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MIT student blogger Becca H. '12

Row, row, row your boat by Becca H. '12

aka varsity sports at MIT

I always seem to know I’m back at MIT when I can vaguely hear my alarm go off at 6am. A lot of people seem to think I’m crazy for waking up what seems ridiculously early for MIT students to go and exercise for 2 hours in rain or shine (or the occasional snowstorm), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The home of MIT rowing is the Pierce Boathouse, across the street from Burton-Conner (not to be confused with the Sailing Pavilion further down Memorial Drive).

Photo Credit: DSPics

I tend to think of the boathouse as kind of a second home. It’s where half my clothes are kept, where I spend 2-3 hours every morning and some afternoons, of course, where I row.

Photo Credit: DSPics

Photo Credit: Aaron Benson, MIT Women’s Openweight Novice Coach

Playing sports has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My first team sport was pee-wee soccer in kindergarten at the ripe old age of 4 and since then I have played seven competitive sports. In my three years of American high school, sports were my main extracurricular activity.

I discovered rowing my freshman year of high school and my sophomore year, I amazingly found a crew team in the middle of Colorado. Prior to crew, I never thought I could play a varsity sport in college. I was always decent, but never top of the pack. Crew was a sport unlike any other I had done and I fell in love. Ironically, I think I am one of the only people from my high school to be playing a Division I sport (though most teams at MIT are Division III).

Playing a varsity sport at MIT isn’t unusual. The statistic I most often hear is that 20% of MIT students play a varsity sport. The unique thing about MIT is that it is a very supportive environment for athletes. Most teams practice from 5-7pm, the “activities period”, a time when there are no undergraduate courses or labs, and professors and TAs are great about scheduling office hours around the needs of athletes, and working with you if you have to miss an exam due to a game, race or tournament.

Even if you have never played a particular sport before (or any sport at all), there can be a place for you. For some more well-known sports, such as soccer, basketball, football etc., if you have never played before, your chances of making the team may be slim. But others are very accommodating of newcomers. For sports such as rowing, rifle and sailing, many people do not start until college. In rowing, for example, the size of the boats is prohibitive to people starting before high school and many members of the US National and Olympic teams did not learn to row until they entered university. Even if you think you are not athletic enough, or are too small, you could always be a coxswain (basically the captain and leader of the boat) for one of the crew teams.

Rowing has definitely shaped my MIT experience. I have better time management and more discipline because I know my team depends on me to be at my best each day at practice. The girls on my team are some of my best friends and I know they will be there for me no matter what. Although being on crew means I have kind of a unique schedule for an MIT student (I generally go to bed at 11pm and wake up at 6am), I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I love being part of a team, and getting out on the water every morning helps me de-stress (and you get a great view of Boston from the river).

Photo Credit: Tony Kilbridge, MIT Director of Rowing and Men’s Heavyweight Crew Coach

5 responses to “Row, row, row your boat”

  1. Banerjee says:

    NUMBER ONE!! =) i.e. FIRST!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    has anyone you know of fallen into the water? is the water really highly polluted and dangerous?

  3. genius ('18) says:

    Having rowed on the Charles, I can tell you that while swimming in it is NOT good, it’s not too dangerous if you fall in and get out. Falling off boats rarely happens especially in eight-oared shells (boats for eight), which are the most common type used for competitions.
    cool post. I didn’t know MIT had a rowing team!
    Do you compete in head of the charles?

  4. Becca H. '12 says:

    @Anonymous: genius (’18) is correct that it isn’t that common to fall into the water when you are rowing an 8-person boat. The Charles River is rated swimmable by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, though it still isn’t legal to swim in it without a permit.

    @genius: MIT has four rowing teams: lightweight and openweight women and lightweight and heavyweight men. We do race in the Head of the Charles. My team (openweight women) generally have an entry in the championship eight and an entry in the club eight.

  5. haley says:

    is it very cold in winter?
    you are strong willed peoson!!