Rowing: The ultimate team sport

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 9 at 8:14 PM

The Dallas United Crew team has one of the best boats in the country -- just how good will be determined at the youth national championships in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

"We are very competitive," said Highland Park senior Nando Cortez. "And I think we have a huge chance of winning it."

70 kids from 10 different high schools participate on the crew team, almost half from Highland Park. The one boat that will compete at nationals is simply called an "eight," because it holds eight rowers. Head coach Jonathan Stevens said that the boats are made out of carbon fiber and are about as long as a tractor trailer. In order for the 200-pound boat to go as fast as possible, the eight rowers have to function as one unit.

"Our goal is to have everyone performing at the same level, at the same speed, at the same time," said Stevens. "Every muscle firing together at the same time. That's what you're looking for."

The responsibility to make sure that happens falls on the coxswain, in this case Ursuline Academy sophomore Shannon Barry, whose job is a lot harder than it looks. She steers the boat to keep it on as straight a line as possible so there's no wasted motion. She also has to watch the water for any debris or other boats, all while keeping an eye on her eight rowers. Barry said it's nothing like that Geico commercial, "where the guinea pig is just setting there and he yells 'row.'

"If they're out of time and not working together efficiently, my job is to call them out and make them work to their best ability," Barry continued. "I say certain things that help them reach an effective place in their minds where they're just ready to work their hardest."

Crew is the ultimate team sport, because no one can hide. It's not like little league baseball, where the worst player gets stuck in right field. If you're not doing your job, it's plain to see. And if Dallas United wins the national championship, there will be no team-MVP.

"It's like the entire boat gets the MVP award," said Theo Shipley, a graduating senior from Bishop Lynch. "So it's pretty cool."

E-Mail: tmadden@wfaa.com

twitter: @tedmadden

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