Australia Update #3

It has been a while since we raced, and it has been a very long time since we did not have a good idea of where we would finish within a place of two.  There is something incredibly awesome about the unknown when it comes to racing.  The unknown is a powerful force to drive us to reach inside and strengthen our confidence.  You know the old saying "pressure turns coal into diamonds".  I am not saying these girls are coal, but the unknown provides just the pressure we need to bring out the hardness of the resolve and the beauty of discovery of strengths inside ourselves we didn't know we had.  Tuesday began with another trip to Pymble for some studying.  While we were there, Mr. Hart went out and bought us a mobile hotspot!  You cannot imagine the excitement that brought.  In fact, I have discovered the most effective tour guide strategy since the leash… All I need to do is turn on the wi-fi and they will follow me like ducklings (actually, since they are only looking at their phones, they follow more like lemmings).  Before we left for the course, team manager Tom gave us a tour of the school.  It was unbelievable.  Cooperative learning centers, Cisco distance learning conference room, outdoor pool, 20 something tennis courts, and everyone’s favorite – the gymnastics studio with the foam pit.  At 11 we packed up our stuff and hit the road for SIRC and our heat in the U19 eight.  I had heard many different versions of who would be fast with the most often mentioned being the Queenwood girls (who we drew in our heat).  Not knowing what to expect and knowing we were just at the beginning of putting together an effective strategy, we decided to keep the race plan pretty simple.  Try to start strong (with the pack) and then find a rhythm at which we could be effective this early in the season (low 30s).  We would just try to power along there in our rhythm and not get shaken by the other crews and just wait them all out to see what moves other crews might have.  No special moves for us, just find a rhythm and stay there.  As we prepared to launch 1 hour before our race (you have to wait in line for 30 minutes as they cue up 5 races between the top of the warm-up pond and the starting gates) we did our customary 1,2,3-TOGA cheer just before launching.  Apparently that is not a thing here in AUS as we got a few turned heads and a chuckle from our competition (which Kelli decided was extra motivation to win).  On the way to the line, the referees were among the nicest referees we have ever encountered.  I am used to kids getting off the water saying how mean the referees are.  Here it was opposite “no worries girls, you have heaps of time”  Once in the gates the anticipation hit its peak.  The girls were not joking when they said there were like 10 seconds between the “attention” and the “go”.  According to Claire, 10 seconds is a lot of time in which your hands can shake with nervousness.  Once the green light flashed and the horn sounded they were back in their element.  Off to a great start they jumped ahead of the field and started pulling away within the first 500.  To be honest, that race was a bit too easy.  (even for me… I led the coaches Peloton from start to finish!)  It didn’t give us the pressure situation that we needed to test ourselves.  It was, however, nice to be very famous for a few minutes.  Our friend Ellen Tomeck from the USA 8+ was standing in the stands wearing her USA jersey and someone said to her “do you know those girls?”  “Umm… Hello… I’m the Olympian” must have been what she was thinking, but graciously she replied, “yes, actually, I do”.  As we pulled into the dock one of the other Olympians came out to share with us the irony of the announcers commentary “these Toga girls are like amazons”.  On the inside Mr. Announcer, on the inside.  We finished the race with a 6:41… After hearing the course record for a U19 girls eight is 6:38, I kind of wish we had pushed a bit more, but once we were over a boat length of open water, we decided to keep the focus on being comfortable inside our rhythm and hold back our “surprise moves” for the final.

After racing, the Pymble Ladies arranged a catered meal at the race course parking lot so we got plenty of pasta and then hit the road for some ice cream on the way home.  It was a long day, and the Pymble girls and their parents were happy to see us beat Queenwood (the New South Wales Champions) so convincingly.  Two other great things happened that day.  The first was the advancing directly to the final (which means we get to go to the Taronga Zoo on Wednesday) and then, personally, my friend Sarah Hendershot (Raced the USA womens pair in the London Olympics) shared a story with me.  She told me of a day back when I was coaching her one summer with the Jr Dev Camp – we were in the midst of a rain storm at the Independence Day Regatta in Philly and we were all sitting around and waiting for racing to start back up.  Apparently I said “You know what I love about Hendershot?  Hendershot is a RACER”  Sarah was kind enough to share with me that was a very important thing to her and her rowing career.  She said she recalled it often in the year leading up to the Olympics.

We humans are a powerful people, truly the tongue is more powerful than the sword, and as a corollary to that, our actions and faith in people are more powerful still.  (If I can digrees and take this to its final step, the one weapon we have in our arsenal that can put an end to any dispute and change the world in an instant is FORGIVENESS)  Sarahs story – the sharing of which I am very grateful – is proof to me that the influence we have on each other extends far beyond the reaches of our imagination.  Referring back to a previous Blog, we improve in spark moments and we improve through the consistency of applied intent like a stream… Sometimes, we do not even know when a spark has been lit.  In Sarah, those few words and that little bit of faith placed in her 8 years ago continues to burn as she strives to perfect her craft and achieve the Olympic gold.  Each story I hear like this reminds me of the awesome responsibility we have as humans.  If a small comment made in passing time can affect a person so deeply still 8 years later, do we not wield incredible power that can be unleashed for good or evil at a moment’s notice (and sometimes outside of notice).  That is an awesome responsibility.


Australia Update #2

Sunday morning began with another bit of a sleep in (9:30 is a sleep in when your body wants to get up at 3:00 am!). Fortunately that late night dinner on Saturday left us all exhausted and though most woke up around 3:00 it wasn't hard to fall back asleep.  In the morning the kids all ate breakfast with their host families and I went out to breakfast with Mark Campbell (the guy who makes the row-perfect rowing machines.) he promised the best Belgian chocolate mocha coffee I have ever had... (after spending a week in Switzerland in 2011 I have high standards for anything chocolate).  It didn't disappoint!  Mark also loaned me a bicycle so I can follow racing and practice. 

On the way out to the course we had to pick up some snacks - I had been a little negligent when it comes to snacks... I thought the regatta concessions would be open, but forgot the regatta doesn't start till Monday.  Speaking of regatta concessions - you can imagine Lexi's excitement when she saw the sushi tent being set up right next to where we are keeping our shell!  I quickly realized that all stops (even snack stops) are excuses for shopping.  Claire and Caroline found the best deal of the day.  In a country where we are paying $4.50 for a gatorade the Murphys found an Australia hat for $1.  I actually think it was more than that, but the cashier overheard so much debate about buying the hat that he made it an easy choice.  People are so chill here (am I sounding like a teenage girl yet?)

Once at the race course it was right to work.  The wind was a strong cross/head wind, but the water was still very rowable.   Practice would include several repeats of 17 strokes at race pace and 5 strokes of paddle.  Actually, we used this to push the rates up a little bit so we can be prepared to race at higher cadences if necessary.  The wind was a little frustrating, but everyone felt the practice was effective, and again we packed  up early from the race course and hit the road for some more adventures.  Being St. Patty's day and Caroline's birthday, we had a little celebrating to do.  Short on time, the girls used the bathrooms and showers at the race course to get ready for our Sydney adventure - imagine seeing a crowd of rowers in full rowing kit, and then these 9 girls dressed in their "cute" clothes as we left the course.  If we didn't stand out already with our American accents, we surely did now!

