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Front Page - Friday, November 29, 2019

UT faculty get feel for life on the river

University of Tennessee finance professor Phillip Daves, center, learns a little about rowing with the Lady Vols. He was one of 15 faculty members recently invited to see what the sport is all about. - Tennessee Athletics/UTsports.com

Phillip Daves was intrigued when he received the invitation from Abbe Craine.

The senior rower is a student in Daves’ finance class at the University of Tennessee, and she wanted him to join the Lady Vols for a practice session on the Tennessee River.

It was meant to give professors a glimpse inside the world of the rowing team – from the physical demands in the boat to the long hours shuffling between training and classes.

“I know how much college athletics takes in terms of time and emotional commitment,” says Daves, an associate professor in the UT finance department. “Despite knowing this, it still helps to be reminded and see firsthand that my students have other commitments that are important to them.

“I was pleased to be invited and I wanted to see a little bit of that important part of Abbe’s life.”

Daves was one of nearly 15 professors and faculty members who arrived at the Wayne G. Basler Boathouse on a chilly fall afternoon to take part in the rowing program’s Professors Appreciation Day.

The Lady Vols showed them how to transport the boats from the boathouse to the dock and everything that needs to be done before they can hit the water.

The professors and rowers were placed in boats together with eight people and a coxswain. They spent 45 minutes on the water, traveling past Thompson-Boling Arena while learning the mechanics of rowing.

Mary Mahoney, assistant director at UT’s Center for Career Development, has watched the Lady Vols compete in races at Melton Hill Lake, and wanted to get a better understanding of the physical demands of the sport. She got a bit more than she bargained for in the boat.

“I learned I am not as coordinated at some things as I think I am,” Mahoney recalls with a laugh. “You just don’t realize the upper body strength and leg strength it takes.

“I hate to admit it, but for a day or two after I was like, ‘holy cow, I didn’t even do that much and my arms were still sore and I could feel it in my legs.’”

Taylor Worrell, a graduate assistant for student-athlete development at UT, is familiar with grueling early morning workouts. She was a swimmer at the University of South Carolina. But Worrell didn’t realize all the intricacies involved in rowing until being on the river.

“I had no idea the amount of dedication and details that goes into the sport. Just the coordination and synchronization required,” Worrell acknowledges. “I kept getting the paddle in the wrong direction. It was really eye-opening to see all the things their sport entails on a regular basis.”

The Lady Vols were excited to switch roles for a few hours and become teachers showing their professors what rowing is really all about.

“A lot of people think it looks really easy, and as a rower that is your goal, to make it look effortless. But to have them come and sit in the boat really helped show them how much focus it takes every day,” UT senior Mikayla Dutton says. “It was great to have them see we are already using so much of this brain power in rowing, but we are still coming to class and still doing our homework.”

Katie Rowinski, a lecturer and adjunct clinical supervisor in the department of psychology at UT, received her invitation from Emma Long, a junior from Franklin.

Rowinski was a track and field athlete at Brown University, and was interested in learning more about the rowing team and coaches.

“It gave me an appreciation for how well-rounded the student-athletes are,” Rowinski points out. “They don’t forget or neglect their academic studies. They just have to work extra hard to fit everything in. They have to get good at time management.

“This is an incredible life skill that will serve them well post-graduation.”

Beyond the physical strength and time commitment required, Daves was impressed by the camaraderie among the Lady Vols.

“I really liked the culture the team and coach showed me. These young women were encouraging and supportive of each other while being very serious about their sport,” Daves says. “Their energy level was really uplifting to me, and I came away from the experience with a renewed confidence in this generation of students.”

Being able to break down any walls or stereotypes between the professors and athletes outside of the classroom setting was rewarding for everyone. It meant a lot to the Lady Vols to have the professors willing to come to their environment.

“There are so many people in this community that care about us, whether as a student or as an athlete. It’s just really cool to bring everybody together and do this as a group,” says senior rower Jessica Magnoli.

“They can put the pieces together about certain parts of our day they may not see and we can get to know a part of their lives as well.”

After they exited the boats and were back on land, the professors received a tour of the team’s facilities.

They were given hot chocolate and apple cider to help them get warm, providing yet another lesson about what the rowers often endure before arriving to class.

“They don’t cancel practice for cold weather,” Rowinski says. “It can be brutal out there on the water during cold weather.”