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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Dear Rowing...

Dear Rowing,

Happy anniversary.

When we first met on that misty and cool Fall morning I was immediately and forever smitten. You were mysterious to me. I knew nothing of rowing shells or riggers, port or starboard, feathering or squaring. All I knew was that there was something about you that spoke to me. I had no idea of what this was going to turn into. All I knew was that I wanted to know more about you and how I could be part of your world.

Now 24 years later, we have come full circle. I am still wondering how I can be part of your world. you remain mysterious to me in so many ways, and at the same time you are so familiar and comfortable. Learning about you is constant and never-ending. Even after all these years, I am still enamored with you.

So after 24 years, what can I say?

How about I start with I love you. I do, it's true.

For as much as I am constantly challenged and puzzled by you, I am also forever drawn to you. We've been together a long time but it never gets old. There is always something more that I'm learning about myself by playing with you. It's only through learning about you and sharing you with others that I have learned about myself.

You are beautiful in form and in action.

You are complex to know and yet simple to understand. You are straightforward and honest. You hold nothing back. You create opportunities for me to grow, but you don't judge me if I turn away from those opportunities. You meet me where I'm at and provide me with a mirror to see myself, as long as I'm willing to look. If I'm not, then you are always there, consistently and patiently offering up the option to work with you when I'm ready.

Amazing, and yet...there have been times that I have felt on the outside of your world. Invisible to your other worshipers. There have been times when I have looked around a room full of your lovers, and have not seen myself in the others that also love you. I have quietly raged against your elitism, your history of privileged white male dominance and racial homogeneity. And yet, I have made peace with these elements by chalking them up to your growth process. I have been heartened by seeing this begin to shift in small yet visible ways and that comforts me.

It's good to know that we are both growing and evolving together. I'm eager to see what you will look like in another 24 years. I would guess that the basics of you will not have changed much. You will still be boats with oars, and people to propel you forward. I am hopeful that the people part will be more representative of the diversity you deserve. You deserve to be experienced by so many more than actually do experience you. You are a special breed of sport. But you already know that.

After 24 years I see you differently now. You no longer hold my attention night and day. You are no longer the topic of almost every conversation or the subject of every photograph or the constant focus of my mind. I am no longer consumed by how to coach the perfect catch or how to explain the juxtaposition of drive to recovery.

I am no longer in love with you, but am love with you.

I have settled into you. I have relaxed my hold on you because I have come to realize that there is no way to fully capture you. Even for ones that may appear to have "mastered" you, you Rowing, remain unmastered. It's an absolute impossibility to ever really perfect you. It's like trying to grasp air.

There will forever be something about you that is ephemeral and addictive. You give just enough to sate a rower's hunger for you, only for the rower to realize that there is no end to this hunger. You're a forever game.

Thank you Rowing, from my deepest heart of hearts.

Without you I never would have had the chance to feel the incredible pride of having a rower say to me "you've changed my life", or heard the confidence in the masters woman who said "I never realized how strong I could be", or experienced the love in my heart when an athlete said "thank you coach". Without you, these gifts would not have come my way. I am forever grateful.

You are so much more than a group exercise or an activity or a sport. You are so much more than rowing shells or riggers, port or starboard, feathering or squaring. You are so much more than all of the first things I saw in you on that misty and cool Fall morning 24 years ago.

And I am so much more because of you.

Happy anniversary Rowing.

Here's to many more!


I encourage you to write your own letter to rowing.

Row hard, Row well, Compete, Have fun!

Coach Knickerbocker

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