Sat night, during the dinner, I had a chat with some of the Pymble parents about our trip to Sydney.  Following their advice, we organized the adventure.  Traveling in a minibus is great (until you realize you cannot fit into the car parks - of which I have backed out of 2 as of this writing).  We found on street parking at Luna Park and went off on foot toward the Iconic Harbour bridge.  It was SO windy that I am actually glad we didn't choose the expensive walk across the top of the bridge but chose the normal sidewalk instead (Kelli and I would have lost our hats to the harbor). Walking across took forever, yes it was long, but when you stop to take a picture every 20 or 30 steps and when you need to watch the bride walk the aisle in the wedding down below, time seems to come to a standstill.  Finally across we aimed straight for the Australia hotel for some dinner.  The waiters there were very impressed when the 10 of us finished 7 pizzas (and not the personal pizzas...) These were the "regular" size vs "small" they were glad they brought out an extra table for us when the bill came in around $165.  I think the highlight for me was the kangaroo and emu pizza... Kangaroo might be my new favorite meat.

After dinner we continued our adventure heading to the "rocks" shopping district.  Unfortunately everything was closed (everything closes early here and no one drives over the speed limit by the way) except the Irish pubs... And they were showing no sighs of slowing for the whole night. St. Patty's day, Sydney, Irish pubs... You can imagine the scene.  It was pretty crazy, but I breathed a sigh of relief when we were back on the bridge walking to the van.  By that time I was pretty tired and hoping the walk home would be a little quicker... No such luck.  With the city in lights and the Opera house lit green, the picture taking actually increased on the way back.  It's ok though, I will admit I was excited to get the green opera house picture myself.


Monday morning was the start of racing, but since our events did not start until Tuesday, we had one more day to plan some sightseeing activities.  However, as promised, we began the day with a study session at the Pymble library.  I was impressed with the focus of the girls, knowing that Manly beach was waiting for them on the other side of the study session, they were incredible focused on the school work.  (very impressive to the Pymble administration as well... The principle even asked Kerri and Kelli if they wanted to do a gap year before university at Pymble). At 11 we hit the road to Manly and even though it was cold by AUS standards, no one seemed to mind... And when the announcement came over the loud speaker "would the boys from st. Josephs prep school please mind the flags - you are not strong enough swimmers to venture out of the flags"... The underclassmen of the group all picked up their pace a little bit and decided that they did want to swim after all.  A few hours later, Facebook would expand its network of connections and stories of boys showing off and girls as center of attention would dominate the van.  Just before leaving we went in search of lunch, but again found shopping.  Somehow in 30 minutes they had time to find lunch and go clothes shopping (Meghan bought a "hi-low" which I have come to learn means a skirt that is short in front and long in back).

Because racing was underway, the course would not be open until 30 min after racing so we timed it such that we would arrive and grab out boat and go for a short row.  When we got there the USA women had the same plans and we got our chance to take a picture with them.  Usually pretty aggressive when it comes to getting on the water, Mchart deferred to the USA women... Olympic gold and all...  Practice was very short.  We hoped to do 2 laps of the race course, but time ran short and the Marshals sent us in.  Even heading back to the docks is exciting at the SIRC. There is something pretty exciting about the Olympic rings.

Tomorrow is race day!  


Australia Update #1

The intent, going into this trip, was to blog every day about the trip.  Surely there is plenty of adventure enough to fill pages each day… the problem is the time, the sleep, and the wi-fi!  As I write this, we are sitting in the library at Pymble Ladies College intent on working through at least an hour of homework before heading off to Manly Beach for a few hours of relaxing.  While the kids are busy catching up with homework, I will attempt to summarize the highlights of the past few days.

We knew it would be an adventure when Nanny Wegner showed up to send us off in full Australian kit.  Not to be outdone, the parents organized a send off sign which we proceeded to take pictures behind from every possible angle and every location until we passed through security at the Albany Airport.  Speaking of security… comfortable through the gates with only Claire Murphy getting her hands swabbed for residue of explosives, we thought our trip had begun without incident… Until, over the loud speaker, came the announcement to the entire airport:  “There has been a laptop computer left at security”.  Meghan proceeded to break into a full out sprint back to security and the guys sitting next to us said “guess we know who that was” Subtle Meghan, subtle (as we would find out later, Meghan and airports are not so subtle)  We thought the Albany adventure was behind us when we heard over the loudspeaker one more time “someone has left a tiny American flag at security”.  Welcome to international travel Saratoga Rowing.

Believe it or not, we did make it out of Albany on time.  The real adventures began in Detroit!  After flying the 2nd smallest plan I have ever been in from Albany to Detroit, we thought things were beginning to go a little smoother for us – until they half loaded our Det-LA flight, and then proceeded to unload the plane due to equipment maintenance issues!  When they said it would be less than an hour to fix, we were a little concerned, when they said it would be more than an hour we were very concerned.  When they cancelled the flight…  Fortunately, with some pleading, flirting, and maybe a little crying (ill deny it all) they brought around a new plane for us.  Of course everyone was anxious to get on the plane and get to LA so the line was a little out of control.  The lady at the desk, with a little frustration in her voice, announced.  “Be patient and cue up, there is no need to worry, the plane is not going to leave without you”… that calmed the crowd a little bit, but in the momentary silence Shannon exclaimed “yeah, but the next one might!” All eyes on SRA.  As awkward as that moment might have been, she was right.  Our 2 ½ hour layover had quickly been reduced to about 30 minutes.  Once on the plane and in the air, we could breathe a little bit… But there was a lot of strategizing in preparation of the deplaning and sprinting to the LA-SYD connection – 30 min is barely enough time to get off the plane!  Thanks to some very nice flight attendants, and cooperative passengers, we were allowed to cut the line deplaning, and then off to the races.  In her subtle way, Meghan misjudged the weight of her backpack and, being top-heavy, proceeded to topple over and slide her way down the ramp on her backside.  With only her ego a little bruised, Meghan and the rest of us made it to the gate just as the last group was boarding – with the only significant consequence being the missing of dinner (Which would actually turn out to be such a big consequence that I actually schmoozed myself an extra dinner on the plane.)  Once in the air heading for Sydney, we all breathed a sigh of relief and wiggled around into the most comfortable position to try and sleep as many of the 14 hours as possible.

Day number 2 began as we arrived in Sydney.  Being rowers (in contact with freshwater streams) and carrying gifts of food for our host families, we needed to answer yes to a few of the customs questions – which sent us into the quarantine line for investigation.  Fortunately no issues ensued and we were happy to meet Gill Campbell (the Pymble Ladies Coach) at the airport.  She brought a bus to pick us up (which was a good thing – because our rental van was a few kilometers from the airport)  We knew we had a little adjustment to do when the kids all walked to the wrong side of the van to get in, and I almost climbed into the drivers’ seat.  I will not lie, my anxiety about driving rose a little bit when it took me a while just to find the drivers side!

