Crew student-athletes stay driven to reach goals together, create community
Perhaps the ultimate team sport, crew demands both discipline and commitment in practice as well as determination and precision in performance, as members and coaches of Liberty University’s Club Sports program can attest.
“For an individualized sport like swimming or a team sport like ice hockey, you have all your different athletes with different talents and different specialties,” said Liberty Head Coach Debbie Prowse, who was named the Female Team Head Coach of the Year at last week’s Club Sports Choice Awards. “Rowing is one of those unique sports where everyone has one specialty and you have to be rowing together exactly in the same form, or you are not going to get anywhere.”
With Prowse steering the ship, the Flames’ and Lady Flames’ crew teams have experienced a resurgence over the past two seasons after numbers waned during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have rowed to strong finishes throughout the spring season regattas, which will culminate at the May 20-21 American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
For the past several years, she has hosted Spring Break rowing clinics on Smith Mountain Lake as final tune-ups for the 2,000-meter sprint season. That week of two-a-day workouts follows months of grueling indoor erg rowing machine practices out of the Club Sports Training Complex.
“Rowing is a grind sport,” Prowse said. “You’ve got to put in the training … to focus on getting that good aerobic base, so we spend a lot of time in on the ergs. It does get to feel like a little bit of drudgery, just day-in and day-out, and not getting injured with all of the repetitive motions. We have to play it well and smart so we don’t overtrain, but we just kind of hit that sweet spot.”
She said being on the open water and seeing God’s creative power and beauty is incentive enough for team members to rise well before dawn for practices out of the team’s boathouse near Mitchell Point Marina. The results the rowers experienced this spring prove how much their early-morning efforts have paid dividends as the Flames and Lady Flames prepare to peak for nationals.
“When we’re out there (at Smith Mountain Lake) rowing and working really hard, it really is rewarding,” Prowse said. “Where we row, we have some beautiful sunrises over the mountains … and just to get that feeling of teamwork and knowing that we’re rowing for each other and with each other and ultimately we’re trying to get to the same goal together (adds purpose).”
More than triumphs in their boats, team members stay committed to the demanding sport out of loyalty and devotion to their teammates, rowing for the common cause of glorifying God.
“We are an athletic team, so the goal for everyone, I guess, is to win,” said Lady Flames sophomore Callie Perini, who serves as coxswain for the men’s Novice 4 and 8 boats. “But I think the bigger goal is a lot of our teammates look for home and community here. They come to practice and these are some of their best friends. You just come as you are, and we are going to love you and we are going to accept the way that you come and also push you to be a better athlete, … a better student and person.”
“That’s what I really enjoy is that I’m surrounded by people who are of the same mindset as me and they just want to keep pushing to be better and better, … just to grow as a team and help each other just to be better people, better rowers,” added Flames junior Timothy Bentz, who coxes the women’s Novice 4 and 8 boats. “We want to keep getting this team to be bigger and better every year.”
Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media