By James Ogletree | Contributing Writer
There comes a point in every regatta that the rowers have expended all of their energy, and their resolve and mental toughness are tested as they draw closer to the finish.
Members of the Alabama crew club experienced this sensation two years ago, but it wasn’t about finishing a race. It occurred at a turning point in the history of the program, and it concerned the steps the team would take to rebuild it.
On Jan. 20, 2017, the club held an interest meeting for the upcoming spring semester. As the team prepares for its first event of the year on Feb. 4, head coach Daniela Susnara said she expects the team to continue its success from the fall semester.
“We definitely have some big goals going into the spring,” Susnara said. “I think the guys we picked up at Get on Board Day are some guys who are definitely willing to work and put in the time.”
It hasn’t always been that way, however. Club president Dallas Alves said the team’s commitment and perseverance left much to be desired when he joined the team as a freshman.
“‘We don’t have a lot of resources, so we’re just not going to try very hard’ was the attitude that was passed to us,” Alves said.
Alves and vice president Ben Letson’s freshman season was also Susnara’s first as head coach. Letson said the team survived solely on talent at first, but only for a short time. The lack of commitment led to underachievement, and the team hit rock bottom in the spring of 2015.
“It was at Clemson our sophomore year, and we lost a close race that we thought we should have won. Everybody was fuming mad,” Alves said. “So we made a conscious decision to get faster and improve.”
Alves said the team needed to improve in nearly every area including work ethic, community relations, resources and finances. Susnara’s experience on the Division I rowing team, coupled with higher standards weeding out the less dedicated rowers, began to make a difference.
“We’ve gone from local races and not very competitive to going to really high-caliber races, and financially we’re in a much better situation,” Alves said.
Having every member of the team fully committed to its mission has improved not only race times and finishes, but also team camaraderie. Letson and Alves said the team frequently enjoys cookouts and tailgates together and it even fielded an intramural softball team at one point.
“We’ve done a lot of planning and work to set up future generations of this club,” Alves said. “So they’re ready to come in and start working rather than go rebuild all the stuff that we did.”
Letson said he and the rest of the team take great pride in seeing the team’s goals from years ago come to fruition.
At Clemson in spring 2015, the team reached the point in the regatta where it felt like quitting. But it dug deep, kept rowing and has now crossed the finish line.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports