Coach Spotlight

Ed Slater

03.Nov.2011

Ric Ricci and unidentified camper at Craftsbury during the 80's. Copyright Craftsbury Outdoor Center

You rowed at St. Mark's and Trinity College - did you have any exposure to the sport prior to St. Mark's?

None that I can remember. Though I do have a distinct memory of thinking to myself before I got to St. Mark's: "Maybe I'll row there." How that transpired, I do not know. Divine intervention, most likely.

Many if not most rowers have stories of coming to the sport after having either run out of talent, interest, or both, in more traditional sports. What's yours?

Since kindergarten I had played every sport you can think of: soccer, wrestling, gymnastics, hockey, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, track, etc. Like many boarding schools, St. Mark's works on a three sport system which narrowed me down to playing soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and then I would row in the spring. Very quickly, rowing became my passion and the other sports were slowly factored out of my life. My high school coach, Colin Campbell (now at St. Paul's) is who instilled that passion. Being a student and philosopher of the sport, he passed his intense interest along.

You're on record as crediting rowing for Larry Gluckman at Trinity with renewing your passion for the sport. Could you elaborate on that? Why do you think it had waned in the first place?

It didn't wane, exactly - lay fallow might be more like it. After St. Mark's I went to Hobart where Zenon Babraj was my coach. Zenon taught me how to work hard as hell. He was the first to open my eyes to really intense training - Rocky IV, eastern European-style stuff. However at the end of my Freshman fall my father died suddenly. I left school, taking the following year off (2002). That summer I got my first job coaching at Saugatuck and continued to work there through the fall while taking classes at NYU and Coumbia. In returning to college full time, I transferred to Trinity in the spring of 2003. Larry arrived the following fall. That year and a half between Zenon and Larry, I was a bit lost. Losing my father, who was my biggest motivator and fan, greatly influenced how I related to rowing. Larry's love for the sport, work ethic, and persona brought it all together for me. Campbell's passion, Zenon's training, my Father's zeal for life... Larry was all of that combined.

What were the biggest differences between your prep school and collegiate rowing experiences? I ask this question knowing that there are some very fast prep school crews out there who could compete at a pretty high level with many collegiate crews.

The level of training is the largest difference. Collegiate rowing is just a different beast. While St. Mark's instilled my passion for the sport, gave me a lot of technical and race experience, brought me to Henley twice...I was not an oarsman until well into my Trinity career. Larry would tell us: "You're either a rower or an oarsman." Anyone can be a rower. An oarsman can push himself to the edge (physically, technically, mentally), constantly pursuing that question mark of how better they can become.

You're a comparatively youthful coach, but what have been your two or three most memorable experiences so far on this side of the megaphone?

Working as Larry's assistant coaching the 3rd Varsity 8+ in 2007, coaching WeCanRow-Boston, and my first year at Trinity will forever be in my mind.

Tell us about coaching WeCanRow-Boston and some of your other work experiences - especially the brief stint as a pedi-cab driver. Is it true that you passed your tricycle on to fellow Craftsbury coach P.J. Antonik when you left Boston?

After graduating college, I moved to just outside New York City, committing myself to "pre-elite" training at the New York Athletic Club. After a year I found I wanted to pursue other things and become financially independent, so I joined a financial planning company full time and moved to Boston. My work entailed branding, web design, implementation and maintenance, tech creation and maintenance, deal financing logistics, and general infrastructure (i.e. keeping the gears greased and figuring out what needs fixing). Obviously none of this has anything to do with coaching or rowing, so I decided to look for a part time coaching gig as I missed the sport. That's when I became the assistant coach at WeCanRow-Boston.

Coaching the WeCanRow group was amazingly rewarding and always challenging experience. The group is entirely comprised of breast cancer survivors/fighters who are all at different stages with Cancer. Some are in remission. Some are in treatment. Some have had it spread to other parts of their bodies. The purpose of the group is wellness, both mental and physical. The women are from every background and embody every level of masters women's enjoyment of the sport. Some want to race and go as fast as possible, some just want to get a boat wet. They come there to support each other not by talking about their cancers, but by not talking about them, by sharing their love for the rowing.

