A Morning with Women’s Rowing

By: Aaron Rispoli

Assistant Sports Editor

The alarm sounded and I begrudgingly arose from my sheets. Homework required that I inhabit the library into the wee hours of the night; the time of the night when the crazed polymaths stumble out of their dorms, dark roast coffee in hand.

Surely one cannot properly retire for the night without first indulging in an episode (or two) of the show they are most enamored of. I would realize the next morning that this was a decision of boyish insouciance.

Able to become mobile after some ruminative prayer and incentive laced persuasion (i.e. coffee), I made my way to 1 Rotary Row, designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, placed right on Lake Erie. This is where the Canisius College womens rowing team conducts practice, led by their Coach Joel Furtek.

Engaging in group core work, Coach Furtek enters the room bellowing out a Good morning! The weary ladies return a rather apathetic Good morningin return which only prompted the effervescent Furtek to once again wish his team a very good morning. They responded with an increased fervor, this time.

I know that youre tired. I know that you so desperately wish to be in bed. But we are here to get better. Everydwait, whos missing?A freshman has overslept. Shell learn,uttered Furtek. He continued: Everyday we are here to get a little bit better. Lets motivate each other today. We have a great opportunity. A beautiful day. The water is calm. Theres not any wind. This is going to be a great morning.

One by one the rowers got into their boats; the water still, welcoming the athletes. Groups of four or groups of eight with a coxswain. Later in the season, the rowers will be grouped together based on their respective abilities. For now, the team learns the intricacies of each individual, one stroke at a time.

The team has the optimal combination of returners who are showing immense improvement under Furtek and young, talented freshman who may be able to contribute this season. Coach Furtek was quoted as saying: The newcomers that will be most successful will be the ones that bring a fierce competitiveness, which is what we consider to be our hallmark.With 23 returners and a group of eager freshman, the Griffs are hoping to continue their programs success.

On a beautiful Thursday morning, watching Coach Joel Furtek give feedback over the megaphone with sedulous care, rowing revealed itself to be a true jewel of a sport. Upon first glance, the act is rather uneventful. The oar moves into and out of the water; a motion that lacks the appeal of, say, a step-back jumper in basketball or a quarterback hurling the ball downfield in football. But, suddenly, as the sun gleams overhead and the water brushes up against the boat, one realizes the ethereal beauty that lies deep within the sport. The union; the remarkable dependency each teammate has on one another.

Coach Furtek is both coach and overjoyed spectator on the water. The sky has caught his attention this morning. The sun is just beginning to rise as the rowers take a momentary break to stretch. Gotta take care of the bodies,said the buoyant Furtek. He reached down to pick up his camera that he kept in the boat with us. Aaron,he began. Im out here every morning and I still cant get over this sky.He snapped photos of the group, recharging for the second half of the workout, seagulls flying overhead.

Coach Joel Furtek is a Yale graduate, class of 1990. While at Yale he coxed for four years and earned two varsity letters. In 1993, he was the coxswain at the lightweight selection camp and open-team trials for the U.S. National Team. Furtek has coached at schools like University of Virginia and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I never did get to ask him if he ever formally met Coach Krzyzewski. If I had, he may or may not have told me.

There is no sense of pretentiousness with Coach Furtek. He is simply a coach who had forgotten to eat breakfast, and as he unwrapped his granola bar, he asked my permission if he could eat it. He is a man with great adoration and reverence for this sport and his opportunity to be at Canisius College.

The return back to the boat house has commenced. Daylight has broken and there are 9:00 AM classes to attend. Coach Furtek gives the rowers permission to increase their tempo on the way back; reiterating to stay in control, the real race being this Saturday in Geneva.

We want to go there and win,said a ruminative Furtek. But we know that were training for our championships in May.Between now and May, a litany of changes can happen. The unforeseen and the predictable (e.g. Buffalo winters), rowing is subject to them all. But the focus remains, as Coach Furtek said this morning, to get a little bit better everyday.

The team finished their workout, stepped out of the boats and made their way into the boathouse. Stretching commenced, the ladies joked with one another and all breathed a sigh of reliefor perhaps it was a yawn. Coach Furtek uttered some final statements before the team dispersed. I saw some very good things out there today. Some things we needed to work on but a lot of positives. Were moving in the right direction. We have to build on days like this.Furtek called for a huddle, the rowers along with the assistant coaches put their hands inside the circle. Before Coach Furtek could bellow out his final chant before dispersion, he asked me to join the circle. Everyone gets in on the circle,he said.

One, two, three, GRIFFS!

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