Gill took us immediately to a great little breakfast place – which I recon is my new favorite.  On each coffee cup they wrote the name of the person who ordered it…  On mine they wrote “the man”.  Yup, I am big time in the AUS.  Knowing, for the sake of acclimation, we could not slow down until bed time, I immediately set out for the race course to find and rig our boat, and to go for a little row.  The kids got a little lesson in the background work that goes into readying their equipment for use.  We spent about 3 ½ hours rigging and setting up their boat.  In that time, the jetlag (and a little starvation) did its very best to turn this normally very mature and serious crew into a gaggling group of incoherent adolescents.  I am not talking about the “excited talks a million miles a minute in a high pitched tone” silliness… I mean the - rolling around on the ground, babbling incoherently in some type of laughing, whining, grunting language.  It was a good thing most of the other crews were not around to see that.  We would have lost all the intimidation factor.  Fortunately Ben from Wintech saved the day with a Subway run, and the boat was finally finished.  When we brought the shell down to the water, the day was recovered – there on the dock waiting for the crew were the USA Women’s 8 oars.  Suddenly this just got real!

Without a bike on which to follow, I sent the crew off to try and get the feel of the shell, and more importantly, the water.  There is a very significant difference between water at 33 degrees F and 73 degrees F.  They felt it within the first few strokes off the dock and 90 minutes later we were rowing under the Olympic Rings on the bridge to the cool down pond and then on to the next adventure.

Back at Pymble we arranged to meet our host families and head off to our appointed homes for the next few days.  Everyone was happy to finally head off in the direction of a bed (even if it was in the home of a complete stranger).  For me, however, that marked my highest level of anxiety – not for the separation from the kids… but rather it marked my first solo drive!  No more Lexi in the passenger seat reminding me to go wide on the right hand turns and tight on the left.

Saturday morning we met back at Pymble at 9:30 amidst the many sporting events being contested on the front lawn.  The girls were all pretty happy with their host families – each group had stories to tell about how nice the families were.  Comparing stories, we discovered that McHart and Claire were living in a mansion (we should have guessed when they were dropped off in a BMW M3).  Battle and Hampton, not to be outdone, have private residency in a pool house.  After only one day they liked their families so much that the girls were already a little disappointed that they would be changing families mid-week. 

With a busy day ahead of us (Pymble Ladies invited us to dinner in Darling Harbour Sat night) we headed straight out to Sydney International Regatta Center (SIRC) for some practice.  When we arrived at SIRC we were welcomed by the COOLEST note one can ever find on our boat.  The USA Women’s National team left a note wishing us luck and arranging to have a meeting and some pictures!  I was very excited to find out that Elle Logan, Sarah Hendershot, Grace Luczak, Amanda Polk, and Esther Lofgren were all there.  I coached those girls at the Jr. Dev. Camp back when they were in high school (except Esther who was at Harvard-Radcliffe while I was a coach there).  It was a fun reunion for me.

Practice on Saturday would be a pretty aggressive one – with not much time to prepare for this regatta it has been a challenge to mix in the technique work while still preparing for race cadence.  It was time to bring the boat up to speed on the race course.  Three times 1250 meters at race cadence with either a start or a finish – the pieces went very well (better than I anticipated actually).  Looks like the girls are starting to remember how to move.  I fully understand that this will be a week of ever increasing speed as we acclimate to the water, the shell, the cadence, the time zone, the international environment, etc…  With Sat practice as a starting point, I am excited to see where we end up by the final of the Schoolgirl eight next Sunday.

Later that night, dressed in “smart casual” with a few sets of super heels.  I am not sure if the heels were for fashion or for intimidation… Pymble girls usually do not do heels for this banquet, but we caught wind they were wearing the high heels.  Some of the SRA girls were not to be outdone.  Dinner was pretty great $50 each, but right on the Harbour with fireworks between dinner and desert.  After dinner the Pymble girls who made Nationals were awarded (well, they had to pay $250) their team “jumpers” aka jackets.  We were surprised when they gave us all little gift bags with hats and candy and little koala keychains.  Dinner went until late at night and again we were not to bed until after 11.  These days have been LONG.  Plans were made to meet again at Pymble at 9:30 Sunday morning for our next set of practices.


Australia Preparations

One can imagine, when I first learned of this opportunity, I was intrigued and excited.  I was also striken by the enormity of the undertaking.  Not the least of my concerns was school and financing.  I am very pleased to say, one day away from departure, that I have been blown away by the generosity of the Saratoga Community!

When we presented this opportunity to the school administrators and the teachers we recieved a level of support that was beyond my expectation.  We are fortunate to have in our district some school administrators and some teachers who think about education in such a holistic manner as to recognize this opportunity for what we believe it will be.  (It also helped that all the girls are extremely good students)

On the financial side of things we found the same response.  From all around the community there were individuals and businesses recognizing this opportunity as an important one for these girls, SRA, and Saratoga Springs.  One phone call stands out in my mind.  The evening after a great article (thanks Stan Hudy) ran in the Saratogian I got a phone call from the president of Greenfield Manufacturing, Duane Palmanteer .  He mentioned how excited he was for us, and without any request from us offered to contribute $1000 to the trip.  I mention this only as an example.  There were so many people who contributed generously that I cannot possibly list them all.

Suffice it to say, we live in an AMAZING community.

Permissions and funding secure, the next big challenge would be the preparations for racing!  While our competitors are enjoying the benefits of a long training season during their summer months, this is a picture from our first day on the water... (Fortunately the river is more narrow down by Stafford's Bridge, and the water moves just quickly enough to keep it from freezing over  - except on the coldest of days - which we encountered once!)

More about our training in Saratoga later... if you want a little preview... BRRR



I'm in the top boat... and google is boxing me in

The main point of this post comes at the end.  Writing this post got me thinking along the way...

There are many wise people in the world, and some have voices which carry to all of us if we will listen.  The trick is to listen closely and to poke your head in doors that don't necessarily match the google query.  Google has done amazing things for the internet and information gathering... be careful though google can quickly put you inside the box.  When I search rowing and coaching google will only help me find the "inside the box" answers.  I have learned as much from Seth Godin's blog as I have from Xeno Muller's.

Today Seth had this to say:

"I'm making money, why do more?" 

Because more than you need to makes it personal.

Because work that belongs to you, by choice, is the first step to making art.

Because the choice to do more brings passion to your life and it makes you more alive.

Because if you don't, someone else will, and in an ever more competitive world, doing less means losing.

Because you care.

Because we're watching.

Because you can.

As an athlete, what does this mean to you?  I remember latching onto the quote from Vince Lombardi "the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender"  Seth takes this a step futher.  I love this.  I have seen this in action.  Every year there are one or two people who decide on their own to do a little more, to invest in their success outside of the required practice.  These are the rewards they reap!  

So, how comfortable are you right now?  Are you already "making money"?  Choose, on your own, to do a little more.  Why? Well, I think Seth layed that out very eloquently 


The trip home

Good evening! Lou asked me to give you the inside scoop on the bus, so here it is. 
The bus ride home from Florida was a very informative one! After a movie marathon Coach Lou began speed dating. This is where the kids rotate around the bus meeting everyone for five minutes. Through a poll we found out the following: more people prefer Peter Pan over Wendy,  Subway over McDonalds, sweeping over sculling, Beyonce over Betty White, and the Jonas Brothers over the Naked Brothers Band. With a stop at Chick-Fill-A and the grocery store everyone is tucked in and ready for bed, eager to return home tomorrow! - Alessandra

Trailer driving home - Alessandra and Molly still filling in

Today was a perfect farewell to the Florida trip 2013. After cleaning, loading boats, and fantastic French toast we boarded the bus and were on our way. Upon our arrival to the beach a few eager beach fans  raced to the water while the others spread out their towels and absorbed some vitamin d. We came back to the hotel for a pizza party and graciously welcomed the comfortable beds. 

