What impact did rowing have on your Dartmouth experience?
I grew up in Minnesota and attended a large public high school where rowing was not available as an extracurricular. To tell you the truth, it really wasn’t a sport that anyone in Minnesota did at the time.
My first exposure to the sport was at Dartmouth. I was not an athlete in high school and was admitted to Dartmouth regular admission as a “NARP.” I decided that at Dartmouth, I wanted the experience of competing at a varsity level. There was only one option for someone like me: rowing. I was far too small to have a realistic chance at ever making the heavyweight varsity boat (Phil Hanlon has no idea what he is talking about), but lightweight rowing was a different story.
When I joined the team my freshman fall, I was out-of-shape and laughably un-athletic. Chris Woll (the freshman coach at the time) would tell classes in later years that he wanted to take me out behind the boathouse and shoot me.
I barely survived our freshman fall, then went home for a month and trained hard. When I came back for winter quarter, I had one of the fastest ergs on the freshman team. I ended up in the first freshman boat and medaled at Sprints. I ultimately rowed all four years, was in the varsity boat my junior and senior years, and went to Henley multiple times. My best friends in college (and since then) were other lightweights, and I learned more about perseverance, hard work, team work, and any number of other subjects than I ever did in any of my classes. I also developed a deep and abiding affection for Dartmouth and the Connecticut River. Dartmouth to me IS my four years spent on the lightweight rowing team.
What impact did rowing have beyond college?
The lessons I learned rowing are among the most important lessons I have ever learned, and I draw on them daily as a practicing lawyer. It’s impossible to list them all here, but to name a few: I learned how a team can succeed, and fail, together; I learned how to push myself beyond what I thought were my physical and mental limits; I learned how to cope with and recover from disappointments; and I learned what to do – and what not to do – to help a team succeed. There is one picture hanging in my law office, and it is a picture of a straight four I raced in at Henley with my friends, Matt Muffelman ‘03 and Alex Hamlin ‘03. When people ask me about the picture, I tell them it was the fasted boat I have ever raced in, AND the worst race of my life. I keep it on the wall because it reminds me of everything I learned over the course of my entire rowing career, all in one picture. Most importantly, while I was devastated about the loss at the time, when I look at the picture now, I don’t experience any of that disappointment. All I see is four great friends going fast and having the time of their lives on a summer boondoggle in England. That’s what I take with me.
What would be lost if Dartmouth eliminates the Lightweight Rowing Team?
As I’ve already stated, I think lightweight rowing provides a unique opportunity for “NARPs” to experience a varsity sport, regardless of their background or size. Eliminating it will make all of the opportunities and educational benefits that this type of experience can provide essentially unavailable to undergraduates who do not come to college with significant athletic experience or don’t happen to be 6’4”.