Next year (most likely) I’m going to be a sophomore novice rower. Practices are for 2 hours, 6 days a week. I’m really stressed out about not having a social life or time for homework. I’m assuming you’re in high school or rowed in high school, so how did you manage? Was it really bad?
It wasn’t that bad, to be honest. I did marching band all four years in addition to coxing and at some point probably spent just as many hours doing band-related stuff each week as I did crew stuff in the spring … this lead to learning insane time management skills.
First, my social life. I had two groups of friends in high school, my band friends and my crew friends. I didn’t see much of or hang out with my crew friends until winter rolled around unless some of crew friends also happened to be band friends, which several were. In the summer and fall though, 100% of my “circle” was in band. In between full rehearsals and sectionals we’d all go get lunch together and then spend the next hour talking and complaining about shit (the weather, our music, time commitments, school, college, bad reality TV, etc.). If we had rehearsals in the evening, some of us would show up an hour or so early because we were section leaders and had stuff to do before practice started. Usually someone would bring popsicles and we’d hang out together while doing whatever we had to do. After practice the whole band would normally stick around for another 45 minutes, sometimes just to hang out, other times because the parents brought everyone food. Sometimes my group of friends and I would go to this legendary donut place downtown (at like, 10pm), grab some donuts, and then either go driving around for a bit, go see a movie, or go sit by the river and hang out. This usually added another couple of hours to the amount of time I spent “at band” in the evenings.
In the fall when school started, our rehearsal schedule would change slightly but we’d also add in football games on Friday nights and competitions on Saturdays. Friday nights were great because 75% of the football game was spent just hanging out. We’d warm-up ahead of time, run through the show, do pre-game, occasionally play a song when they’d score, do halftime, play a few more songs, do post-game and be done. The rest of the time we’d just be sitting in the stands doing whatever. One of my friends and I spent a solid four games in a row our junior year trying to learn the Harry Potter theme song without music. That was fun. Other times we’d bring cards and play Poker or something. After the game, we’d have to load everything up so we’d be ready for the competition the following day and also clean up the stadium, which we got paid to do. From there we’d either all go get food, go bowling for a bit, or if it was really late, just head home (this was rare though). Saturdays were an all day thing with competitions so we were stuck with each other for at least 12 hours, if not more.
We didn’t have a fall rowing program because nearly everyone on the team (100ish people) was either playing a fall sport or was in marching band, so we only had winter training and a spring season. Because we traveled out of the state of Ohio for all but maybe two of our seven or eight regattas, we were excused from school on Fridays so we could travel. Nearly every Friday through Sunday starting in early April and going through the end of May from 2002-2006 I spent in hotels and on charter buses. We’d race Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings through early Sunday afternoon and then get back late Sunday night, sometimes really early on Monday morning. And yes, we had to be at school on Monday. Because of this, in addition to all the time we spent at practice, we spent a lot of time around each other. On Thursday night before races we’d have boat dinners, so we’d either go to a restaurant and monopolize a table for 3+ hours or we’d go to someone’s house, eat a TON of pizza, make t-shirts, watch movies, and just hang out.
The point I’m trying to make with all of this is yes, I had a very busy schedule for 10 months out of the year, but because 99.9% of my friends did the same things I did, I never felt like I didn’t have time to socialize or was missing out on something. We were always around each other, whether at practice or while traveling, and there was always plenty of down time for us to do normal teenager stuff. Both groups of my friends and I all determined pretty quickly that anyone who did row or wasn’t in band probably wasn’t as much fun to hang out with anyways. We never really had any problems with being around each other that much either, which still amazes me. There were definitely times when we would get irritated with one another but I think the fact that we all realized in order for the band or boat to do well, we needed to suck it up and get over it. Tensions like that, in addition to being plain annoying, were just a hindrance to whatever it was we were trying to accomplish.
With regards to school, homework, etc., like I said earlier, you really learn how to manage your time well. Granted there are times when you just say “fuck it” and slack off for whatever reason but you quickly find that all that does is put you in a hole that becomes progressively harder to climb out of as the season progresses. I definitely did this a couple times but my teachers were great and knew what our schedules were like, so they usually cut us a little bit of slack and worked with us so we could get all of our stuff done and turned in. They had every right to not do that but the fact that they did really only encouraged us to work harder. It taught us too that if we want to do crew or band and do well in school, we had to set limits and manage our time properly.
Our coaches were really on us about our grades too. They knew when report cards came out and they’d come up to every single one of us and ask how we did. Not in an interrogative way, luckily, but because they were genuinely that invested in us. This also really encouraged us to work hard and stay on top of things because we knew our coaches wanted to see us succeed off the water too. There were several times that I can remember them telling someone they weren’t going to be able to row for a certain amount of time until they picked their grades up and most of the time the kids did the work and got it done. Other times they just said screw it and quit (and continued not doing their work).
In the fall I’d leave my books at school on the days when I had evening rehearsals and just go an hour or two before I normally would so I could get started on (and hopefully finish) my homework. This worked for me because it forced me to give myself a much needed break in the two hours of in-between time. It was also great because those of us that had classes together would all get there early, pile into someone’s car, go grab some dinner, head back to the high school, and then do work until rehearsal started. I swear the only reason I passed some of my math tests is because my friends that were better at math than me helped me out while we were there. By doing this though we were able to not only get our work done but hang out at the same time.
In the spring I’d sometimes bring whatever book we were reading in English with me but doing homework when you’re stuck on a bus for 5+ hours isn’t too appealing, so I did the majority of my work at home like a normal person. Because I was only really at home for four days during the week, I had to get all my work for the rest of the week and the beginning of the following week done so I could turn it in early and not have to worry about doing anything when I got back at 11pm on Sunday night. When I was in school if I was sitting in a particularly boring class I’d get out my homework for another class and work on it. Obviously you’ve gotta be careful about doing this but as long as you’re stealthy you won’t have a problem. If my friends and I weren’t going out for lunch I’d try and get something accomplished during that time for at least one class. Most often this was when I worked on chem labs since that didn’t require much work, just a lot of writing and some math.
You quickly find out what your priorities are when you have a busy schedule like that. It definitely helps when your friends do the same things you do because then you can hang out while you’re at practice and not have to sacrifice any of your “outside” time if you can’t/don’t want to. In the grand scheme of things though, especially if you’re not planning on rowing in college, school has got to be the number one priority. Even if you are planning to row in college, school still has to be first because you can’t row in college unless you can get into college.
Plus, if you find that the time commitment is too much and you really miss not being able to hang out with your friends, it’s not like you can’t walk away (at the end of the season, NEVER in the middle). You’re not bound to the team the entire time you’re in high school. Again, it comes down to priorities. You might love rowing but if your participation in it comes at the detriment of other stuff, you need to re-evaluate why you’re doing it, what you’re getting out if it, if it’s something you’re planning on sticking with for a long time, etc. Crew is great but it’s not the end all, be all. If there are other things that are important to you, you have to put in the effort and make time for them. If they’re not important, most likely you’ll find a reason or an excuse to not make the time. It’s very rarely about finding time, it’s about making it and once again, it all comes down to priorities.