Since 2002, VCU Crew has offered students the chance to learn the sport of rowing without the commitment of being a member of a Division I team.
Made up of roughly 65 members, the men’s and women’s teams travel four to five times a semester to compete against other schools on the east coast including Virginia Tech, George Mason University and the College of William & Mary. This fall, the varsity team will travel to Boston to compete in the Head of the Charles River Invitational race.
No experience is required to be on the team and members do not have to try out.
“Just come out with an open mind and be ready to work hard,” said Patrick Metry, the men’s team captain.
Metry, a senior financial technology major, joined the team in 2017 to learn more about the sport. A year later, he organizes team-bonding events and motivates the crew members.
Women’s team captain Kaitlin Copeland has been around a bit longer than Metry, joining the team three years ago after taking a hiatus from rowing during her first year of college.
“I had rowed for all four years in high school and after a year of not rowing during my freshman year of college I really missed it,” Copeland said. “Our current team president, Thomas Johnson, also approached me about rowing and I took that as a sign to join the team at the beginning of my sophomore year.”
Copeland recalled racing Virginia Tech in the final of the regional championship race in Tennessee as her most memorable experience during her three years on the team.
“We finished not knowing who beat whom,” Copeland said. “Sadly, we lost by .024 of a second but that was a great race because my boat was working hard together as one and it’s crazy that in rowing it comes down to milliseconds.”
As team captain, Copeland hopes those interested in joining know that rowing is a sport in which it doesn’t matter when you start.
With a diverse team, members get to see each other at their best and worst.
VCU Crew Club Vice President Nikki Orsolini found herself in a similar position as Copeland, planning to take a break from rowing to focus on school — but the sophomore quickly picked the sport back up after attending one of the team’s practices.
Orsolini is currently a coxswain for the men’s team, acting as the eyes and ears of the shell and as a coach inside of the boat itself. Coxswains are the only people that can be on either men or women’s teams.
“I have to motivate the crew in races and communicate the race plan effectively to them in order to make moves on other boats,” Orsolini said.
The life-changing experience is something Orsolini recommends everyone tries.
“Just getting people to go to one practice usually hooks them in because it is an amazing environment to be around,” Orsolini said.
Senior mentor and role model for the novice rowers Eryn Scott has been on the team for three years and finds that early morning practices help her to manage her time better.
“A lot of people get scared away by the fact that we practice at 5:30 a.m. every morning but once you start it really isn’t that bad,” Scott said. “It even helped me in regards to time management. Knowing that you have to go to bed early and wake up early really makes you conscious of how you are using your time throughout the day.”
Scott began rowing in high school and found her experience with rowing taught her to not only be physically fit, but mentally fit as well.
“It teaches you what it means to be a true team member and you learn how to be strong for yourself and everyone else in your boat,” Scott said.
To learn more about VCU Crew, go to http://www.crewteamatvcu.org/.