Starting off mornings rowing together at 5 a.m. and working to move in perfect unison as one cohesive team, the members of TCNJ Crew must hone a high level of discipline in order to achieve success. But as far as achieving a close connection with one another, it’s clear they’ve already succeeded at that.
“We very much consider ourselves a family,” president Mike Baumann said. “The crew is filled with individuals with strong personalities and strengths, and with members like this, we are able to form a versatile, well-rounded team.”
But this family connection isn’t any coincidence. Baumann describes it as being vital to the sport itself.
“Our closeness is tied to the most basic foundations of rowing,” Baumann said, explaining that a rower must always be in tune with the person in front of him/her, the person behind him/her and the boat as a whole. While the men and women race separately, they practice together, leading to a very interesting team dynamic, Baumann said.
As the team members each fulfill a particular role, the purpose of every rower and coxswain remains the same — to move the boat as one.
“There’s no room for selfishness or big egos,” Baumann said. “Personal achievement is still important, of course, and the entire team benefits when someone gets even a little bit stronger and a little bit faster. Races are not won by a rower — they are won by a crew.”
The club, founded a little over a decade ago, began just by fundraising in order to actually obtain the equipment to first get on the water.
However, it was the dedication of the crew’s founders — some of whom graduated before even seeing their efforts come alive — that continues to drive the team to be determined as a whole, Baumann said.
The team members typically practice five days a week, from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, followed by a long Sunday practice from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. During both fall and spring seasons, they take to the water on their home course, Mercer County Park, as well as practicing on land. They are currently led by head coach Alison Pollini and assistant coach Katie Samsel. However, both are leaving in the fall to pursue new career opportunities — leaving the team with the obstacle of replacing their coaches.
This commitment is all in preparation for each regatta they compete in — a feat that takes them around the state as well as the Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the largest collegiate regatta in the country, according to Baumann.
Constantly looking to improve, Baumann says he’s seen tremendous growth in the success of his team over the past year, with its membership doubling as well as the number of boats increasing from four to nine.
Now they are looking to continue growing as a competitive team in the region.
“After every morning practice, I am astounded by the strength and determination shown by every one of our members,” Baumann said. “Whether it’s a novice who first picked up an oar just a few days before or a varsity member who has been rowing for years, it’s amazing to consider how much hard work that goes into this beautiful yet masochistic sport.”