For twelve years our extracurricular lives were filled with Basketball & Softball. Most nights and weekends throughout the year would find us squeaking around on a shiny hardwood basketball court or enjoying that sweet metallic pinging sound of an aluminum bat connecting with a windmill pitched neon green softball. Our daughter loved these two sports and we loved coaching and watching her play.

Then came High School and the competition ramped up. Basketball was the first casualty with statewide recruited talent replacing Rec League standouts. Softball followed in the Spring. Our chosen school only fielded a Varsity team with no Freshman making the cut. Luckily, most kids are resilient, and our daughter was no exception. After a few tears and angry rants, the Crew coach spotted our 5’- 10” 170pound Freshman and convinced her to give Crew a try. Time to Google Crew and see what we were about to get ourselves into.

My first exposure to Crew happened one summer afternoon as I passed by a TV showing a Crew race during the Summer Olympics. Those teams were speeding along the surface synchronized and smooth with no sails and no motors! Just muscle and grit. Scrolling along online I discovered that our daughter and 7 teammates would now be spending a few hours after school each day in a 60 foot long, 23-inch-wide fiberglass boat. When fully loaded the boat cruised along less than a foot above a calm surface. The more I read the more I learned to appreciate the depth of our daughter’s courage and determination to compete in a team sport at the high school level. Races are 1500 meters long not counting the row out to the course and the row back. Also, add in carrying a 300-pound $50,000 boat to and from the launch. Respectable times for her gender and experience level was around 7 to 8 minutes depending on a tailwind or headwind. The teamwork and coordination required just to keep these boats upright tested the patience of our seasoned coach who managed to mold these young ladies with no experience into a formidable squad. We took home first place in our last Regatta of the spring season.

Besides the joy and excitement of watching our daughter compete we quickly discovered a lively bunch of parents fully engrossed in a fun tailgating like atmosphere during each Regatta. Setting up our team tents and concessions required a coordinated effort with the dads lugging in and erecting the set up as the Mom’s swooped in and made everything look clean, organized and appetizing. We dads kept the grill hot and the moms moved the hungry rowers in and out like well-trained military unit. When our rowers wandered back from their heat races with red faces and healthy appetites our spread of food and drink never disappointed. Crew had now become our favorite team sport. Outdoors lakeside or riverside cheering on our girls with rowdy parents and cowbells had us rolling out of bed at 4:30 am on Regatta mornings with smiles on our faces. Even when the weather didn’t fully cooperate we didn’t mind because we were toasty and dry on shore while our badass daughters were out on the water braving the elements in spandex uniforms pulling their oars for bragging rights over the other local teams.

Now that we have a season under our belts the biggest benefit I have seen with becoming part of this sport is watching the effect it has had on my daughter and her teammates both mentally and physically. Once you survive a few practices out on the water in the rain with temps in the 40’s the stuff you used to whine about (Having to wear a heavy coat, getting your hair wet ETC) all seem pretty lame. Weather extremes and physical exertion were now accepted and no longer considered game changers or spoilers. Our daughters’ confidence level rose, and her body toned up with an increase in energy level as well. Even her academic performance and social life improved with the increased confidence. Overall the outdoors was a much less intimidating place to be for her and we all began enjoying more spare time outside. Walking, hiking and bicycling replaced social media surfing and TV watching. We still enjoy taking in an occasional basketball or softball but for now, outside is the place to be for us.