People Are Awesome
Written by Dan
People are awesome…
This weekend I was reminded of that simple truth, and amazed again at just how much people will give of themselves in order to do something for others. You might expect me now to recount an experience at a soup kitchen, senior center or children’s hospital. All worthy causes, but not where I spent the weekend. Nor did I participate in building a house or volunteering at an orphanage. Where did I happen to see some the best of who we are as human beings? It might surprise you to learn that I was actually at a regatta. For those outside of the rowing world jargon, it’s a day of racing between competing crews at the high school or collegiate level. So amidst all the battles for bragging rights, where’s the altruism? I mean, this is cut-throat competition, right?
Behind the scenes of one of these events, there are scores of volunteers (in some cases, hundreds) working hard to make the overall event a success. They give time, money, and energy not just the day of, but in many cases in the days, weeks and months of planning and preparing leading up to the actual competition. More often than not, most of the effort required to produce one of these regattas, will go largely unnoticed to the actual beneficiaries, the athletes. I know, because I’ve benefited from over a couple hundred of these events as a competitor, either as an athlete or as a coach. As a competitor, most of the time you are so caught up in the nervous jitters and anticipation of proving yourself, that you hardly notice what’s going on around you to make the whole thing possible.
This weekend was my first on the other side of the production and it was awesome. Of course you have parents of athletes volunteering, but what amazed me was the number of people freely giving their time who no longer had a direct connection to any of the teams. They simply crossed paths with the sport in the past as a child was passing through, fell in love with it and continue to give. It was just incredible to witness first hand the massive, complex coordinated effort required to organize, prepare and execute a successful day; all so some kids can race boats against each other. And this will happen in hundreds of cities across more than a dozen weekends in a year…and that’s just rowing. What about all the other youth sports where people pull together and give so much for the sake of the kids? It’s just one of the little things I love about being home, and that I’m proud of about the rowing community.
Here’s a very proud dad I got to train on my morning shift. He was learning how to drive the chase boats that follow the races with a referee on board, who ensures races are fair, safe and stay on time. With only a fraction of the race visible from the shore, a chase boat is bar none the best seat in the house. Jacob was so proud of his daughter and nervous before the race. When she saw him at the starting line she was giddy with excitement, too. Her boat started behind, put on a good fight and ultimately pulled ahead in the 2nd half to win a gold medal. Here he is afterwards with the finish tower in the background, grinning ear to ear with fatherly pride.
Getting to know Jacob was a big plus, and the highlight of the day was just reconnecting with old friends, familiar faces and former athletes. Adding to all of this, the weather was a sunny and comfortable mid 60s-low 70s both days. I even sneaked in a cycling ride on day two along the backdrop of horse farms that pepper the foothills of the north Georgia mountains. Reverse culture shock? Nah…just a good ol’ homecoming.