Wolverine Update with Shannon Winchell

March 26, 2013

Spring season is upon us! This week our team has our first 2,000-meter race against Michigan State and Iowa. Spirits are high after the great results from our scrimmage against Miami in Tampa; the team is snowballing this momentum into the regular season. We know that when we line up against the other schools this upcoming weekend, the competition we have faced all year from our teammates will prepare us for our opponents.

Speed is the name of the game and one way finding speed and creating competition on the team happens is through selection for boats. Selection is high priority to both the rowers and coaches. Since there are only 33 varsity and 18 novice athletes who will race at Big Tens and even less at NCAAs, competition is fierce for seats in the boat. Compared to many other sports, a 51-person roster size competing may seem large, but when the varsity team alone has upwards of 50 athletes competing for 33 seats, competition gets intense. Rowers and coxswain also want to be in the highest boat possible, which creates another layer of competition.

While this inter-team competition might sound intimidating, here at Michigan we pride ourselves in having a large and fast team that thrives when the pressure is on. One of our team's most important core values is "We compete to make one another faster." As a rower on one of the best teams in the nation, you really have to thrive on this team competition. Many times the difference between boat speeds in a race or practice is a second or two, and when the margin is this tight, athletes have to be on their game every day.

The Michigan rowing program has worked, and truly succeeded, at creating a culture where you compete with the athletes beside you, but you row for the your teammates in front and behind you. We train with this in mind so that come race day, our ability to compete and race our hardest is as if it's been rehearsed to perfection.

When we line up on Saturday to race, I'm excited for one of the traditions I have had the pleasure of being a part of, here at Michigan, is the pre-piece "pound it." At the race next weekend, if you watch Michigan before the start of any race, you can spot this tradition. It begins with either the coxswain or stroke seat and it's a subtle knuckle tap with the words "pound it" repeated either five or nine times -- once for every person in the boat. The athlete who completes this sequence finishes with a loud "Go Blue." This has been tradition since before I partook in my first practice freshman year and will continue far beyond my year of graduation.

Going into spring season it is important to have solid team foundation to which it is possible to build speed and morale off of. Here at Michigan, as the Leaders and Best, we pride ourselves in being able to compete with each other during practice and have one another's back during a race. That is how you become fast. That is Michigan.

~Shannon Winchell