Our resident journalists Alessandra and Molly strike again.

The girls cabin was awoken by am unexpected visitor this morning. A menacing spider was hovering above Sydney Carollo's bed. Let's just say Sydney was wide awake this morning.  Margret and Mckenzie took care of the problem and the girls headed off to practice.  At our farewell Bon fire the hard-hitting interviewers Molly and Alessandra got to know the new coach Manny. He graciously gave us answers.

What is your favorite catch phrase?
Let's be real
Who is your favorite artist?
T-Money (Taylor Swift)
If you could spend a day with anyone who would it be?
Martin Luther King
What is your favorite food?
Pizza, New York style NOT Chicago
What is your favorite place?
Lake Cayuga
What was your biggest accomplishment?
Writing my thesis on the mental preparation strategies and in race thoughts of 2 time national champion collegiate rowers.
Where was the last place you worked?
Marietta College
Who is your hero?
My mother
What is your favorite beverage?
Chocolate milk (2% Hershey's)
Who is your rowing inspiration?
My team mate Jason. He started off overweight and out of shape but was determined to make a lifestyle change and came back with 10% body fat and was the captain of the team.
What have you learned from SRA this week?
I already knew they were an exquisite team before I came but I saw great positivity from both the coaches and rowers.
What do you bring to SRA?
Besides my awesomeness and modesty I bring my extensive knowledge of sports physolgy?
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
It would to be to not rush my slide

Alas  you can see Manny is very well rounded and awesome addition to our SRA family!


Alessandra's World

After a tiring day filled with tooth chipping on the Spiderman Ride and flying through Hogwarts, it was hard to wake from our slumber.  Morning practice was filled with exciting coaches trivia.  The water was cold - as Molly and McKenzie witnessed, and as the sun peeked out practice came to an end.  After a delicious brunch the freshmen girls began a grueling volleyball doubles tournament.  In a shocking turn of events, the underdogs were victorious!  At afternoon practice the ferocious freshmen took on pairs.  Alessandra and Olivia ran into some technical difficulties but the super-coach Alida responded to our S.O.S. alas, saving the day.  On a stomach full of fantastic Fajitas and Eleanor's out-of-this-world cake, the volleyball resumed.  The coaches returned from a well deserved dinner and the children climbed into bed as visions of sculling danced in their head. - Alessandra Smith Frosh Girls Blogger


Toga takes to the Park.

Reports from the trip to Universal all seem pretty positive – at least the ones I can decipher from all the kids talking at the same time with half of the conversation in that frequency range that only dogs can hear.  When Maya and Nicole finally took a breath… JK, but they were pretty pumped as well.  Once again Butter Beer from Harry Potter World ruled as the number one beverage, and the HULK ruled as the number one ride.  The HULK did extract its toll however.  Coach Manny’s phone fell from his pocket just as the ride began – good thing he purchased the insurance!  At the same time, Coach Isa nearly lost his to another ride… this time it was water damage.  Just before climbing on the ride, Isa thought twice about his sneakers and his phone and left them off… It was a good thing he did.  His shorts didn’t dry out the rest of the day (and he wasn’t about to pay $5 for the people dryer conveniently placed at the exit of the ride)

While the adults were enjoying themselves in a defensive mode… not so for the kids.  They had a blast and, as kids will do, were on the offensive all day.  A highlight of the trip (which took the coaches by surprise as well) was the 8:30 p.m. Flash Mob.  Somehow they all organized an impromptu dance party in the park and became an attraction themselves.  This morning I got to see the fruits of some excellent marketing by the Disney Company as there were plenty of t-shirts and other souvenirs on display at practice (including one fabulous temporary tattoo on Coach Maya).  All in all a successful trip.

Tonight is the coaches dinner away.  With Mr. C taking the reins, we coaches are going to find a nice dinner out.  Fear not though, you will not be without Blog post.  Offering to fill in for the evening as special guest blogger we have - ALESSANDRA SMITH.  (I cannot wait to hear of the trip from her perspective!)


Universal Studios Day - but no report yet

This will have to be a short one convering only half of the day.  While 7 of the adults accompanied the kids to Universal, Alida, Bean and I took the opportunity to enjoy a quiet day of rest.  So, I can write of the first practice and up until brunch, but my only reports on the Universal Trip thus far are via instagram (and I cannot stay up late enough to hear the stories in person).

We woke to a much warmer morning today thankfully.  As if that wasn't enough good news for the coaches, Coach Lou offered to buy everyone Dunkin Donuts coffee!  We were so thankful that we lined up to give him hugs when we arrived at OARS.  I think it was Manny's first Lou hug!  He didn't know what he was in for.  When Manny put his coffee down for the hug, Lou responded in kind... I knew this was going to be a legendary hug.  2 people putting their coffee down at 7:15 am... It didn't disappoint! Lou lifted Manny right off the ground.  

This morning I got to ride with Coach Alida and some of the freshmen girls.  What a treat.  These girls are a pretty special group.  If their results from the fall didn't convince you, I am here to tell you with my 20 years of coaching experience... this is a pretty great group.  Of course there is a lot to learn over the course of a career, but if I didn't know they were 9th graders, I might have mistaken them for juniors.  What I was most impressed with though was their focus.  We went for a pretty long row (more on that later) and they were tuned in at an attention level well beyond their years.  Very impressive.  To that point, the Head Coach of the University of Virginia women is a friend and mentor of mine - there is a qoute from him (Kevin Sauer) that I just love.  He says to his girls "the harder you work, the funner I am"  I think I am going to have FUN with this group of freshmen for the next 4 years.

Back to our long row... Once we got an efficient start to practice, and the boat made good time to Shaq's house, I figured we might have some time to do some exploring.  So, through a few more secret passageways and across a few more ponds we ended up in one of the lakes in the Isleworth Country club (Lake Down to Wauseon Bay to Lake Butler to Lake Louise to Lake Isleworth)  The girls were excited to hear they had then ventured further into the chain of lakes than any SRA crew in history.

When we finally arrived back to the dock, we were not done by any means!  Because there was not afternoon practice on the schedule, the freshmen girls all laced up the running shoes and made the 2.8 mile run back to the camp (with Cat Paz joining of course)  Coach Isa and I joined them for the run again.  We arrived just in time for Isa to make a hamburger with French toast as the bun for Brunch.

After lunch, onto the bus they scrambled and off to Universal.  I am sure the stories will be abundant upon their return... but I am hoping to be fast asleep before then!


