It's been a tough year, no questions asked. And sometimes we don't realise just how much we miss something until it's pointed out.
In today's Meet The Team series, we chatted with Chasen Cunitz, our Adult and Youth Coach for the PRC. Chasen has been coaching since 2006, and has coached youth, collegiate and masters teams. He gave us great insight into just how much friendships in rowing mean, why we love this sport, and what keeps us coming back.
How long have you been part of the GPRF?
I moved to Seattle and started coaching at PRC in May of 2018. But I was first exposed to the Foundation on an unexpected and highly memorable layover back in 2015. I was dismayed by a delayed flight back home to Alaska, but I reached out to Coach Margaret and a couple rowing friends from college and they saved the day! I was swooped up from the airport and, much to my surprise, got to attend the GPRF annual auction. There, I met "the foundation family" for the first time and couldn't help but be amazed by the mission, work, and people of the GPRF. After that, whenever my travels brought me through Seattle, I made a point of visiting Coach Margaret and PRC for coaching ride-alongs, wonderful rowing practices (especially during winter, when Alaska's waterways were all frozen), and marvelous social gatherings.
How does your position impact the GPRF?
As a coach, I serve as a resource to develop rowers' overall fitness and excellence on the water.
But as a member of the GPRF community, I am proud to be a steward of George Pocock's legacy of altruism and bettering humanity through rowing. Sometimes that means volunteering at GPRF events, which is always so special and exciting (particularly since the 2015 auction was my first exposure to the Foundation); but more often than not, this stewardship involves holding space and actively listening to others' rowing experiences, even if it's just passing curiosity.
By supporting and encouraging individuals to explore the beauty of our sport, I get to bear witness to others' self-discovery of their own empowerment and capabilities. And there's really nothing more fulfilling nor magical than that.
Where and when did you start rowing?
I started rowing in Michigan during my freshman year of high school. A gregarious chemistry teacher pulled me aside and, in a super thick southern drawl, asked, "hey there son, wanna play with some boats?" Honestly, I was so uncoordinated, had no rhythm of which to speak, and hated it at first. But as a former swimmer, I felt drawn to this entirely novel way of experiencing the water. I also thought it was pretty awesome being ON the water, as opposed to IN the water. That being said, I've definitely flipped boats and periodically relive the... joy (*cough*cough*)... of being IN the water.
What is your favourite memory of rowing?
Every single sunrise and sunset I've gotten to enjoy from a dock, lauch, shell, or shoreline.
Who inspires you the most in the sport?
Bobby Pearce (1905-1976), an Australian sculler and two-time Olympic champion in the single sculls ('28 and '32). But his medals aren't nearly as impressive as one moment from a qualifying race in the '28 Games. Stop me if you've heard this one before. *ahem*
Bobby was winning his 1x quarter final event against 7 other competitors as he approached the finish line. All of a sudden, a family of ducks swam into his lane! In true gentlemanly fashion, Bobby STOPPED ROWING (in an Olympic race!? What the what!) to let the ducks pass safely. He then proceeded to win that race by a solid margin and went on to earn gold in the final. This story has no doubt been romanticized over the years and now comes with some questions. How long did he actually have to stop his boat for those dastardly ducks to pass? Would he have stopped rowing had he not been in the lead? Or what if a medal had been on the line, i.e., what if the race had been THE grand final and not a mere quarter final? We'll never know for sure, but I like to imagine that Bobby - a woodworker by trade, similar to George Pocock - was a gentle giant who wouldn't harm a fly, even when the stakes were high. What about in life? Susan Herman, constitutional law scholar and President of the American Civil Liberties Union since 2008. Her guidance has helped the ACLU grow by leaps and bounds, while also cultivating incredible victories across a multitude of critical legal issues. Along with being one of the best leaders the ACLU has ever had, Susan is a big-hearted, intelligent, and passionate champion of mankind's fundamental rights. Her continuous fight against injustice and intolerance brings me endless inspiration and hope.
How has your rowing experience changed during COVID-19
As an ardent advocate of the single sculls' many benefits, I am ashamed to admit how much I miss coaching and rowing team boats. We've all certainly gained epic boatloads (pun intended) of confidence and technical prowess in the single. But personally, the glory of synchronizing with our fellow rowers to hone boatspeed together has never been missed more. It's a raw, powerful form of human connection, and I don't think it's a sensation that I'll ever take for granted now that we've gone without for so long.
What advice would you give to someone considering rowing for the first time?
Breathe deep. Seek peace.
Do you have a favourite workout?
Rowing: all the interval workouts, especially when the goal is to drop splits with each successive set...negative splitting throughout a workout is transcendental and I encourage every athlete to unlock the mental strength required to do so. Non-rowing: hot yoga and bouldering are my current twin flames of cross-training.