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From Zoom hangouts to soup cans: Bowdoin’s crew team gets creative during social distancing

February 19, 2021

As COVID-19 continues to rage, the Bowdoin crew team has maintained both team camaraderie and physical fitness throughout the year of social distancing.

While some teams might lack self-motivation amidst the chaos of this past year, the crew team has had very few issues maintaining their athletes’ fitness.

“It’s definitely been difficult being so far apart from everyone,” Cassidy Donohue ’21, one of the team’s captains, said in a phone interview with the Orient. “But … the crew team is very like-minded in the sense that everyone likes to be outside and likes to be active.”

But a love of the outdoors is not the only thing keeping the team together this year.

“We have this thing called the buddy system,” explained Sophie Lisle ’23 in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “There are two upperclassmen … usually with one first year, and … you can Zoom with your buddy and just talk to them.”

Having regular zooms has allowed athletes, like Lisle, to bond with teammates during the pandemic in a way they would otherwise be unable to.

“It’s hard to meet everyone individually because the crew team is so big. There’s 70-plus of us, so it’s kind of hard if you’re on Zoom with the whole team to really connect with people,” said Lisle.

The social aspect of team life is not the only thing that the crew team was missing this year. The camaraderie of working out together was desperately missed, and with varying access to gym equipment, team members had to resort to anything that could serve as a weight set.

“The coaches have been sending out training plans for people to work out on a schedule,” said Lisle. “The problem with that is that a lot of [the workouts] require an erg, which is a rowing machine … This winter, I was doing weight training with soup cans just to get in whatever form of exercise I would be able to.”

Limitations have been painful for the team, but there are certainly some positives that have emerged from the crew team’s virtual athletic experience. Because of COVID-19, those who could practice in the fall had to practice in single boats.

“This year, everyone was in a single for at least the majority of the fall season, and it does exceptional things for rowing technique,” Donohue said. “There was a definite added bonus on the technique side, just by getting people into singles and rowing those boats.

Lisle was also able to find some positives despite the otherwise stressful year.

“One thing that I have found is that [virtual athletics] have made it easier for us all to listen to our own bodies,” said Lisle. “In the normal training season, even if you’re hurting a little bit, you may be pressured to continue to train for competition.”

Lisle felt like she was able to train in a safer manner this season.

“You can individualize your training plan based on how you’re feeling, and if you’re hurting a little bit, you can take it easier until you’re fully recovered.”

This year, the team’s overall goals had to adjust just as much as its training regiment.

“One of our primary goals in conjunction with the athletic department has been along diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Donohue. “We’ve had a renewed focus on what the culture of our team is and how we can be more inclusive.”

Lisle similarly voiced the need for adjusted intentions.

“My goals have been very personal this year,” said Lisle. “I also think a part of it is doing it for my teammates. I want to be as strong as I can, to help them out … when we’re all able to be back together.”

Despite everything however, the experience of not being able to be with her teammates has allowed Lisle to realize more and more what rowing means to her.

“I think that this year has just made me rethink why I really liked sports in general, and especially why I’m so excited to be back with the team,” said Lisle. “I think that this has been a big learning opportunity for everyone. I’m just excited to be able to start practicing again, just so I can see my teammates again.”


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