Pelicans and Wind Shadows

Is this really Florida?  We woke to a very cold morning - the kind of morning that makes it tough to climb out of the sleeping bag.  I think it was in the middle 30s and we had to turn a few kids around for long spandex.  By 7:00 all were on the bus and heading for OARS just praying for the sun to rise a little faster.  By all accounts practice was not negatively impacted by the cool weather.  The sun did its job, and the extra clothing slowly peeled.   I got to ride with Coach Bean this am and Ava, Sarah, Libby, Abby, Schuyler, and EKG.  We began by learning about wind shadows (same as sun shadows, but shaded from the impact of the wind) and then went in search of wind shadows in which to row... well, I was looking for wind shadows, they were looking for future homes.  This quest brought us through Jurassic Park Pass and into a few new ponds - requiring the additional adventure of pulling the oars in a bit to fit through a very tight bridge.  Once we safely navigated Jurassic Park, we got to visit 3 more ponds on our long row (We were last back to the dock!).  While I thought we were having the grandest adventures, that title, in the end, belonged to Coach Isa's crew in the freshmen quad.  I have been coaching for 20 years now, and I have seen a LOT of crazy stuff  I have seen a swimming squirrel climb into a boat, I have seen a jumping fish get hit by the bow ball of a boat, I have had to stop rowing to let a swimming deer get across the river.  I have seen a dophin jump alongside the boat for a few hundred meters... but I have NEVER seen a Pelican land ON the bow of a boat and stay for the ride!  AMAZING.

With the first practice complete, our first group of kids decided to join the coaches for the 2.8 mile run back for breakfast.  Bean, Nicole, Isa, Cat Paz, and Maddie Sayer made the trek.  Not more than 20 steps in I knew this was gonna be a quick one.  Cat and Maddie set an ambitious pace.  I think Brunch was calling (After I heard Cat Paz ate 4 tacos last night, I realized this girl is not only a champion rower, she is also a champion eater #foodisfuel).  Brunch did not dissapoint!  They served my favorite: cheesy scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, and tomato soup.

Because the OARS crew has practice at 4:00 pm, we decided to leave for 2nd practice at 1:00.  (Just enough time to lay in the sun - which was very warm if you could find a wind shadow).  So, out came the sunscreen and Florida finally joined us.  

2nd practice was a bit trickier.  The wind was strong and rowing was very unproductive until we found the wind shadows.  Fortunately we were able to get a few good strokes in, but I hope I get to work with those girls again on a day in which we can be more productive.  The drama of the practice was over in Ava's boat (the Butter)  when a big boat passed the girls, the wake was big enough to crash over the sides of the shell and deposit a few inches of water in the bottom of the boat.  Poor coxswain Ava laying on the bottom of the shell quickly found herself in a bathtub with oars.  After a little deliberation we took the shell over to a beach in someones backyard and emptied it out before continuing.  Thanks to the friendly land owner who didn't mind us using her beach for a few minutes.

When we finally all made it back to the dock I was pleased to see that my group of runners had grown.  The 2nd trip included Myself, Isa, Cat Paz, Libby, Mary L, and Sarah D.  It is great to see such an ambitious group eager for adventure (or maybe they just want to get into the blog??)  My favorite quote of the run - Libby "how far are we?" me "point 7" Libby (exhasperated) "ZERO point 7???"  yup, 2 miles to go ;-)

Tonights activities include a trip to Walmart (I do not know why, but they LOVE Walmart when on this trip.  I cannot wait to see what they bring back! I am appreciating this hour of quiet while they are off shopping, but I know it will be short lived.  At 8:00 they will be back and the Church will be rocking.  Monday service in the campus Chapel is very lively.  If I remember from last year service lasts from 8:00-10:30.  And, while my church back home (Northway Church) has a pretty lively worship service, these guys make my church look like a barber shop quartet.  I like a lively service, but I am prepared for my early bedtime this year (thank goodness for Bose Noise cancelling headphones).

All in all, a good day, I wish the water had been a little flatter, but that really isn't my control.  I anticipate good water tomorrow morning, hopefully we coaches can hold their attention when Harry Potter World is calling!  (Whelp... update... they just returned.  Sam Blackington is carrying a 150 foot role of bubble wrap! "It was only $20.  A bargain")


When it comes to Adventure, Feb break never disappoints.

Thanks to Mrs. Kolbe and Mrs. Bremer, 2013 Feb break looked as if it would start with no drama.  Even the winter conditions seemed to hold off and allow us to get on the road as planned.  In order to get a little bit out in front of the bus, the van full of coaches decided to leave the boathouse at 7:30 (2 hours before the bus) figuring we might have to stop for the bathroom and fuel more often.  When we got stuck in parking lot style traffic (literally, people were out of cars dancing) we figured it was a good call and we could help the bus route around it if it held us up much more than 90 minutes.  Little did we know!  Our traffic cleared, and we were cruising along again when we got a call from the Bus...  Engine trouble...  2 hours later, the bus was back on route.  Because we in the van needed to take an additional passenger in Virginia, we now had over 3 hours to kill before the bus would meet us.  We decided to have the classiest road trip dinner ever!  (I had roast duck on a bed of sweet potato mash, walnuts and cranberries with a side of kale).

When the bus finally did meet us and pick up their additional driver, we were mentally preparing ourselves for the long, cramped drive through the night in the coaches van.  I will admit, my mind was not in the most positive of places as I contemplated the 1 am - 3 am driving shift.  However, when Mr. Capozzola climbed into the van, all that changed.  I think the first words out of his mouth were "this is heaven - it is so quiet"  Nothing like being reminded of the volume of 54 excited young rowers to change my perspective on my situation.  

The trip was relatively uneventful after that.  There were a few sneaky instagram shots of all of us trying to sleep, but Maya and Nicole showed their true understanding of the age group when I later heard that there were a few instagram pics of those on the bus as well... Fortunately there were no Teddy Gramms stuck to my face in the pics!  Maybe a Jelly Bean, but I was saving that for later.

As is the case in a 22 hour (turned 26 hour) trip, the day never ended...  While we never got to appreciate the increasing warmth of the rest stops along the way - I am pretty sure they got colder - the sunlight renewed the spirits, and morning activities continued without knowing night had never actually done its job.  The bus finally arrived at Camp Ithiel and the kids showed no signs of wear as they sprinted from the bus to the "good" bunks.  After lunch, we all headed over to OARS to rig our boats and prepare for a practice on the water.  This is the easy part.  Putting 54 kids and 8 coaching boats out on the water is child's play for us.

I personally got to ride in the motor boat with Coach Maya (she even did a little bit of chauffeuring for me)  Back on the water, I am in my element.  I got to work with Cat, Tate, Chloe, Julie, and Sydney.  It was amazing.  Even on as little sleep as we all had, they were so focused and made such awesome changes.  I live for practices like that - to land back on the dock a different rower than when you launched.

I talked to the girls about practice being like a spark and a stream.  Sometimes you persist and you persist, and over time - like the STREAM that carved the Grand Canyon - you become a changed landscape.  Sometimes it is also the case though that during practice there is a SPARK that, in an instant, changes everything.  I love to see both of these.  It is why I coach.  The stories I love the most are the ones of my athletes who persisted and slowly but surely carved the path for their careers that they envisioned.  BUT, though those are my favorite stories to tell, I am most pumped up in the moment when I see a SPARK and a definable change of direction in the development of an athlete.  Today I got to experience both of these as a coach.  Some of the girls in the boat found a SPARK and landed rowing 100% better than when they launched.  Then, later, at dinner I was speaking to some of the girls I worked with last year (LAST YEAR) and I asked them what the remembered... BBF, PPP, Jaguar Style...  I actually went back through my blog to read some of the entries from last year.  Amazing!  A year later these girls continue to direct the STREAM across their landscapes and it is leaving an impression.  

