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Peter Mallory's Blog

By pmallory - Posted on 13 December 2012

13 December 2012

This newsletter is written to my new extended family, the Loyola Marymount University Men’s Novice Crew, but I thought I’d share it with all my newsletter readers. Comments encouraged. Enjoy.

Because I Say So

Over the last six weeks or so I have told you that certain concepts must be accepted and certain things must be done in certain ways, in the boat, out of the boat, in life . . . and that has often proved remarkably difficult for you as a group to do or even to accept. Sometimes you look at me as if I were speaking gibberish.

So what has been going on here? To tell you the truth, I hear myself saying lines I know by heart now after so many years. “If it were easy to do, then everybody would be doing it. But it’s not easy, and that’s exactly why it’s worth doing. That’s exactly why you will remember this year for the rest of your lives.”

And I believe that. Thanks to half a century of experience, I can clearly see certain choices that we have to make as a team right now, little things, big things, and I can see the potential future consequences, good and bad, of the various alternatives before us. “Why must we do it your way, Peter?” Well, this thing we are talking about, whatever it is, it’s one of those things we all have to agree to do in the same way if we are to be a real team, and most of the time I can already tell which way will work out the best in the long run. If you think you have a better way, let’s talk about it, but most of the decisions we have to make in the first year of rowing have been tried and tried and tried again a million times over, so if we want to succeed we pretty much have to do what has worked in the past.

Now I could explain all the advantages and disadvantages of the various alternatives we have before us, but we don’t often have that much time, so I end up telling you to do it because I say so, and you pretty much have to trust me on that. I could tell you that it has worked before a whole bunch of times, and you might say, “Yeah, sure, but that was then and times are different now. We’re different.” Of course you’d be right. You are different . . . wonderfully different in wonderful ways.

But you’d be wrong, too. So much of human nature just plain stays the same. (Read The Iliad.) I recently wrote a 2,500-page book that clearly shows the basic truths of rowing haven’t changed in 200 years.

So as different as you feel and as new and special as you are, to me it feels like I’m playing a role in a play I have already appeared in many, many times before. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s my favorite play!

You are the next generation of my extended rowing family. We are still just getting to know one another. Can I trust you? As a group, not always, as we have discovered day by day this fall, you and I. I can’t quite count on you all yet, but I am confident we will get there soon enough.

Can you trust me? Yes. Do you trust me? No. No, you don’t. Not as a group. I am still just this strange old man who wandered into your boathouse and into your lives just a few weeks ago wearing a different hat every day. I haven’t quite earned your trust yet, but hopefully I’m getting there.

So we continue to circle one another with a mixture of hope and curiosity and wariness.

A Whirlpool of Platitudes

And what has my message been so far? In rowing as in all aspects of human life, the rewards are far in the future while the responsibilities are today. Put the work in now. The payoff comes later. You have to have faith and courage. You have to trust and take a chance. Prime the pump. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The power of positive thinking. The Little Engine That Could. “I think I can, I think I can . . . ”

. . . and so we descend into a whirlpool of platitudes you’ve probably heard a thousand times before.

But don't tune them out! I assure you they are all true. Great things will come to those who make great commitments based solely on hope and trust.

What is the biggest truth I have been pounding into your heads this fall? You are important! You, you, you and you, all of you! Simple as that! I’m sure you have been told that before, but now it's time to really understand what that means and put it into practice in your daily lives. The world can be a better place tomorrow thanks to you, and you have a responsibility to try to make it so.

Responsibility Muscles

You may not have figured this out yet, but we have agreed to come together this year as a crew not to make boats go fast but to exercise and strengthen your “responsibility muscles” through rowing. Learn to be reliable and responsible, a person that people can count on. Learn to trust and be trusted by your teammates.

Pray that someday one of your teammates will say to you: "I sure am nervous about the coming race. We have talked about it and dreamed about it and prepared for it all year long. I hope so much that I will be able to do my very best, but what gives me strength and courage is knowing that I can count on you to do the same for me."

No greater prize in team sport, no greater prize in life, than the trust of your fellow man, and that is the very foundation of rowing.

We have come together to row . . . but now I watch as your self-image gradually improves. Put a purpose in your step today, man! Take that improved self-image, apply it to your studies, and watch your grades improve. It's important, man!

Know that rowing is truly offering you a special hand up at a special time in your life. Soon you will see opportunities all around you to offer a hand up to others, in little ways or big ways, perhaps when you least expect it, in the library, on your hallway, at the boathouse, on the street, in class, at work, at home. Friends or strangers, the opportunities will arise when you can pass on this lesson:

You are important!

Don’t forget. It’s all happening fast for your team right now! Get up and go on your run tomorrow morning. Work up to 15 to 20 minutes at a steady aerobic pace, six days a week till I see you again. Come back from each run refreshed, and then go make the world a better place one day, one little act at a time.

And return to campus in January mentally and physically fit and ready to make boats go fast together with your trusted teammates and your old man coach.