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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Let Her Transform You

I strongly believe that rowing can transform you, if you let her.

She can empower, reveal, alleviate, expand, humble, create and destroy. Through these she can transform an individual into an athlete, and an athlete into a rower. Rowing has the power to open the most intimate places in you. The places that you may not want to be opened, the parts that you may not want to expose. If you are rowing and you decide to keep on rowing, you have no choice but to surrender to the transformation that is coming.

Rowing, to the untrained eye, looks "easy". It cloaks itself in smooth movement and synchronicity, and on glass like water the rowers appear to propel the boat with little to no effort. To the uninitiated it is enticing and intoxicating to watch. But the civilians who see rowing do not realize the mentality that rowing demands, and the terrific pain that rowing serves up.

Rowing, to those that know her, is so many things. She is fierce and fickle. She is generous and pecuniary. She can be forgiving and unforgiving. And she can be all of these in the span of one stroke.

She can on one hand gift a rower with great pride and overwhelming joy, while also denying a rower the feeling of what we call, "swing". She can create a moment that you will never forget because it felt so good and two strokes later she can remind you that you're just a rower and don't get too comfortable thinkin' you're all that.

Understanding rowing means being able to navigate her fickle personality, along with meeting the fierce mental, physical, and emotional demands she places on the one that holds the oar (or oars). It means accepting these traits as part of the agreement you have made with rowing. It means understanding that rowing will never change for you. If you can't accept what rowing is then you will have to be the one to walk away.

For those rowers that surrender to rowing and let her lead, the result is a feeling of never ending growth. Success and failure combine over a long period of time to bring one closer to understanding that rowing has no end game. Just as the stroke has no beginning and end, rowing itself also has no beginning and end. It is a constantly challenging and rewarding partner in the rower's life.

For those rowers that resist surrendering to her it is a constant struggle. A tug of war between the athlete and rowing. An exhaustive never-ending process of how to do this thing called rowing and get what I want from it on my terms, not on hers.

Good luck with that.

To make peace with rowing one must be ready and open to being empowered, revealed, alleviated, humbled, created, and destroyed in the name of transformation.


You become empowered to feel strength in all its permutations. The opportunity to acquire greater mental strength, physical strength, and emotional strength is offered on a silver platter by rowing. The platter also has some shiny medals, a little adoration and a sprinkle of ego. Rowing offers up the platter to you, smiles and says "all this could be yours."

Thus the con has begun.

Not a con of promised empowerment, because empowerment does occur, but rather the con of how easy it will be to attain the empowerment. As if you could just reach out, take what you want off the platter and not pay the going rate. Not sacrifice. Not struggle. Not have to look at yourself.

Empowerment is not free. Not something you just get from rowing. You have to earn your empowerment. This, rowing doesn't tell you. She lets you figure it out and then decide if you want to make the sacrifice.


So you make the decision to stick with it and earn your empowerment through hard work and sacrifice. This is where the reveal occurs. It is not just the reveal of the sport and how difficult it actually is but also the reveal of the rower herself. Because while on the surface it appears that you're learning how to row and race, in actuality you're learning about you. Your foibles, your peccadillos, your ability (or inability) to be gracious, compassionate, patient, etc. And not just to be those things with others, but to be those things with yourself. These are the parts you may not want to see or acknowledge, but with rowing you have no choice.

All shall be revealed.


The alleviation is offered to the rower once she makes peace with the fact that rowing is leading her and she is not leading rowing. Once the athlete/rower decides to surrender to the process the alleviation of the stress of the struggle sets in. This is the birth of a rower. An athlete becomes a rower when she has made peace with this element of rowing and has become alleviated of the angst that follows her "still warring with rowing" teammates around.

Once you absolve yourself of the mastery of rowing, you begin to master the rowing.


Which then begins the humbling of the rower. Becoming humble with rowing means you defer to her. You listen to her as a student would listen to a teacher. She is the Sensei. You don't wave your skills in front of everyone and say "look at me, I'm a rower." You don't lord your empowerment over teammates and condescend to them. You accept that you will never be done learning about rowing and all she has to offer. You take in what she is presenting to you on the water, on the erg, through your teammates, through your competition, and you translate that knowledge, that education, into proficiency. If you're persistent and patient, that transforms into mastery.

Once you accept the fact that you are indeed the student, rowing will draw you in close and quel any insecurity you have about becoming a better rower.

She's got this.

You just need to commit and follow her lead.


These happen simultaneously. You experience the creation of yourself in a new light as a bonafide rower while simultaneously experiencing the destruction of the person who stepped into the boat thinking they were going to conquer rowing and move on to the next new thing.

There is never any conquering happening when it comes to rowing. She is stronger than you, smarter than you, and has been around a lot longer than you. She has seen many come and go in her life. Some have figured it out; how to learn from her and accept her, and partner with her to become better. Others have fallen by the wayside as they overestimate their ability to be in control of rowing.

Rowing determines the path. Rowing sets the bar. You only need to be open to following her where she leads and you will become a rower.

You will be transformed.

Row hard, row well, compete, have fun!

Coach Knickerbocker

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