How did you start rowing/sculling?
I started rowing my senior year of high school, when two new friends who also rowed suggested I try the sport. Knowing how poorly I had done in soccer the previous fall, it was a no-brainer to try something different. My dad had recently taken up sculling to give his knees a break from running, and he had been urging me to try rowing, too. As it turned out, I was much better at rowing than I was at soccer, or lacrosse, or any other sport that involved running after a ball. The whole rowing stroke just seemed to make sense, and I could apply power pretty effectively from the start.
What event or result had the most meaning for you as a competitor?
There is really no single event that stands out for me as most meaningful. Everything in rowing is cumulative, and each event just seemed to build naturally on the one before it. Of course, championship regattas, the Head of the Charles and every seat race while trying to make the National Team do sort of stick in my memory a bit more.
What are the best and worst parts of National Team life?
For me, the best part was the absolute focus and clarity; I knew exactly what I had to do each day and why I was doing it. Progress and performance were easy to quantify, and the goals were totally clear. Most of the rest of one's life does not provide that sort of structure, order or purpose unless you really set out to create it. The worst part, if I had to identify one thing, was probably the way that the experience distanced me from friends or family who were not going through something similar at the time. It can be very easy to get wrapped up in your training to the exclusion of having much of a life, at least for me.
What inspired you to start coaching?
It was a very positive way to re-enter a sport I had left for a number of years. When I stopped rowing competitively, I really had no access to boats or rowing for several years and coaching opened up a door for me almost to rediscover a sport I loved.
What can clubs, USRA, MRA, whomever do to ease this transition? Or is it just destined to be a down time?
I think it may just be a part of the process, perhaps even a healthy one. I got to try other sports, like Ultimate Frisbee, and when I returned to rowing it was easier to make rowing a part of my life instead of my entire life. I think that adding the "young Masters" category for rowers 21-26 was a great step, as it gives more people a way to continue to participate. The growing number of clubs and increasing demand for coaching also gives younger athletes a way to stay involved in the sport.
What has been one of your best experiences as a coach?
Any time I watch a complete beginner progress from fear and instability to that "Aha!" moment when they begin to move the shell and actually enjoy the experience.
When learning how to scull, what do you think are the two most important elements to master first?
Patience and balance - power comes later.
What is your favorite aspect of coaching at Craftsbury?
I know that I coach best in a one-on-one environment, and Craftsbury offers a unique opportunity to do that type of coaching every session. Having a group of rowers who have no other time commitments in the day is also a very special part of the experience coaching here.
I know that you've lived internationally, were you able to get on the water much? How much of rowing have you found to be a cultural experience? i.e. Was it a familiar experience? Or really different?
My access to rowing overseas was fairly limited, but the times I did manage to get out on the water it immediately provided a familiar and soothing experience in the midst of a very difficult cultural transition. I wrote about rowing in Istanbul in an essay that appeared in the Rower's Almanac (find it here), and I found the main cultural difference to be the near total absence of women rowers. There are a few, but women's sports overall in Turkey have not yet achieved the prominence that they have in the US. There are some promising signs, and a number of outstanding individual female athletes, but not really the system of support and structure that US women are privileged to have from high school through college to the elite level.
Some of us haven't made it to the Pacific Northwest hotbeds of rowing, where should we start?
Mt. Baker, of course! (I coached there for two years.) But seriously, one very important feature of Seattle rowing is the existence of two rowing clubs supported by the city Parks and Recreation department, Mt. Baker and Greenlake. These clubs, along with the many other clubs in the city, provide an important gateway to the world of rowing through their learn-to-row programs and their great junior competitive teams that draw kids from all over the city. The University of Washington has one of the coolest race courses in the country, and is wonderful for spectators - not something rowing is known for.
Tell us a bit about your PhD work at UW.
I am working on my PhD in Communication at the University of Washington. My Master's thesis was a discourse analysis of the public debate over the use of the word 'refugee' in media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I am planning to do fieldwork for my dissertation in Seattle, and my main research interest is the public discourse over human migration and responses to it - legislative, personal, media, etc.