I may be exhausted, but boy am I excited.



Just yesterday I was reading through some of my old blog posts (checking to see how much I embarrassed myself back then) - I had forgotten they were still accessible through this site.  I came across this post in which I still believe.  What hit me today though was the word response-ability.  You see, I am still pretty happy about the girls 8 winning the Head of the Charles, and I continually look back on the season to try and find little pieces of information or training days that added up to a tremendous performance.  Victory or defeat, if we can inventory the steps that led us there, we have a much greater chance of repeating or improving.  So, in my quest to fully understand the season and the race, I have been looking at the pictures that were taken of the crew during the Head of the Charles.  In particular, I wanted to see the extent of the "clash" we had while passing Mount St. Josephs.  We went on to win the event, so did it really matter?  Well, yes, and here is why:  Does this look like a crew that is in the middle of the greatest race of their careers? (thanks to my friend Coby from Green Lake for the pic.)  If you saw this on Row2K would you be picking that as the eventual winner?  Here is the lesson.  All those times in my early coaching years when I had encouraged my crews, even "warned" them that they needed to "put it all together" and "have a perfect race" I was wrong.  We do not need a perfect race, we need the perfect response.  This picture and this crew are a testimony to this.  These girls - while trying to dig their oars out from under the Mount boat had a very important decision to make, and their coxswain had a very important thought to cement in their heads.  They needed to respond perfectly, and it was completely within their power to do so.  In racing -- and in life -- things happen (life is not in our control).  What matters is the response... and we DO have control over our response.  Congrats to the SRA girls for their win, and THANK YOU for reminding me of this very important lesson.  With a proper response, we can never be a victim.


Look at the risks.

I am fast approaching 20 years of coaching.  That means I have been witness to the daily lives of several hundred teens.  A little bit of math proves I have spent about 10,000 hours in direct contact with teens.  Here is one thing I learned, other than how to make a skinny boat go fast...

There are people in life who, by their actions, prove that they want the best for you, and want you to succeed... And, there are people who may pretend the same, but actually are playing with you for their own entertainment and care little about your future success.  Learn to tell the difference and you will build an army of allies to ensure your success.  If you don't learn to recognize the difference you are destined to be the pawn in someone else's game and sacrificed for their own advancement or tossed aside when the game isn't fun anymore.

How can you tell the difference?  Look at the risks.  Both of these people encourage you to take risks.  If you look at the potential outcomes (positive and negative) of the risks you are encouraged to take, it is usually pretty clear who is challenging you to be better and more successful, and who is using you for their own entertainment.

While we assess our "friends", it is good practice to assess ourselves as well.  How have we positively encouraged and challenged those who we call our friends? 


Why I Love Instagram

One of the most informative books I have read in the last year was "The Happiness Advantage" by Sean Achor.  In that book, he posits that happiness need not be an effect of external circumstances but rather a choice that is made.  And, when that choice is made, along with it comes a significant and measurable advantage in our endeavors.  Our brains function measurably better when happy. Sean goes on to describe a few simple daily exercises that can retrain our brain to state of happiness.  (link for more on this topic)

  • Write down 3 new things you are grateful for each day (trains your brain to look intently for the positive)
  • Journaling about one positive experience you've had in the last 24 hours (allows your brain to relive the positive experience)

There are a few other exercises, but those two are relevant to my title.  Instagram fits the bill.  Since I have downloaded instagram, I find that I am constantly scanning my surroundings for that which is fun, funny, and beautiful... Even on the most miserable of days I am searching "what is awesome about this".  Then, as the day continues, each time I open the app I get a little notification of the people who have liked my picture, and I get to relive the moment myself while taking pleasure in the fact that I have helped raise the happiness of one of my friends.

I am grateful for the location of my house and the placement of my bedroom window.  Each morning I wakeup and immediately look out the window to see if I should take a picture of the sunrise.  On some days I am grateful that I have such a cool job, and I can appreciate the sunrise at work.  And when I am slipping away from the positive state, I am grateful for my instagram friends who share the fun, funny, and beautiful things they are experiencing and remind me to look for the same.  Follow me on Instagram @EJCat3


April Break Staycation Day #6-10 - Cannot keep up

You know the old saying... your eyes are bigger than your belly... Well, my ambition of blogging was a bit more than I could handle by the end of the week.  For a guy used to going home to an empty house and enjoying the television at sound level 5 or 6 (depending if the dryer is running).  27 Teenage girls and a television at sound level 80+, along with the planning that goes into a training trip overwhelmed me by the end of the week.  So, here is a summary of the 2nd half of the training trip:

Wednesday:  Coaches pull a fast one & Fish.  We decided that Wednesday afternoon would be off.  Give the kids a little extra rest time.  We had plans for a dinner out and a movie, but the movie options were not appealing - especially as compared to OTH.  So, after morning practice - and one of our only flat water practices - the coaches quickly changed plans and decided that we would spend the dinner money and bring the kids out to breakfast instead - then we would return to the boathouse for a late morning practice and take advantage of the flat water while we had it.  While the kids may have felt a little tricked (we still got 2 practices out of them), they certainly understood given the conditions.  Breakfast was a blast!  We took the kids to Denny's and although it is not my favorite restaurant, it was a wise choice.  During breakfast a nice older gentleman came by the table and gave us a coupon for 10% off our entire order - 30 people.  Then, Denny's accepted our tax exempt certificate!  What a great deal.  We saved almost $60 on breakfast with those deals.  During the last few practices there was a lot of talk surrounding Coach Wilson's dog, and how the kids thought we should get a boathouse pet.  I shot down all their ideas (I am allergic to dogs, cats, feathers, turtles are too slow, no body likes rodents) until they got to fish.  Actually, I think that a fish might survive in the boathouse (and they only cost $0.30).  McHart offered to buy the fish, and I told them we could get a few, and I would see how well they take care of them before we invest in anything other than a bowl and some food.  Off to PetSmart we went.  They carefully selected a few fish, and named them after "One Tree Hill" characters - which I thought was an improvement from their original choices of lil' Wayne and a bunch of other rappers I didn't recognize.  Here's hoping they can responsibly care for the fish and maybe we will start a new tradition.  Oh... and we arrived home after late morning practice to find SNOW in Corinth.  When most teams travel to warmer locales... SRA girls go to the snow?  That evening we watched our resident SRA member and actor/writer/director Marcus Fuller in "One Fall" ate tacos, and went to bed early

