Rowing against the current: MRA athletes experience stress leading up to their first race

Mayson Weingart

On Oct. 10, Marin Rowing Association (MRA) athletes attended their first race in Sacramento, Calif., finally getting to compete after several weeks of practice. Leading up to the event, they maintained a rigorous schedule with practices Tuesday through Saturday from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. In the regatta, the varsity and novice MRA teams had groups that competed in one or two races based on ranking. Junior Elizabeth Rogers rowed in both races and was thrilled to return to competing after the COVID-19 season last year.

Rogers is a committed member of the MRA varsity team and has been a part of their program for three years. Although she felt immense stress leading up to this regatta because of school, her hard work paid off in her regatta this past weekend as she competed in both of her races. 

Rowing home in their last few minutes of practice, the MRA novice team works together to return to the dock.

“There are days where I’m at school until 3:40 p.m. and have to run to my car and drive through traffic to get to the boathouse to be at [practice] on time. I find myself being so high-strung and overstressed because of the pressure,” Rogers said. 

Since her sophomore year, Rogers has been on the varsity team and is grateful for the time management skills that rowing has taught her. Throughout COVID-19, she valued rowing because of the opportunity it gave her to be outdoors. With the limitation of single boat practices last year, the Sacramento regatta was a good distraction from homework.

“I think it’s so important to have something to do outside of school. [Rowing] keeps me on a good schedule, and the self-discipline I have learned because of the severity of the sport is very beneficial,” Rogers said. “Time passes quickly if you focus [during practice] on taking away the stress of school and being [present] at practice.”

While Rogers got to experience normal rowing seasons pre-COVID-19, freshman Mina DuPont never had that chance. DuPont is a part of the junior varsity team and has felt overwhelmed with handling her agenda. The busyness of rowing causes her to be less efficient and complete schoolwork slower. 

“It’s hard because I’ve never been great at organization or time management and I always end up super stressed,” DuPont said. “Even with extensions and communication with my teachers, [homework] builds up, and I become unproductive and can’t thoroughly complete my work.” 

A study administered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association on student athletes’ supports the increased stress that the rowers feel. It was conducted from October 2020 to November 2020 and evaluated the well-being of athletes while balancing school and sports. The study found that 50 percent of women reported being overwhelmed with the severity of sports, while men reported 31 percent. DuPont represents this statistic as an athlete that also faces these scheduling difficulties.

 “Rowing is difficult [during the school year] because when I have practice, it pushes everything back. I don’t get to my room until 9:00 p.m. and then only have thirty minutes for homework. It’s not enough time to be productive and complete my work,” DuPont said. 

Junior Bach Ryan is a part of the MRA varsity team and has become more stressed because of rowing. In the Sacramento regatta, he raced two times, one in the 19U division and one in the open age category. This regatta serves as a warm-up because the top eight athletes will be sent to Boston from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24 to compete in a selective regatta. Ryan’s hectic schedule has led to an inconsistent sleep routine and a decreased quality performance due to a lack of focus. 

Competing in rowing nationals in Sarasota, Fla., in June 2021, Ryan pushes his boat to succeed with the motivation to further his rowing career in college. (Photo courtesy of Bach Ryan)

“I try to get eight hours of sleep because if I get any less [sleep] than that, my performance isn’t nearly as good, either academically or physically,” Ryan said. “It’s very taxing, and I’m very tired all the time.”

With an intense schedule and the pressure of academics, Ryan has been struggling with the heavy workload of multiple Advanced Placement (AP) courses as well as daily practices. 

“I’m definitely more behind this year as [school] is much more challenging to balance [compared to last year]. The traffic after school and assignment increase has also been difficult,” Ryan said. 

Rowers from the MRA are dedicated to their sport but face strenuous schedules and stay productive under profound circumstances. Rogers offers advice to other athletes due to her time in the MRA and has begun to master time management which was helpful in the recent regatta.

“You need to be [at practice], you need to be successful, some days will be tough, but just know you won’t completely crumble,” Rogers said. 

With MRA’s next regatta on Nov. 14, rowers will continue to strive for balance in their academic lives.