Friday, August 5, 2016

How Matt Fischer Learned to Go Fast

In this update, former Club President and Men's Stroke, Matt Fischer (Class of '15) reflects on his novice year and learning about perseverance. 
Matt Fischer with a cardboard cutout of Carter Jones

"Starting college, the majority of people who row do not know that one day they would sit in a boat with their feet strapped into the hull of a 60 foot shell with eight other guys or girls, anxiously waiting at a start line to begin one of the most grueling tests of fitness. I surely didn’t plan on doing anything like this when I got to Murray State.  I didn’t even know what rowing was until a high school friend who rowed at Purude told me about it.  Growing up, I played football, baseball, and basketballthese were the most “popular” sports in Evansville, Indiana. If you were good at these sports, you were considered a great all-around athlete.  However, transitioning from high school to college, I was kind of at a loss as I didn’t have practice to go to in the evenings or games on the weekends.  Something was missing from my life and that something was competition.  So, as soon as my friend told me about rowing, I checked to see if our school had a team.  

I found the Racer Rowing website (I might have been the only rower to sign up on the website itself!). I sent an email and got a reply from Slim (Steve Goeller) inviting me to meet him; to tour the erg room and learn how to row. Then, for three weeks, I was isolated from the team and had to row by myself in a separate room from the varsity and novice guys. I wasn't sure if this was a strategy to get me caught up quickly, or if they just didn't like me. 

After much practice, it was finally time for an evaluation. I thought that the “evaluation” would be about how I was progressing in terms of technique and finesse.  Of course what “evaluation” really meant was how fast I could row 2000m.  Now I don’t care where life has taken you or how bad your memory isyou will always remember your first 2k!

At the start, I thought a 2k was no big deal.  I had just spent the last 2 weeks rowing probably 5,000 meters each day.  How bad could 2,000 be?  I actually thought this would be easy–I have never been so wrong in my entire life!  I rowed by the mantra of “fly and die” finishing at a “lightning” fast average pace of 1:55 per 500m.  The first thing I thought once I was done was, “I am going to die.”  But, the second thing I thought was, “I’m in love with this sport.”

As many of us learned, the novice year experience is only the beginning of a long journey with rowing.  As a novice you learn a lot of things: you learn how to pack light, but at the same time have nearly everything in your dorm room fit into your backpack.  You learn that Winslow Hall is your sanctuary for food, friends, and fun times.  Probably one of the most important things I learned was to buy good spandex/compression shorts. I was not told about this as a novice. On my first day out on the water, I wore boxer briefs and ended up soaked to the bone. I also think that this may have been a devious plan set up by the varsity to get a chuckle out of a novice rowing in his underwear for the first day. 

Actually, most importantly, I think the thing you learn most during your novice year is that when things get tough, you don’t quit. My novice year of rowing was the first time that I felt like I really had a “choice” in whether to quit or stick with it.  You do not have to get up at 4:30 in the morning. You do not have to row over 5,000 meters. You do not have to push past your body’s physical limits….But you choose to do these things anyway. Choosing to persevere says a lot about the character of the collegiate rower.  This doesn’t just serve us in the boat, but it also applies to the years beyond rowing; to lifewhen things get tough in marriage, with kids, or at work. To give up or pull through boils down to a matter of choice.

For me, rowing taught that things will get tough and the choices we make determine everything. Novice year goes by so fast! Enjoy it fully!"

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1 comment:

  1. Matt--thanks for the great story! Hope that your alumni teammates follow your good example in sharing content for our blog.

    I was worried that the "serious design professionals" among our ranks would take issue of using a photo proof as a headline photo for your story. Although the picture of you and Micah rowing the pair was a cool shot....Was that at Hooch?

    Anyway, the picture I found in your Facebook "2012" photo album of you standing next to the Carter cut-out made me laugh.

    Slim--can we fact check Matt's claim that he was the only one to contact the team with the website? Surely there have been others!?