Thursday: Spa Day & Bonfire.  After a nice relaxed evening the previous night, Thursday held a treat in the afternoon.  After the AM row, we rented out the community center at the Waters Edge.  They spent the afternoon in the 13 person hot tub, the indoor pool, and some played raquetball and ping pong.  Of course there were a few diehards that watched One Tree Hill on their iPhone.  The seniors, and a few selected others were treated to Massages (thanks to Mrs Boss) and thanks to Mrs. Hogan everyone had the opportunity to have their nails done.  I never knew that there were so many shades of polish.  I know about 15 different colors... they had 15 different names for RED.  After Spa day, A few girls came over to help Matt and I with the race course (Caroline got covered in fish creek slime :-) and a few went to Beans to help with a cake.  The others rested in the sun for an hour or so before 2nd practice.  We had some crazy weather for the second practice.  We launched off the dock and most of the crews headed to the North End of the lake, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the wind would die (the pattern was set while we were working on the race course) so we rowed up toward Staffords.  It turned out to be a good choice because the wind did die, and the water got nice again!  The practice was a treat for me as I got to sit in the launch and listen while Coach Wilson coached the crew.  She has a great way of expressing how to feel the boat and how to complete your strokes well.  When we landed, we went straight up to Corinth and got ready to head over to Nanny Midge's house (Grandma Wegner).  It turned out to be a perfect night for a BBQ and a bonfire.  We had a basketball game and a volleyball game going until the sunset, then we gathered around the bonfire for Smores and a campfire game called "realm"... I think I won.  No one guessed my realm for almost 30 minutes (the only things in my realm had an 'E' as the third letter).  It was a great evening activity, and Nanny was a gracious host.

Friday:  Race Day!  Everyone could feel the trip coming to a close on Friday, and while that was a little sad, the energy level of the team was high.  When we decided to stay in Saratoga, we arranged a scrimmage with Albany for Friday afternoon.  We rarely go this long on the water without racing, so they were itching to go.  With race day excitement buzzing there was little else on the minds of the girls, and I thought the afternoon would be adventure free... until... on the way home from morning practice, all of the sudden Lexi starts screaming "it's mater, it's mater!  Stop! OMG it's mater!"  I have NO idea what she is saying - and it kind of freaks me out.  She is sitting shotgun and screaming gibberish.  All I hear is the word stop.  Then, all the rest of the van joins in the screaming - and I am sure I am the only one who doesn't understand.  So, I calmly pull over and ask what they are saying.  "mater from cars" - I still don't get it - "tow-mater" - still nothing - "mater and lightning" - are we speaking the same language?.  Finally one of the girls brings their voice pitch down into the human range and explains.  The character from the movie "cars" is named Mater, and there was a replica parked on the side of the road a little ways back.  OHHH.  So we go back and take some pictures.  Actually, now that I have written that whole thing... it might have been thursday that we saw Mater and Lightning McQueen... It all blends together after a while!  The afternoon comes around and everyone is getting excited.  We head back to Toga a little early to meet ARC for the race.  At first glance it looks as if we might have another nice water day... but by the time we got ourselves out onto the race course, Mother Nature had different ideas!   It was the choppiest head wind I have seen on Fish Creek!  Because of the orientation of the river, we tend to get a rare north wind that brings chop, and a normal south wind that doesn't chop the water.  This spring has been the exact opposite (maybe the Mayan's were right and the poles are flipping) we have had a more regular north wind that wasn't too choppy, and a nasty choppy south wind.  In any case, both coaches were game for the challenge, and the rowers were too excited to care.  As we left the dock it wasn't too bad, but up at the start line, it was pretty rough.  The first flight consisted of SRA 2v8, ARC 2v8, SRA 4x, SRA 4x, and ARC boys 1x (I was impressed with him in the conditions!).  The race started with waves crashing over the riggers and all crews pushing hard into the wind.  Gradually, over the course of the race, the water flattened out a bit, but the wind was still pushing.  The conditions were challenging, but the race unfolded evenly with SRA2V8 coming back from a seat or two down off the start and steadily moving away to about a 20 second win.  The quads finished shortly after with the single in between.  As the race unfolded the Albany coach and I decided that one race into those conditions was probably enough (we had planned on doing pieces) and we let the kids know they could head back to the dock.  We then proceeded up to the start for the next flight.  In this race we lines up the SRA1v8 and the ARC1v8 and an ARC boys 4x.  The conditions were still pretty rough, but the 2 eights had a little easier time of it (the quad caught a crab and quickly got left behind).  ARC jumped again to a slight early lead, and held the seat or two for the first few hundred meters.  Slowly SRA started creeping back, and then crawling up.  As we got into the middle of the race, SRA started walking thru ARC.  Racing in conditions like this is extremely challenging, if the wind catches your blade, or a wave catches, you can easily stumble and the other boat can move forward on you a bit.  You have to be persistent, you have to be able to shake off bad strokes and get right back on it.  There is no room to be frustrated.  Accept what you have and move forward.  You cannot feel sorry for yourself, and you cannot place blame on the conditions, and you cannot allow excuses... you have to accept reality of the situation and choose your path forward of you are to succeed.   The girls did a GREAT job of that.  They had plenty of ugly strokes, but they didn't let it phase them.  They continued without excuse and eventually they started walking thru Albany.  As they entered the last few hundred meters, and the choppy water leveled out their persistence paid off and they ran away to about 3/4 of a length of open water at the finish.  It was a solid performance by both crews in the conditions, and I was particularly proud of the SRA crews for their confidence in the plan and faith in their abilities.  It is easy to doubt in the face of a slower start and in the face of tough conditions... there was no doubt in the girls today.  Well done.

As a reward for the fantastic week of training, we had arranged a fancy dress up dinner at Bistro LeRuex.  We rushed home from the race and got dressed up very quickly (good thing we had 8 working bathrooms!) And off to dinner we went.  Coach Wilson even got to join us!  Upon arriving, we were greeted with open arms by the owner and the owners family.  Maybe they really liked us, or maybe they were just happy for a $750 bill :-).  I do know one thing... the boys who were filling up the waters kept them full all night (any excuse to spend a few minutes in the room with 30 beautiful girls).  Dinner was AWESOME.  And, my favorite part, we got there at 8, and I was signing the check at 9:10.  Amazing!  We didn't even set a price fixed menu or pre-order.  We got whatever we wanted off the menu, all got served around the same time, and were done in just over an hour.  4 stars in my book!  As we walked out the door, Bean overheard a restaurant patron saying "they look like a bunch of supermodels" and another replied "rowing will do that to you".  I agree.

Saturday:  The departure.  We agreed there was a lot of work to be done packing up and cleaning up to go home, so, while we let the kids sleep in an extra 1/2 hour until 7:00, we did get an early start.  From 7-9 all 30 of us packed and cleaned and loaded our flatbed trailer and emptied the fridge.  I was actually pretty impressed with the efficiency of the group.  We finished a little early and made out last trip over the mountain to Toga.  One final technical row (in the wind) and noon came around.  Parents arrived and kids returned home to their own beds (I am sure they napped) and to their homework.

This was one of my most favorite trips we have taken in the past few years.  I thought the girls were awesome.  There was no drama (other than One Tree Hill) and even with the windy conditions, the training went pretty well.  Thanks too all the parents who helped make this trip possible with the meal donations.  And thanks especially to Mrs. Kenison who carried a lot of this trip with her constant cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc... We owe her big time.  Truly an amazing effort.  We could not have done it without her.



