June 28, 2011
Seamus Labrum is a rising junior coxswain at the University of Washington. Last year, he steered the Huskies' varsity 4+ to a win at the IRA Championships in Camden, N.J. He's here in Seattle this summer working on his craft, and will periodically write about the experience.
By Seamus Labrum
Rowing in the summer presents a time for growth and experience.
At the highest level, summer rowing allows student-athletes like myself the ability to compete on an international level. One way to gain valuable experience before moving on to the USRowing senior national team is through the U-23 program. Here in the States, there are two ways in which to become a member of this elite team. One is through the 8+'s selection camp in San Diego.
This boat and others, namely the 4-, are produced based on athletes from various colleges and universities across the country. They're invited to tryout in California, with the priority boat being the eight. We have a few Huskies right now going through the U-23 process: Rob Munn, Ty Otto, Alex Bunkers, Hans Struzyna and Ambrose Puttmann.
There is another channel through which athletes not selected to the camp can still vie for a position on the U-23 team. These athletes can field a boat through clubs across the country, but can also form a crew with individuals from their own colleges. Then these boats, usually smaller crews (i.e. 4+, 4x, 2-, 2x), are able to compete in a trial in which the winner earns the bid to travel to the U-23 World Championships and represent the U.S.
My opportunity is in the latter path of membership on the U-23 Rowing Team. Currently, I am gaining a lot of experience with the boat fielded by Seattle Area Rowing. I have been able to carry over my experiences and successes gained from the Varsity 4+ throughout the previous season, which culminated with a win at the IRA National Championship in Camden, N.J. This opportunity to cox a 4+ on an even higher level, like trials and possibly the U-23 World Championships, is an exciting prospect and I am learning from my teammates every day on the water.
These are all indicative of the opportunities available when you're part of a program like Washington's. Developing oarsmen both academically and on the water is something stressed to us throughout the season at Conibear Shellhouse.
One of the best aspects is that the current 4+ is comprised of members of the Washington rowing team from various levels: two from the 2V8+, one from the Open 4+, a member of the 3V8+, and myself. This has led to a cornucopia of different experiences that can mesh and be of immeasurable value on the international level. One of my tasks as a coxswain is to allow conversation within the boat, as anyone could have a great idea that could make a great technical difference, which will allow us to gain speed.
Not only am I learning from the rowers in my boat, but I also have the ability to take ownership of what we are doing here. I like the responsibility on my shoulders to make the boat go with the rowers we have compiled. I am gaining even more boat "feel" than I had earlier in the intercollegiate season and learning what makes certain rowers "tick."
Also, the coaching I am getting is unsurpassed, as I get to pick the brain of one of the great minds in rowing today, our own Michael Callahan.
Coach Callahan has already taught me so much about how to formulate a boat on such short notice and what drills can make a difference in bringing a boat together. My goal is to get the boat moving at its fastest possible speed at this point in trials.
All in all, my summer rowing experience has been one for the books. I am learning a great amount and having fun while doing it. The summer gives you a chance to relax and hone your abilities, without having to worry about the pressure of school. I feel that rowers and coxswains alike should use the summer to their advantage. I urge anyone who is willing to put in the time on the water and log the meters to get skilled, have a good time, and compete in order to gain race experience during summer.