Time to Ponder [Part 1]: Four Years of Rowing into Sports Management
Over the last few weeks I’ve been catching up with old friends, those that meant a lot to me through my life, growing up through my childhood, high school, and the early years of college before getting absorbed into collegiate athletics, later returning to those old values and having to manage it. This is the time of year I get to look back at the things that mattered, the things that inspired the drive, the motivation to keep going, and most of all, see the road ahead. Sometimes we realize that life is passing too quickly and it’s hard to do everything, let alone stay on track with your personal goals.
Many don’t know where I came from. Granted, a lot of experience from this era before I started rowing was applied right here, to this sport, or should I say, Sports Management. There is such a thing. I didn’t grow up as the typical “OC” boy. Didn’t want to. Growing up with parents and grandparents that ran their own companies, I was exposed to the elements at a very young age, perhaps too young. Curiosity grew into tinkering too much, getting myself into trouble, maybe even getting hurt once and a while. Now it’s the thing I do for a living. The trend found me following some friends from the early days and getting involved with the Boy Scouts, getting inducted to its National Honor Society, the Order of the Arrow (OA), the biggest youth-run service organization in the country. It was here where I gained most of the philosophies I live by today.
Explaining the experience of this whole era here would be too much right here. Instead, feel free to look at Wikipedia’s well-written entry of the program. I hope to write about this era in the near future. Little did I know that’s I was going to be recruited by a long-time friend, Evan Chaffee (who’s father rowed for CSULB and sits on the crew’s alumni board), onto his campaign to get the national seat with me finishing off his local section vacancy with the other 23 elected youth from around the nation. What a feeling. What an honor. The phrase, “brother from another mother,” became an everyday term. The rest is history…
Well, I was no longer a “youth,” but little did I realize that the values learned this era were going to be put to the real test, almost right away, dealing with challenging scenarios of leadership, management, delegation, responsibility, and even some absurdity in the next chapter of my life. Often doubting myself with the decisions I had to make, the experience proved that I was on the right track. Still to this day I seek advise from those who once advised me. Their advise to me was, “GET OUT NOW! You don’t deserve to deal with this all over again.” My greatest weakness is caring too much. Trust is hard to develop, especially when you’ve created a standard that others must follow to keep the wheels moving. They will always have a spot in my heart.
The sport of rowing has been a part of me since 2006. First being dragged into the sport by a friend from Ensign Intermediate School, Richard Lund, while the both of us were attending Orange Coast College. Coast Crew has such a strong heritage and pride that earns its glory on the race course. I never got much attention at Coast until the day I got angry and stole the engine keys from Coach Pat Gleason, just so he could give me an assignment I could do on land while everyone else was out on the water. After hearing that I was graduating from Coast, I was just swept away, overlooked like I wasn’t even there. All I wanted to do is say that I actually tried something in college. I raced once in the Newport Regatta and won. Got one set of shirts. That was it. Coach Larry Moore took consideration with what I was trying to do, take better care of myself. With that said, I was tossed into the water my last day by the whole team. The rest is history…
On to CSU Long Beach. Why I didn’t head to Sacramento State or UCLA Crew, I don’t know. Sometimes things happen for a reason. I can see why I was already here. It was going to be the OA all over again, but on a much higher caliber and applied to the real life. With Beach Crew, I saw an entirely different team, with no direction, no purpose, almost ready to give its hopes up. The team was hit with a plague and was being mocked by several other institutions. I was even questioned on why I came here from Coast and that I deserved to be at a better place.
It didn’t take long to realize that Beach Crew had everything they needed all along. No one knew about it. They team forgot about who they were. My first season with The Beach, I was on the sidelines while everyone was scurrying around. It didn’t take long to discover that I’d have to get my hands dirty and clean up the mess. My coach, Sam Proctor, advised me to lose another 10 pounds so he could spin-off a lightweight boat. This was probably their only perk in the program as we actually had a chance at winning a race, let alone the lightweights outpacing the varsity crews. Something’s wrong there! Beating the odds, it was one of the greatest things I ever did. It took a long time to figure out the history that caused such a mess and mismanagement. I literally cried at the end of the year when the team ponied up the money to construct a one-and-only glass cube inscribed with the B-oar bearing my name on it. It’s nothing that was ever constructed in the past. To top it off, the team threw me a birthday party that I will never forget before coming home from my last collegiate race in Oak Ridge, TN. I have a birthday card ( front | back ) that I will keep forever.
After rowing for another year, becoming the team captain, and upon concluding my eligibility, I was hired by the university to assist with establishing better grounds of the program and begin to define an operation for the team. It didn’t take long until people started calling me, the “GM”. With 50 years behind us, we were sure to figure something out. Now, everything from the last 10 years of my life was put to the test. Yes, there was a lot of pulling hair, dealing with scenarios that seemed absurd, often being challenged by others to then realizing our faults. I don’t like dictating. You have to influence others to follow and you better have a good reason. It’s never easy telling someone, “I told you so,” especially when you’re seen as just a stupid 23 year old who seems to have no authority. The coaching staff was all older than me, let alone with stakeholders that questioned what I was doing. Beach Crew runs on what I call the Triangle Foundation. A side leads (Board of Officers), another advises (campus), and the last side physically runs it, being the coaching staff that gives up so much to turn it like a wheel. The daunting task is not to step on each other’s foot.
