As a member of Girls Varsity Soccer, Ice Hockey, and Crew during her time at Andover, Olivia Coffey ’07 showcased her ability to excel in athletic competition. Since leaving Andover, she has continued to be successful as a rower, both at the collegiate and international levels.
After graduating from Andover, Coffey went on to row for four years at Harvard University. While at Harvard, Coffey was also a member of the US National Under-23 team from 2009 to 2011. After graduating from Harvard in 2011, she rejoined the US National team as a member of the senior team from 2013 to 2015. Collectively, Coffey has competed on seven US National teams and has medaled at every world championship she has attended. In addition, she earned a gold medal at both the 2013 and 2015 world championships. Currently, Coffey is pursuing her MBA at Cambridge University in England. This past Saturday, Coffey competed for Cambridge in the Cancer Research UK Boat Race and beat Oxford University by an impressive seven boat lengths.
Despite Coffey’s extensive success in the sport, she did not begin rowing until she came to Andover.
“I didn’t have much rowing experience before I got to Andover. A lot of people in my family had rowed, so I knew about the sport, but I had never competed. I had done a lot of sports prior to coming to school though, like basketball, ice hockey, and soccer. Rowing rewards athletes, so the transition to crew in high school was a natural fit,” said Coffey.
As a member of the crew team at Andover, Coffey considered herself to be the clown of the team. Looking back, she remembers always being the first one to crack a joke in order to keep the mood lighthearted and create a positive environment on the water.
“I was a clown when I was on the team at Andover. I loved a good laugh and still do. Rowing is a tough sport, so you have to find a way to keep it light. I think my Senior year we were really into the whole ‘sun’s out, guns out’ thing. That morphed into, ‘You got a license for those things?,’ meaning muscles. I think I eventually made actual physical laminated licenses for everyone on the team for their ‘guns,’” said Coffey.
According to Coffey, her Andover crew coach, Katherine Green, was a major influence in her crew experience at Andover. She credits Coach Green for instilling in her principles of teamwork and competition that she has carried with her throughout her rowing career.
“My coach, Katherine ‘Luc’ Green, really defined my rowing experience at Andover. She was so passionate about the sport and our team. She instilled a lot of self-confidence in us as athletes — she taught us to love our abilities, our bodies, and competing. She was also totally honest and indifferent to others’ opinions, which was incredibly refreshing for a group of teenagers. I actually find myself repeating a lot of her sayings to myself when I’m in the boat, whether it’s about the conditions or the race. She really shaped me as a person and competitor,” said Coffey.
Coffey credits Andover for preparing her for the intensity of college, both academically and athletically, and for teaching her how to balance the different aspects of life.
Coffey said, “The transition to college athletics was pretty seamless from [Andover]. Andover definitely taught me how to perform well under pressure. When you’re at school, the workload and the extracurricular demands can at times be overwhelming, but you figure out methods to overcome that, and those skills will transfer over to whatever you choose to do later on in life.”
Coffey continued, “At Andover, you learn to prioritize what’s important, but more than that, you understand the value of being well-rounded. College, for me, wasn’t all about athletics or school or social life, but a combination of all of those things.”
Coffey used these skills to tackle her training for The Boat Race, which is a 6.7 kilometer rowing race on the River Thames in London between Cambridge and Oxford University. The first men’s race was held in 1829, and the first women’s in 1927. For the first time in 25 years, Cambridge won every race this year, with Coffey as a member of the winning women’s team. According to Coffey, she was able to successfully balance her class work and training by prioritizing, working hard and taking time to relax.
“Last week, I competed in The Boat Race for Cambridge University. It was an interesting experience training with younger athletes while taking part in an intensive MBA program. I wasn’t sure what results I could expect from myself or how to approach training, but I was able to excel using some of the same techniques I used at Andover. If I was struggling with an assignment, I would go to bed and wake up early to finish up. I took everything one step at a time. I prioritized activities that were important to me and added value to my experience. I took time to enjoy the process and my friends. I tried my best but didn’t beat myself up if I stumbled along the way,” said Coffey.