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Peter Mallory's Blog


By pmallory - Posted on 20 June 2012

30 April 2011

I have been spending this entire past week in Virginia mentoring the high school team that my son Philip helps coach when he is not at sea serving in the U.S. Navy. As I look into their fresh faces, I am reminded of why so many of us have spent a meaningful part of our lives trying to make boats go fast, and how that part of our lives has helped shape who we have become.

“Always remember, there’s more to life than rowing – but not much.”
– Don Beer, 1956 Yale University Olympic Champion Eight

Philip has watched people come up to me and say, “Peter, you changed my life.” I can think of no greater praise. Worth spending a lifetime earning such praise. And now Philip wants to spend his own lifetime earning similar praise, and I say, “Bravo, my son!” What better avocation could there be than to help shape the next generation?

I come to Virginia from my home in Los Angeles every couple of months. Nobody has asked me to my face why I care so much, but I suspect some have wondered. I know they have asked the other coaches why they have to work so hard, why we ask so very much of them.

“Anything worthwhile in life, you pay for in advance – anything that is not worthwhile you can get in the twinkling of an eye.
“I have often been asked whether winning a Gold Medal was worth it. I have replied, ‘I learned more about myself and my fellow men in six minutes of rowing than I did in four years at college.’”
– Rusty Wailes, 1956 and 1960 Olympic Champion for Yale and for Lake Washington

There was thunder in the distance on Wednesday, and so we moved inside to the ergometers. It took two sessions to give everybody a shot, and I found myself zeroing in on one person in particular in each session. These two young athletes, one a young man, the other a young woman, have such great potential, but as yet they haven’t figured out just exactly how much they are capable of. When I was encouraging them (Actually I was riding them pretty hard!), their splits went way down, but when I left them alone, they tended to slip back up.
The workout was an old fashioned fartspiel pyramid, and these two people at the threshold of their lives couldn’t possibly imagine that they could do the whole workout flat out. So that’s what I and the other coaches could teach them, that they have it within themselves to do things far beyond their own imaginations. Today we imagine for them. With our help, the day will soon come when they will imagine for themselves.

Today these young rowers don’t yet have that little voice inside them that says, “I can do this. I will do this. I have to do this. I must do this.” They still ask why, and frankly that’s a very good question. Perhaps when they race this weekend they will do it for their coaches. Someday soon they will leave us behind.
Why did I do it in my day? Why do I still do it? Not for me. No, I could never have done such things for myself. I did it for my teammates. My greatest possession in sport has been the trust of my teammates, and I have pulled myself inside out for them.
No greater incentive in my life. I only hope all these young people will someday be able to say the same. I envy them with so much potential in their bright futures . . . in rowing and in life . . . because, oh yes, life is a metaphor for rowing!

“To me, the finest spectacle in sport is to watch a crew, when its members are close to exhaustion, rise to the challenge and go out beyond themselves. If you’ve never been part of such an effort, you can never appreciate what it accomplishes in the minds and hearts of its participants.
“The individual oarsman never forgets such an experience, and in that great common effort lies the real secret of the almost religious feeling the oarsmen have for their sport and the affinity they feel for one another.
“From sincere, unselfish effort comes the real rewards in life.”
– Rusty Callow, 1952 U.S. Naval Academy Olympic Champion Coach

Philip, my son, thank you for your service to our country. We are all so looking forward to your return. This past week has been for you.