We eventually gained ground, looking back at what a mess everything was and how everyone was treated. The goal now is to get informed, form the standard, and keep going, and never stop.
Probably the best thing Beach Crew ever did was host the first Collegiate Rowing Club Summit for the WIRA institutions. All eyes were on the Walter Pyramid that weekend. Everyone heard what we were trying to do, reach out and help everyone stay on their feet during this tough time of our nation. We have a responsibility now. It’s not just to compete on the water, it’s to be a role model for the other institutions.
Everything seems great now, doesn’t it? We should just keep everything the way it is because it’s working so well for everyone. We all know that this will never be the case, even with the crews that practically have all the funding in the world. Something we unanimously defined at the summit was that we were all suspect to this dilemma of change, a cycling of staff, officers, or coaches. This is the reason for the “advisory” side of the triangle.
The path ahead of me is leading into Seattle before this summer to focus on my life’s goals. I have been pulled left and right to join some pretty big operations across the nation. I never saw myself getting into Sports Management, but I proved myself wrong. With that said, my continued involvement with Beach Crew at the campus level will be out-of-reach after this season. I am currently seeking a replacement through the Sports Management Department, but can’t guarantee it will come in time. The Beach Crew Alumni Association (BCA) may step-in during the interim if need be.
I see myself playing a continued and more substantial role with the BCA for the indefinite future. After all, I’m one of them as all of you will be in the near future. It feels great to be a part of an organization of well-established former athletes. This is a distinction that will be with all of you for the rest of your lives.
My last day on duty will not occur earlier than Friday, March 25, 2011, and not succeed later than Friday, June 3, 2011. At that time my contract with the university will be terminated. Until then, my duties are in full-force, though the capacity of my duties are somewhat reduced as we deal with this transition. My plan is to stay as long as possible through the WIRA Regional Finals and the team’s Annual Banquet. This is providing there is no urgent need for me to relocate immediately.
I do not leave until you have a written team manual in your hands, one which all of you and future leaders, staff, and volunteers should read cover-to-cover. This publication should be updated as the future plays it role. I think the majority of the concerns everyone has will be answered in this manual.
I see the last four years with Beach Crew as time well spent, even after graduation. I want to thank all of those who buckled down to define the goals, the business, and preserving the heritage that rowing has at this university. It is imperative that the team maintains the relationship with the Associated Students, the University Archives, Fleet Services, CSURMA, and of course, it’s own corresponding and future (Athletic)departments. This is not limited to the university as we have others we must continue to work with, such as the City of Long Beach, LBRA, the LB Century Club, and the list goes on. Because of all of this, most of the goals I had on my list have been fulfilled, thanks to everyone’s efforts.
Beach Crew has come a long way since I first saw it with its heads looking down on the dock, way back in November, 2007. The university has a better grasp of its duties with us. The leadership has been defined. A vast audience of alumni have been connected with their roots. Everyone sees that life-long impact of responsibility. What’s more important is Beach Crew’s reputation in the community and with other higher education institutions. We’ve established ourselves as a model. We’re now looked up to, especially during this day and time when others realize what we’ve had to do to survive for the past 50 years. Another fact to realize is how much Beach Crew has impacted other programs. Your alumni now facilitate four other programs at institutions throughout Southern California. This is not to be taken lightly, especially since the CA public institutions face a devastating trek ahead of them. We have such a stake in the community that most of you don’t realize.
Don’t think that all of this is lost without me. A majority of this work has been accomplished by our incredible staff on the water, on campus, and with the alumni association. I owe a lot of my personal growth to Beach Crew. We have done so much to invest in the team’s future and guide its way in the right direction. As for the future, I see a very strong movement continuing forward for rowing at Cal State Long Beach. When the women’s team gets inducted into NCAA D-I athletics, with the men getting a substantial amount of support as well, you’ll be ready. We’re past the threshold, making a downhill movement somewhat toilsome. I see great leaders emerging here. Beach Crew is more than just racing in the water. It’s a way of living, a way of learning, and truly living up to what Dr. Maxon was saying, to learn outside of the classroom. Ironically, President Alexander has quoted Beach Crew as the flagship sport of The Beach. This is a time to thrive, experiment, and most importantly, discover. You have many resources within your reach. Take pride in the hard work you do because everyone sees the quality citizens you become. You have the knowledge to make the right decisions, but I will say this:
“…stay hungry, stay foolish…”
I realize many of you probably have questions. Over the next few days I will write a few entries before my return to campus in January which will describe the journey ahead of me and what’s in store for the near future in Part 2: “The things that mattered…”
Let’s finish off the spring season with a hit and make it one we can remember.
As I always say…
Yours in Service,