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Peter Mallory's Blog


By pmallory - Posted on 08 January 2014

1 January 2014

It was 80 degrees today in Los Angeles, California, hardly what most people think of as normal weather for a New Year’s Day in the Northern Hemisphere. But 2014 has arrived nonetheless. One year ends . . . and another begins.

During the year just ended, Susan and I walked through a light rain on the Salisbury Plain to ponder the looming monoliths of Stonehenge. One of my most vivid memories of 2013.

Experts speculate about what the builders had in mind 4,000 years ago when they laid out the avenues, dug the trenches, moved the stones from far distant quarries and raised the sarsen trilithons, but the summer and winter solstices were somehow involved. On those days each year the sun lines up with the stones.

Less than two weeks ago the shortest day of the year once more came and went, and today the calendar turns a page as well. A reflection of time passing . . .

I have certainly learned a thing or two during the year just ended, returned to coaching crew after years of raising my children and writing The Sport of Rowing, reconnecting with old friends and old habits, making new friends, acquiring new skills. As years go, 2013 has passed quickly for me . . . and also very, very, very slowly.

As I write this, my son and daughter-in-law are in their happy home in Norfolk, Virginia, packing their belongings and their two kitties for their impending move to West L.A.

Hooray! Susan and I can’t wait to welcome them. Philip and Rachel are waiting patiently (?) for his final separation orders from the U.S. Navy before stepping blindly into the unknown, uncertain job prospects, nervous about finding a place to live, but as I recall, all the what-ifs are simply a part of the adventure when you are 28 years old.

Coincidentally, I turned 28 years old during my own cross-country trip to California from the East Coast 40 years ago. It was one of the scariest things I ever did, leaving behind friends, a house, all the places and things that I was familiar with, doors closing with finality behind me, only the outlines of doors visible through the fog ahead of me . . . but I have never regretted my decision to come.

Rachel’s a nurse, so she will get a job right away. Philip is looking for the opportunity to put his considerable managerial experience as an officer in the Navy to good use in the private sector, and hopefully to join me coaching the Loyola Marymount University Men’s Crew in the mornings.

This will represent a huge step forward for the team and for the two of us as well. I won’t repeat all my Philip stories tonight, but he's a third-generation rower. He and I began rowing together a quarter century ago when he was 3 years old, and it would be a dream come true for us to reunite on Marina del Rey in 2014.

All this year I have been speaking to young men and women from around the country and around the world concerning their interest in coming to LMU to row. My goodness! It is such an exciting time in their lives . . . but certainly a scary one as well. Choosing a college . . . a true fork in the road. Large or small? Urban or rural or something in between? North or South, East or West? What major? What rowing coach? What goals and dreams to embrace. Life is indeed scary . . .

No part of my job as coach is more important to me than helping these young athletes make the best decision they can, whether or not that decision brings them to LMU, and I spend as much time as necessary with each one so that they can truly experience my passion for today and my dreams for tomorrow.

Six of our top prospects have already been admitted Early Action, and several more have been urged by the Admissions Office to complete their applications quickly. This is very heartening to me, but since Early Action is not binding, I have continued to encourage each one to carefully consider all their options before they make their final decision.

So I will wait a few more months, my heart in my throat.

2013 has been a real challenge for me, and I expect 2014 to be no easier. I have great plans for the LMU Men’s Crew, but it takes an enormous amount of time and effort and blood and patience to create a culture of winning at the very highest level.

There are individual young men and women to be won over, to get them to believe in themselves like I believe in them, to get them to think outside their comfort zone, to get them to buy into the seemingly impossible dream that forms the foundation of any truly great team effort. My challenge is to instill in them the cruel reality that they must challenge themselves and work terribly hard today despite the fact that the payoff will only come months or even years in the future. That requires a faith in themselves, a faith in their potential and a faith in the team, indeed a tall order.

They may or may not be aware that I am purposefully guiding them to a philosophy of life that will steer them through every challenge they might encounter as adults: educational, professional, familial, societal, personal. At this point I care not what they are aware of. I just want them to get their erg scores down! Years from now they can look back and realize that the LMU Men’s Crew helped them define what kind of citizen of the world they have since become.

But it’s very hard work for me. I consistently wish I had more to give. Philip will help me do that.

Which reminds me of something that Philip said the other day. We were talking about my role in making the complete works of Steve Fairbairn affordable and available as an eBook to the present generation of rowers and coaches.

“Dad, when I read your blog about Fairbairn, I thought back to the fact that I had to pay a pretty serious amount of money for my copy of Chats on Rowing. It was human nature for me to perhaps pay more attention to the words contained inside simply because of the dollar value eBay had attached to it. Now that his entire oeuvre will soon be available at discount prices, it would be a shame for his advice to be similarly discounted, if you'll excuse the play on words . . . ”

Philip, your message is spot on, and of course it is universal. Something that comes at a great cost is assumed to be valuable. Something that comes easy is often not valued or appreciated.

But it’s more than that. The more you put into a task, a project, a relationship, a course of study, a goal like going to Henley, my beloved Henley, well . . . the more you stand to gain from your efforts. The more you sow, the more you reap.

So if there are resolutions to be made this New Year’s Day, I resolve to try harder, to try to be more empathetic and understanding, to try to be more thoughtful as I follow my passions, to try to be more persuasive when motivating my team to come closer to their enormous potential, to try to make the LMU Men’s Crew the ideal program for the high school prospects who are now seriously considering coming here, for they are our future . . . the team’s, the university’s, the world’s.

I have done a lot of things in my life so far, won a lot of races, touched a lot of lives. For me, guiding the next generation is always the thing that means the most to me, especially when I think back to the monoliths on the Salisbury Plain. My teams are my Stonehenge. The thousand people I have coached over five decades. They will be my legacy for generations to come.

Happy New Year.