Two years into being in Boston, I was laid off. PediCab saved my mind. I went from working at my desk mostly by myself to working outside in the middle of Boston talking with hundreds of people every single day. It had so many unexpected benefits, as involuntary changes often do. It taught me humility. It taught me how to speak with anyone. I used to suffer from social anxiety. It has been something I just worked through over years on end. PediCab put the final nail in that coffin. This is all not to mention that it put me in the best shape I've been in since rowing at Trinity. 12 hour days spent on the bike carting around 1000+ lbs of Bostonians, tourists, and bike. Yep. That'll do. And yeah, PJ did indeed do it for a brief stint after I left for Trinity.

Ric Ricci and unidentified camper at Craftsbury during the 80's. Copyright Craftsbury Outdoor Center

Your bio lists "working a tall ship in the Pacific" in the fall of 2006. How did you come across that job, and what sort of work are we talking about?

Due to the year I took off from College, my eligibility ended a year before I was due to graduate. I took full advantage and started looking at abroad programs. Immediately, I fell in love with the Sea Education Association. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Six weeks in Woods Hole on Cape Cod learning the science and skill of sailing a tall ship, (the Robert C. Seamans, a 134 foot steel brigantine), the science of the ocean, and the society and history of sailing in the world. The next six weeks were spent sailing the Seamans from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta. There were twenty-one students, three mates, three assistant scientists, two engineers, a cook, a chief scientist and a captain.

The students did all the sailing, lead gradually less and less by the crew as time progressed. Every one of us spent time on deck, in the lab (the semester is science based and the course of the ship is determined by our oceanography research projects), in the engine room, and in the galley. The twenty-one students were split into three watches which rotated throughout the day, allowing the ship to operate twenty-four hours a day. Between sunset and sunrise, one member of the on duty watch was required to stand on the bow to look for lights (ship or land) for an hour at a time. There is nothing quite like an hour of solitude spent on the bow of a tall ship crashing through the waves while every single star shines in the sky, dolphins playing through the bioluminescence in your bow wake.

You had a stint as an assistant coach at Trinity during the spring '07 season, but taking on the freshman job as a full-time coach must have felt like a total-immersion experience - what have been the biggest surprises of full-time collegiate coaching thus far?

2011 began my ninth year involved with Trinity Rowing. From student, to rower, to oarsman, to captain, to assistant coach, to alum, to full time assistant/freshman coach, I became heavily invested in the program over time, helping to buffer things a bit. Simply put, I love my job. I have been blessed with the opportunities to row for outstanding coaches, each of whom imparted their personal brands of wisdom to me. I cherish and honor the idea that I could have even 1% of that influence on my rowers. I work to share my passion for the sport and its subsequent rewards in life with them every day. This is not to mention how much I learn every day from my guys and the job itself. That constant learning curve, that is the biggest surprise.

Your reputation as a coach is excellent, but may yet be superseded by your reputation as a cook (I'll not soon forget the paella from Craftsbury's '09 season). Where and when did you acquire your passion for preparing food? Might Craftsbury's campers expect to see you in the dining hall as guest chef at some point?

I learned a few basics from my brother early on in life. I learned a hell of a lot more planning and cooking three meals and two snacks for thirty-one people on ship rocking back and forth. After that I was hooked. I love cooking. It is like being out in the 1x. Trying to perfect something that can always be more perfect. I get lost and taken away from everything else that is going on in life. If Craftsbury asks me to be a guest chef, I'm there.

 

Quick Hits:

Best thing about Craftsbury: The food and the people.

Best thing about Manhattan: The City is always new, always fresh. It is full of endless surprises.

Best thing about Hartford: The Hartford area has an incredible combination of urban and rural settings. No matter where you go, there are infinite possibilities.