Why I Row...Graham Hatfull

Because I enjoy every minute of it. On the water, on the erg, being with teammates, working with coaches. I just love it. There. Now you can go back to your daily tasks and don’t need to read another word. But please continue if you’d like some additional context!

I am a latecomer to the sport of crew. I didn’t row until mid-life and other than watching the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race every year, my first real exposure to rowing was when our oldest son (Fred) joined the Upper St. Clair high school crew team. Then as a crew-parent for two sons spanning nine years, I experienced the spectator version of the sport; but I also saw the considerable impact it had on both boys. Then one summer there was a one-week parent crew camp that my wife Kate and I participated in, which was my first time in an 8-person shell. I discovered that the cardiac arrest I feared did not occur, and I tasted the first flavor of the challenges in rowing together with seven other (very) novice parents.

In our youngest (Roger) son’s last year of high school, Kate decided to start rowing with the TRRA Beginners Masters team. I was consumed with work demands at that time but with Kate’s encouragement decided to give it a go the following year. In the Fall of 2013, I did several sessions of the winter rowing activities and then joined the TRRA Beginner’s team. There was quite a large group of us, and we managed to row fairly regularly in 8’s, which I enjoyed. We had some memorable moments (crabs and cramps at HOTO notwithstanding!) but it was a fun year. I got to meet many new friends who would go on to be teammates on future TRRA teams.

It was no surprise that after a year on Beginner’s that I would gravitate towards the 2DMM team as Kate had joined the prior year along with several of her friends. So, I went to the ‘try-out’, day and discovered that in addition to rowing (which I expected) I would also need to participate in such soul-destroying activities such as jumpies and planks (which I was not expecting). In my naiveté, this stuff seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with rowing. Moreover, it ignited horrifying memories of schoolboy days with an ex-military gym teacher who I hated – and feared – with a considerable passion. It didn’t seem that this would be the thing for me. Nonetheless, I swallowed hard and pledged to give it a go and signed up with 2DMM and Aaron Lucia as coach.

I am by nature a little lazy. By the time early-middle age had crept up on me I knew that it would be best if I did some type of physical exercise, so sought several avenues to achieve this. I tried running around the block every morning, which worked nicely until it was just more comfortable to stay in bed and skip the run. So that didn’t last long. Later, I tried the treadmill a few days a week. That didn’t last long either. But rowing and being part of a team is different. I looked forward to practices and have rarely missed a practice the past eight years unless traveling out of town.

Being a member of 2DMM, and then the TRRA A-team, I have enjoyed every minute of my rowing experience. But I have learned a lot too. I’ve met many new friends from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives, bounded with our common love of crew. I love being on the water – especially in an eight or a sweep four – and there is simply no better feeling in the world than when the boat ‘works’. Beating other boats is lovely, but meeting in that ethereal space where we are working together to form a well-functioning organism is truly wonderful. Pure magic.

I love everything else we do too, including –somewhat surprisingly – erging, and – even more surprisingly – circuits, core work, and all that other stuff; including crazy pictures of planks from our various travels that team members have collected. Essentially, anything that our coaches demand of us. I’ve learned that it strengthens our core and makes us better rowers. It all makes sense now – although I still hate that gym teacher.

I have gotten a lot from being a member of the TRRA community and the 2DMM and A-team teams that I’ve been a member of. I learn from my teammates every practice, and we’ve had some truly inspiring coaches, including our current fabulous troika of Carol, Chris, and Eric. There are always things to work on and ways to improve both in on-water and on-land activities; a constant goal of trying to be just a little better than last time out. Not just for me, but for my teammates

-Graham Hatfull


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