Ambitions: The UVM Crew Team

Everyday I wake up with a new step in my feet, with a new beat in my heart. I quickly and quietly evacuate my closet sized dorm room making sure not to wake my roommate this early in the morning. I do this every morning-it’s my routine. Stumbling down the stairs I look at my watch, and then pass the incoming housekeepers who I greet every morning with my head still in a fog. Despite the fact that I’ve been passing them every morning for the entire year, they still look at me with an inquisitive glance as if they’ll saying, “what is she doing at this hour?”

I row. I’m a member of the University of Vermont Women’s Crew Team. The fact is, I’m not the only dedicated student athlete who wakes up this early to practice before classes. The UVM Crew Team consists of about fifty male and female students who all do exactly the same thing I do. They train and they compete for the team.

In 1986 two students, Elaine Soderstrom and Heather Smith started the UVM Crew Club. They purchased three old boats, built an open-air boat rack on a rented lot in Milton, Vermont and began rowing. Now, eighteen years later our team is still very ambitious.

We row on the Lamoille River in Milton. Although we are a club sport and are not funded as a varsity sport is, we consider ourselves to be a varsity sport. There are many benefits and drawbacks to being a club sport. We are funded by the Student Government Association, but are forced to do many extra hours of fundraising. The SGA gives us a budget every year that covers operating costs. Unfortunately, the funding does not cover everything and therefore the team is required to fund raise. Fund raising includes events such as a 50/50 raffle, Ergathon, and Rent-a-Rower.

Because we are a club sport, we as the student athletes have control over our program and it’s future. About ten of us are chairs on the committee and meet weekly together with our four coaches to discuss the core of the program. We do not, we pay to get jackets and uniforms, we do not get full access to the gym, we pay for our own food and sleep on the floors of teammates homes, and we do not get to register for courses early or have have the support of our Athletic Department. However, I honestly do believe that because of all these challenges we have more character, more pride, and more respect for how hard we have to work for what we do have. Perhaps unlike varisty athletes, we have the ability to change, vote and enhance our club for years to come. Despite the difficulties in having low amounts of funding and not being considered a varsity sport at UVM, we have rowed to new depths.

Rowing is not a game. Each athlete must train hard for the good of your boat. To become a strong crew, we train hard and push each other because it does not matter who has the best time, you need everyone to be pulling their limit to win the race! Training is vigorous and all year round. In the fall our racing season consists of longer three mile races. Through the winter we train indoors and then in the spring as soon as the river thaws we’re out there rowing again, even when it snows! The spring season is competitive with many sprint races.

There are four different teams that make up our program. Your first year rowing is an introduction year for many students and is spent on the novice team. With rowing it’s never too late to learn about the sport and begin doing it. The novice men’s and women’s teams practice in the afternoon, while the varsity men and women practice in the morning. Yes, we do wake up early, but it’s really not all that bad. I do crew because I love the challenge. In every sport I’ve played, I’ve never felt as powerful or capable as I do when I row. Through crew I’ve met some amazing people and have made friendships that will last a lifetime.

This is why I, along with my fellow teammates wake up every morning and push ourselves to improve. Soon our teams will travel to Oak Ridge, Tennessee for spring break training. We will be training in the Smoky Mountains and rowing at the Oak Ridge Rowing Association’s facility. During this week, there will be other schools present-Dartmouth, The University of New Hampshire and Michigan State University are just some of the others who will be training alongside us. Hopefully this time will prepare us for the competitive racing season that is around the corner.

If any athletic students are interested in learning more about rowing, please visit our website and send us an email. We are always looking for more rowers and coxswains.