Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trying Out at St. Mary's College of Maryland

Through our travels this summer Will and I have picked over how different our college experiences were. Big school, city. Little school, rural. Developing club team. Varsity. There is such a wide spectrum of colleges and schools one can sail at, it's hard to say for sure what a "college sailing experience" looks like. However, there is a tight community of college sailors who share an experience of similar regattas, friends, friends of friends, and even the concept of team racing is a very specific niche of sailing that college sailors share. I can't say what a college sailing experience will be like at all schools- but looking the process SMCM goes through the first week of each fall might give some insight into how college sailing teams work.

Each year seeing the freshman arrive on campus at SMC feels like watching your favorite movie with a friend who's never seen it before. At every corner and every step of the way, you can't wait to tell them how awesome the next scene is- but you (try to) hold your tongue to not spoil the ending or talk over important dialogue.

Current teammates talk before a final team meeting 
Looking back at my own experience during tryouts is pretty typical of the growth one experiences at St. Mary's and as a part of a college team in general. At SMC, I think everyone remembers their freshman year tryouts vividly. I sailed with team captain Mike Kushner on a hot, humid, day with no breeze. We left the dock, did two tacks, came back. It was so unconventional, I was a little nervous not knowing where to put my feet, but Mike assured me through the process. A year later, it was just exciting to be a sophomore on the team when I sailed with Gordie Lampshire his tryouts. Like myself he was little nervous, and as a sophomore it felt like a responsibility to keep his head in the right place like Kushner did for me. As a Junior, I was experienced enough to know the ropes and confidently welcome the freshmen and show them around. By the time senior year rolled around, it was my role to remind my teammates that freshmen might be nervous- and to keep that in mind when sailing with them.

Now as an alum I get to return to see Gordie running tryouts as a team captain, and Mike stepping back as the team's new assistant coach. As only the team and team captains pick the freshman class, it's an example of the unity and leadership a college sailing team needs to grow. It also says a lot about how a team needs layers of individuals beyond just the top six to survive. For me one of the most rewarding parts of being on such a competitive team was coming home from regattas and realizing how talented and diverse my stacked team was in remote St. Mary's. Previous SMC captain and current Assistant Coach (alongside long time coaches Adam Werblow and Bill Ward), Mike Kushner knows the system just as much as anyone else, and his experience adds a lot to what makes a college team mesh. Check out what he has to say and his experiences below:











I think the St. Mary's tryouts system says a lot about the dynamic of what makes a college team tick. Whether it's developing club team which went through exponential growth in the past four years (keep an eye on Will's college trip!) or established varsity programs such as St. Mary's, Boston College, Georgetown, Charleston, etc- it takes a some independent leadership from each team member to make the team run. St. Mary's definitely puts an emphasis on this, but for those in or planning to participate in college sailing it's something to keep in mind that college sailing is much more than trying to get to Nationals in the spring. On the whole it's a community about growth and with a lot of growth- and an amazing experience for young sailors with all types of backgrounds.

Photo courtesy of Franny Kupersmith

1 comment:

  1. You need to take a look at ARIZONA STATE, yes ARIZONA STATE. asusailing.org