“Rene Rodriguez Row Row Rows His Boat”
by Guy Lohoua
Rene Rodriguez, (Adv. 800), tells us about how rowing has impacted his life.
When did you start rowing? Why?
“I took my first rowing strokes the summer before my sophomore year. I had heard that there was an opportunity to learn to row for first-year rowers with the Chicago Training Center and I signed up immediately. Prior to crew, I had participated in a few sports, but never in a full on team environment. Crew definitely changed that for me. Once the summer came to an end, I continued to row with my current team because I found that there was something different about the crew that clicked for me.”
Rodriguez wants people to understand that rowing is not a sport that entirely focuses on arms, it’s something that requires your complete body, especially the lower body and legs. “Rowing involves more leg power than actual arm power. Something that I was first told when I joined was that my chances of becoming a hand model where gone once I held onto an oar because a number of blisters I was going to have would be a lot.” That goes to show you how much dedication and focus it takes to get in that shell.
What team do you row for? What accomplishments do you have?
“I am currently rowing for the Chicago Rowing Foundation on the varsity boys squad. The varsity boys squad rows out of the Weed Street boathouse located in Lincoln Park, which used to be the main boathouse before the boathouse at Clark Park by Lane Tech was built, where the rest of the team rows out of. I am currently the seven seat in the Men’s Varsity Lightweight Eight boat. In rowing, there is heavyweight rowing and there is lightweight rowing, to be a lightweight, the rower must be 150 pounds or less. Additionally, seats in the boat are arranged in reverse order, so being seven-seat means that I am seated in the stern, the back of the boat. Last year, I was awarded the Lucian Black award by my team. The award honors the rower with a dedication for the team and that embodies the winning spirit of the team. I was truly humbled to receive the award because as a club sport, there is usually no recognition from my school community so knowing that I had the recognition from my team really does mean the world to me. I am definitely looking forward to continuing to increase my speed and rowing stroke throughout this year.”
Describe a typical practice/rowing match?
Rowing is year-round sport, so it encompasses all four seasons, fall, winter, spring, and summer. The fall season is head-race season, it’s filled with races around 5000 kilometers long. Rodriguez spends the Winter season on an indoor rowing machine. The spring is the most intense season of all. Races are head to head and are the exactly the same as the ones that are seen in the Olympics, 2000 kilometers long. When talking about training he says that “I have practice 7 days a week, including Saturdays unless if we have a regatta.” A regatta is a rowing race, and are usually held on the weekends. One of the biggest in the USA is the Head of the Charles which is held in the fall.
“My practice starts right after school driving to the boathouse where we start off warming up at 4:20, then we are on the water by 4:30. Rowing in the Chicago River is truly an amazing experience. Since we are right in Lincoln Park, we row all the way to Chinatown, so we usually row with the background of the Chicago skyline. There is also a lot of boat traffic like kayakers, architecture boats, tourists, or barges, which usually wake our rowing shells. The reason we don’t crash is thanks to our coxswains, who not only steer the boats, but motivate the crew to row harder even when it feels like needles are poking through your thighs and lungs. Although practice ends at 6:30, we prepare for the following practices by doing all the things necessary for recovery and for avoiding injury.”
Do you have any plans for rowing in college?
When asked about whether he wants to continue rowing in college, Rodriguez knows that people don’t view rowing as an official sport, but he has a positive outlook on the situation and is very willing to stay on the water. “Rowing is definitely a collegiate sport. I think that it is not as viewed as a sport by the masses as basketball or as baseball is, but I think there is a large rowing community. Many schools do offer rowing programs and there are plenty of coaches who have come to watch us practice and talked to us about recruitment possibilities. My rowing team has a great program, alongside our coaches, that exposes us to opportunities to continue our rowing success. As for as for myself, I have been talking to coaches and getting to know rowers on collegiate teams. The recruitment process is definitely not as simple as it seems and there are a lot of rules. Collegiate rowing becomes a lifestyle because there are usually two practices a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I’m definitely open to rowing in college and continuing to get faster.”