Spring Season: A Different Senior Send-Off
I’ve been working on this article for a while. I never quite knew where to start or what to say. Describing this spring as surreal was a good start, but now the surreal has become everyday. Unprecedented was a word I heard (and started to use) more and more frequently. I’ve lost track of days, weeks, until this morning I looked on Facebook and saw a post from the Amber Zapatka Memorial Regatta. It would have been this weekend.
I’ve been spending Mother’s Day weekend at a regatta for the last 11 years. In college, it meant a trip to Philadelphia for the Dad Vail Regatta. My sophomore year of college, my boat made it out of heats to the semi-final and had one of our best rows. Two of the four men in my boat graduated that spring, and that weekend was a culmination of a year’s worth of hard work including a spring training trip at Camp Bob and plenty of freezing mornings in Oyster Bay.
When I began coaching in New York, Mother’s Day weekend was spent in Saratoga for States, where I met some creative moms and their cooler mimosas. States was the last race of the season, so it was another send-off for the seniors, complete with cake (after all, high school kids LOVE their post-race snacks!).
My first spring coaching at Noank Rowing Club, we spent Mother’s Day in Narragansett for Mayor’s Cup. It was a small regatta—a tune up race before heading up to Northeast Regionals. That following weekend, we headed up to Lowell for our last regatta of the season. I remember pushing off the girl’s double on Saturday (they affectionally referred to themselves as “Five Foot & Crooked”) and saying to them, “Row hard so you get to row together tomorrow.” One of the girls was graduating that year and it was possibly their last row together after over 2 years together in that double. Sure enough, they made it out of heats and on to the semi-final the next day. We knew they wouldn’t make it out of the semi, but they got that one last trip to the starting line together.
Magical things happen every spring season. After spending all winter in the erg room, rowers finally make it out into the sunshine to row. Of course, most of the spring is cold, windy, and rainy. As a coach, freezing in the launch, I sometimes wonder if it’s really much better than land practice. Something inevitably goes wrong the first day of water practice, whether it’s the launch not starting or a rigger coming off because no matter how many times you say to check that the nuts are tight, one somehow magically loosens itself off its bolt and into the water. But practices go by, the cobwebs are shaken out, and boats start to find their speed. In mixed boats, the novice learn from the experienced rowers, like how to push the ratings faster while keeping control over the slide. Varsity rowers are reminded what it was like to learn about racing starts and pass along their wisdom to avoid the classic fly-and-die approach to racing.
And then, regattas begin.
From loading the trailer to launching for their events, the whole team works together. We cheer loudly as teammates row by, knowing full well the can’t hear us, and run to the dock to catch them after their race. Each boat shares what went well and what needs to be improved. We set goals for next practice, next regatta, next season. We laugh, we feel disappointment, and we eat more celebratory snacks as we pack up to go home.
This spring, I was looking forward to watching my novice rowers learn ratio from my experienced rowers. I was excited to see my two senior boys pushing each other in singles to be the best rowers they could be. I was eager for a girls quad to experience their first sprint race together, hoping that the novice rowers would get “hooked” the way those who love the sport did. And then, just like that, the season ended before it began. I didn’t get to laugh with my rowers when they inevitably flip their singles doing something silly or tell the bike wheel analogy when practicing racing starts. I didn’t get to tell them on a weekly basis that burpees are good for the soul. I didn’t get to send my seniors off for one last race and remind them to enjoy it, row for themselves, savor everything moment.
But while we are missing out on all those special spring moments, that doesn’t change how proud I am of my graduating seniors. Adrian, Derek, and Ashley—you are hardworking, helpful, kind, and so full of heart. I might not be able to send you off the dock (“Row hard, row well!”) this spring, but that doesn’t change how happy I am to have coached you. You will go on to do great things!
So for now, I’ll be home for another spring weekend, much like the rest of the rowing community. I’ll be checking the weather to see if it’s good rowing weather. I’ll be watching the news hoping that soon we can resume some outdoor recreation. And after an unusually restful spring, I’ll be ready to go back to Beebe Cove.
NRC Senior Spotlight
Simmons University, Boston, MA
Major: Exercise Science
Ashley plans on staying involved in rowing in college.
Favorite NRC Memory: “My favorite memory about my time with Noank Rowing Club was when I flipped my shell under the bridge. It will be a memory I will never forget.”
United States Coast Guard Academy
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Derek will be rowing on the men’s crew team and hopes to become a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard after graduation.
Favorite NRC Memory: “A hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant in Philly that turned out to be the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.”
Leiden University College, Netherlands
Favorite NRC Memory: “One time we managed to flip the boys quad and that’s a pretty strong memory of mine.”