During the Fall Term of my first year at Andover, I had the privilege to be a part of Coach Modeste’s Varsity football team. Over winter break, I learned that I could no longer play contact sports because another concussion could result in me having double vision permanently, something I personally have right now. I was an athlete without a sport.
After Winter Break, Peter Washburn found me and spoke to me about Andover’s crew program, inviting me to try my hand at the oar. I did not think I would like it; in fact, I thought the crew guys were a little bizarre. How fortunate it was that I did not listen to my first, very wrong impressions and miss the chance of a lifetime to row with Coach Washburn.
I quickly learned that rowing is hard and demanding. It tears your hands to shreds and leaves your legs and arms sore and exhausted beyond any level you have experienced before. At the same time, it stretches your mental strength and your focus to their limits. But it’s addictive.
We work towards one thing: to pass the finish line before our opponents. This seemingly simple, yet infinitely difficult goal, cannot be taken light-heartedly. Rowing is the ultimate team sport. You will only ever be as good as the rest of the guys in your boat. We cannot make the other teams worse; we can only make ourselves better, and because of this, we sacrifice our hands, our time and our preconceptions of our capacities for the greater good — for the boat.
There is something about the water; there is something about the boat; there is something special about working in unison that cannot be put into words.
I credit Coach Washburn with everything I have found in rowing so far. He has taught me leadership so that I could be a good team Captain. He has taught me to work hard and to trust myself. His lessons have stayed with me and have proved invaluable during my Senior year when I faced adversity both mentally and physically, which challenged my belief in my ability as a rower.
Throughout the season, his words of character provided guideposts to see me forward: work hard, care, keep your head high, lead and most importantly, do not ever allow other people’s perceptions or misperceptions to cloud your view.
I am looking forward to using all of the gifts Coach Washburn and Andover Athletics have given me as I go on throughout my life. I have loved my time at Phillips Academy, and I wish I had more than three short years to sample all of the experiences the school has to offer.
_Grant Bitler is a three-year Senior from Roaring Gap, NC. He captained Boys Varsity Crew._