. Every last muscle is pushing its hardest and tightening as there are only five strokes left... four... three... two...one.
Don't Blame the coach.
In the end, the coaches aren't the ones who made the decision on what boat you would be in this season. You did. You made the decision on whether or not you were going to that optional practice, or whether or not you were going on that run, or giving everything you had on that piece. YOU made the decision. YOU picked your split. You decided your limit...and either you passed it...or you let it ruin you.
Remember that the next time you see the line-up.