Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . . I do know how to scull a single; I can't say I love it. Other boats - now those I love! I love the stand up and move of a well-seated VIII; nine bodies driving one heart, making the shell come alive and skate along the surface of the water. There is an urgency to the VIII that I believe comes with striving for individual excellence. An odd concept, individual excellence, when we are talking about rowing, that ultimate of team sport. Apart from in a single, there is no possibility for one member of a crew to be able to make the "hail, Mary" move. No home runs or touch downs or goals. The whole crew crosses the finish line together or none of them do. However, there is no interaction between crewmates in rowing as there is in football or rugby: no passing, pitching, catching, handing. Apart from stroke, each crewmember sits looking at the back of the rower in front, they never touch and nothing passes between them. The concentration of each rower is focused on her own movements, making certain every motion is mirrored in exact time. The length of the boat makes the VIII the most forgiving of individuality but only to a degree. This group/individual dichotomy is inherent in rowing anything but a single and, to me, this dichotomy surfaces off the water as well. Rowers are people after all, despite the claims of some non-rowing friends, and they exhibit the differences in personality that all people do. Watch any crew of rowers out for a training session. There are those who show up in a group; they are always in a group. They chat about their thrills and ills with the easy familiarity of frequent contact. The rest of the world swirls on the fringes of their whirlpool rowing lives and rowing swirls out into eating, socialising, and sometimes into loving and family life eventually. But watch! There are also those rowers who show up to every outing or session on their own, put their all into the work, and then disappear after the post-chat, not to be seen again until the next time. This rower may row for the individual excellence that the sport demands while still revelling in the team discipline that means every yes is a firm commitment to be where you say you will be, on time, or others can't row. Perhaps this rower is one who lacks the confidence to mingle with others in the group arriving and leaving together. But while in the boat, everyone belongs and the confidence is in being part of the group. It takes all sorts to row an VIII - and all sorts row.

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