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To Sweep and Scull
audrey cho 11 opinioneditorial editor volume 85
September 11, 2010

Deerfield rowing is unstoppable. While the boys’ team ended its season with the fourth boat placing second and the first boat placing third at New Englands, the girls’ second boat placed first, an unparalleled feat in school history.

But our rowers didn’t stop there. This summer, seasoned rowers Alex Berner ’11, Tanner Larson ’11, Ellie Parker ’11, and Brad Hakes ’12 tested new waters and turned to sculling.

For Larson, his love for rowing unlocked a curiosity for sculling. “I wanted to scull because I love rowing…it always intrigued me,” he said.

As for Berner, sculling was a way to prepare for the next season.

“I asked a few coaches what was the best preparation for next season, and they all told me to scull over the summer,” said Berner.
For those unfamiliar with rowing, the obvious difference between sweep rowing and sculling is that while sweep rowing uses one oar, sculling requires two. Still, learning how to scull proved to be demanding.

“When I started sculling,” said Larson, “I felt like I was learning to row again. My rowing experience helped me learn faster, but at first it was quite difficult.”

Parker added, “I felt like my sculling technique surpassed my sweep technique this summer just because I needed to clean up my stroke, in order to keep up with the quad or avoid drag in the double…or stay afloat in the single.”

Rowers realized that sculling, especially in a single, came with more responsibility than they were used to.

“The second you lower yourself into the shell, you realize that whatever happens out on the water is your responsibility,” said Larson. “When you succeed you know why, when you fail, you know it’s your fault.”

But the solidarity of single sculling gave rowers a raw connection with the water.

“When you are the only one controlling the boat, you feel much more connection with the water,” Hakes said. “There’s no other movement affecting your sculling.”

Parker felt the same. “Nothing beats the feelings of connection with the water and total liberation that come with a focused practice in a small boat.”

Although tough to master, the lessons learned from sculling were invaluable.

“You get a great feel for the set of the boat,” said Hakes. “Rowing both sides, you feel exactly how every motion on either side affects the boat.”

Other than technical skills, sculling taught rowers mental discipline. “Racing a single successfully takes plenty of poise and focus,” Parker said, “and lots of courage.”

“It’s a good mental test,” Berner added, “because you’re the only one keeping yourself going. In sweep rowing you feel like you owe it to your teammates and coxswain to keep pulling but in a single if you stop or give up, you’re the only one who loses.”

In fact, Berner believed this mental and physical discipline from sculling prepares rowers for success.

“Establishing the discipline to do pieces and to build into a sprint in the last 300 meters of a Head race completely on your own sets you up to succeed…even in non-rowing related things,” Berner said. “Sculling forces you to be the best you can be,” Larson said.
Berner and Hakes are defending champions of the Head of the Hosmer in Craftsbury, VT.