Rowing Toward Belonging: My Parallel Journey with Joe Rantz

Rowing Toward Belonging: My Parallel Journey with Joe Rantz

As I reflect on my own rowing journey, I am often reminded of Joe Rantz, a central figure in “The Boys in the Boat.” Like Joe, my early years were marked by a sense of not quite fitting in, a byproduct of growing up in different countries and constantly moving. This parallel to Joe’s story, where he grew up as an individualist in harsh conditions, resonates deeply with me.

Joe found his place at the University of Washington, where collegiate rowing gave him not just a team but a sense of belonging. I experienced a similar epiphany at Brown University. Suddenly, I was part of a group where every individual mattered, every stroke counted, and the sum of our efforts prepared us for the greatest competitions in rowing.

Winning with the Brown University team, under the charismatic leadership of Steve Gladstone, felt like a mirror to Joe’s triumph with the University of Washington. We both battled through tough, windy conditions – mine in Providence, Rhode Island, and his on the waters of the Pacific Northwest. But beyond the physical challenge, it was the mental and emotional transformation that stood out. We learned the power of unity, the strength that comes from being part of something larger than ourselves.

This sense of belonging, the brotherhood formed within a rowing team, is something I strive to instill in the young athletes I coach today. It’s not just about winning races; it’s about finding a place where you’re valued, where your contributions matter, and where you’re part of a collective effort towards a common goal.

The story of Joe Rantz and the 1936 University of Washington crew is more than just a tale of athletic triumph. It’s a testament to the transformative power of rowing – a sport that teaches us about resilience, belonging, and the beauty of synchronizing our efforts with others.

As a coach, I’m committed to guiding young rowers not just to victory, but to finding their place in the world, just like Joe Rantz and I did. Every stroke in the boat is a step towards this goal.