Writing and Interview by Ellen Kahan
This story is the dream of the supporters of Row to the Future, but it is not a dream. It is even more wonderful because it is true. It’s the story of one young man named Tress and his journey into rowing. His path has happened just as the George Pocock Rowing Foundation has messaged that it could and would if all youth were given the opportunity to row.
When Tress was just eleven years old and a sixth grade student in Seattle the Erg Ed program came to the K-8 school Tress attended. This was his introduction to rowing, a previously unknown sport to him despite living in a water-rich city where hundreds of people row, paddle, sail, and just enjoy being out on the water.
Tress really enjoyed the Erg Ed program as a special opportunity during physical education classes. In just a few short weeks he was good enough on the erg that Coach Karla encouraged him to compete in Ergomania. No first time attendee at Ergomania can be less than amazed by what goes on there but Tress took it all in stride. In fact, Tress triumphed in his age group and went home with a first place ribbon from the competition.
When summer rolled around Tress enrolled in a middle school rowing program and had his first experience on the water. He wasn’t a natural at it. The oars felt cumbersome and difficult to manage and his timing just always seemed off. Tress found himself frequently making excuses not to attend but his mother wasn’t letting him off the hook. She insisted that he keep attending and like most mothers was right in the assumption that with time and practice he might grow to love the sport.
During middle school, rowing for Tress was a little on and off but ultimately he came to love it and by the time he was a freshman in high school he was a proud member of the novice team and happy to report to practice. During his four years of high school rowing has become an important part of life for Tress. Important not just because of the thrill of winning a race, pulling a perfect stroke, or being in rhythm with your teammates but because it has made his whole life better.
Tress sees with great clarity the ways that rowing has changed him. “I’ve learned that I am much stronger than I thought. I’ve learned that I can constantly be improving, that carries over in my life to persevere through difficult assignments. To go back and retake tests in order to do better. I’ve learned not to accept anything less than my best from myself.” When Tress was asked if his mom saw the differences in him, he laughed with a warm chuckle that seemed to indicate that he and him mom may not agree about some things but they are in 100% agreement on this.
Tress has discovered the power of teamwork in the boat and the importance of not only doing your best and constantly seeking to improve but also making sure you support your teammates in doing the same. “ If I want to compete, I have to not only click with the boat but be physically strong enough. If everyone isn’t giving their 100% it won’t work.” The intense effort of everyone working together for the team creates bonds of friendships built on trust and effort. Friendships that often cross traditional expectations of shared lifestyles or experiences.
Tress is headed for college next year and rowing will continue to be part of his life. From an eleven-year-old beginner on the erg to a confident young man, Tress credits much of his life success to rowing. Every practice, every win, every defeat, every challenge conquered, stroke by stroke made Tress stronger. A strength that plays out across his life but was born with an oar in his hands.