April Break Staycation Day #5 - The Talent Show

Oh boy I am falling behind on the blog now!  As the title reads, day number 5 was dominated by the talent show.  However, this is a rowing trip... So I feel obliged to start with the rowing.  The morning practice started with wishes for flat water, and as we drove down the driveway the river looked promising.  (Next time we rent here we might just bring our boats up here and row on the Hudson)  Unfortunately by the time we drive by Saratoga National the flag was whipping and the water trap was choppy!  I am just counting on the law of averages at this point.  Practice began with a nice demonstration and explanation of some finish technique by Coach Wilson.  Then we hit the water and endured the wind.  The boat that had Coach Wilson got to work EXTENSIVELY on the finish.  I am not kidding, they came off the water and were amazed with distance traveled by arms and body only.  Maybe they were exaggerating, but they were sure they went 3 miles worth of arms and body.

After morning practice the focus turned completely to the talent show.  When we arrived back in Corinth each group disappeared to their respective rehearsals (and naps).  Of course the break would not be complete without a few epsodes of OTH.  And, OMG, Lucas proposed to Lindsey! Can you believe it?  With the same ring from his first proposal. OMG.  As long as the drama stays on the TV and not real life, I am pretty happy!  27 girls under one roof... I am Just Sayin.

2nd practice consisted of more arms and body rowing... This time it was a different group of girls though.  We also found out that Coach Wilsons dog (who likes to ride the launch) doesn't really like when Kerri takes strokes by herself.  Sinni (the dogs name I think) prefers when everyone is rowing and barked at Kerri when she tried to row without the other girls.  She also doesn't like people who miss water at the catch... so you better all be on your game tomorrow :-)

Finally the much anticipated Talent show arrived... and it arrived in style!  Maybe tomorrow I will try to upload some clips (not sure if everyone wants to be seen being so silly... me least of all).  There were silly dances, amazing handshakes, choreographed routines, hula skills, poetry reading, silly human tricks, lip synching, song remixes, guitar playing, and singing.  All the routines were pretty outstanding, but I think the runner up award goes to some top notch guitar picking from Raven and the grand prize goes to... Barb!  I knew she was good... but Barb played the guitar and sang Adele and the entire room was in rapt attention and called for an encore at the end.  This girl can SING

If I cannot post vids, I will see about pictures tomorrow. 

Unfortunately at this point I am a full day behind schedule with the blog.  I will catch up tomorrow.





April Break Staycation Day #4 - One Tree Hill

I am not sure what is the bigger story for the day... The arrival of our special guest coach Chris Wilson, the rediculuos wind, or the arrival of Lexi's Apple TV and "One Tree Hill"!  Judging from the decibel level raise in the house and the crowded couches - One Tree Hill might have won out today. They are actually yelling at the TV right now as I am writing this in the other room.  Yelling at the TV!  Seriously? Don't they know only ballplayers can hear you through the TV?

As I said, the day was dominated by the south wind.   I have been very pleased with the rowing in the conditions these last few days, but I would love a flat water day soon.  In between the two practices we skipped the middle day row due to the conditions and considered a trip to the Movies for a matinee, but once we got the internet router repositioned and the internet connection strengthened NetFlix on the Apple TV seemed a less expensive alternative to the Movies... Little did I know they planned to watch about 5 hours of One Tree Hill beween practices.  A few ventured off the couch to nap or rehearse for the talent show, but over all it was a pretty low key afternoon.

Afternoon practice did not provide any respite from the wind, in fact I think it got stronger.  So, we began practice on the ergs.  I was pretty pleased with the pieces, and while I always prefer to be on the water, the erg pieces were pretty good, and we got some of the physical work accomplished which enabled us to do a bit more technical work on the water for a 1/2 practice.

When we arrived back at the hotel (on the way we decided the name of the new van is Craigor).  We were treated to an amazing dinner of Pasta and Chicken Parm and Corn Chowder by Emma and Marie's families (and Lizzy Cuomo).  It was ready and hot when we arrived! and, for a moment, it distracted the girls from One Tree Hill... but once the plates were full the couch filled and on came the show.  Episode after episode.  Only "Make your own Sunday" could encourage them to press pause.  That was a mistake though - I think the sugar rush gave them a second wind - they just decided to start another episode at 9:00 (Bed time the previous two nights).  If they call for another episode after this one... The router is in my bedroom and they might suddenly lose the signal -- don't tell ;-)



April Break Staycation Day #3 - Easter

Little late on the post, but Easter was a success!  The girls were all up on time and delivered back to the Boathouse at 7:30 in the morning.  Depending on the timing of Church services some of the girls made the trip dressed in Easter finest, and some of them still in the PJs.  Quite a mix in the vans as we rolled through Corinth.  Everyone seemed to have a place to go.  Those whose parents were out of town all found a friend with whom to spend the day - or at least occupied themselves cooking delicious cookie disasters.  I got take a little nap because my church service didn't start until 10.  After Church I got to visit my friends the Serottas.  Both the Anna and Emily (who I coached) were back in town.  Anna is an art conservationist and spends much of the year on archeaological digs.  She works for the Museum of Art in NYC and showed me a recently published book to which she was a contributer!  Emily teaches music in the City and performs in a classical group as well as a Jazz band.  Anyway, it was great to catch up with some former rowers... (I hope to try and get our Alumni page filled with little tid-bits like that).

At 4:30 we all rejoined back at the boathouse for an afternoon row before returning to Corinth.  Bean also rejoined the trip after returning from a wedding.  We had so many stories to share with her from just our first 2 days of the trip!  That evening everyone slept very well!  Me included... hence the late post.  Our after dinner activities were pretty tame.  Those who stayed up late (after 9:00) enjoyed the coloring books Alida provided in our Easter basket.  

As Easter came to a close - before bed - I spent a few minutes thinking about the Holiday.  Here were my thoughts:

"Jesus Sign Language"
So, today being Easter I figured it appropriate to share a point of view on Easter that was bouncing around my mind today. I have heard quite a few Easter services in my day, and mostly they share the same story of Christ death and resurrection.  Occasionally a pastor will venture off the traditional service and relate a different perspective, but it is rare. During service today my mind drifted a bit and I thought about how I might relate the Easter story.  I am no pastor, but here would be my version of the Easter story.

A few years ago some friends of mine had a baby.  Lets call them Gail and Dan.  Gail was an accountant and Dan a Lawyer. Not long after returning home from the hospital they realized that there was something wrong.  They brought the baby to the doctor and then went through some tests.  It turns out that their baby girl was deaf.  Devastated at the thought of not being able to connect and communicate with this new beloved member of the family, they immediately dropped other endeavors and signed themselves up for sign language classes.  They were both busy professionals but of course there was no question to be able to communicate with the baby became the most important thing in their lives, and so they made time to learn this new language.  

This is how I see the Easter story.  God by nature cannot be in the presence of sin - Unfortunately that would mean He could have no connection with His own creation - because no one in the human race is perfect.  Whereas in the old testament sacrificial blood of animals could temporarily cleanse this sin and allow for connection to God.  Jesus represented the sacrifice that was so perfect that his blood would permenantly cleanse the sin and establish the connection to God.  Christ death and resurrection was God learning sign language in order to connect with His creation.  While we are the infants who cannot hear - it is He who found a way to communicate with us through Jesus.