Being a Rower Takes More Than Just Getting Into a Boat

As a three-time Olympian and 2004 gold medalist in the men’s eight, U.S. men’s team coach Bryan Volpenhein knows that a crew needs more than just strength to make a boat fast. Two key words in teaching that concept are “respect” and “perspective.”

In a short PBS film produced in conjunction with the Aug. 2 release of the American Experience documentary The Boys of ’36, the story of the 1936 University of Washington men’s eight that won Olympic gold in Hitler’s pre-war Berlin, Volpenhein talks about how he coaches and teaches the U.S. men’s four that will compete at the 2016 Olympic Games next month.

“The one thing I talk with our guys a lot about is this idea of being an oarsmen,” Volpenhein said. “Being an oarsmen is bigger than just getting in a boat and rowing. It’s sort of how you carry yourself outside the boat. It’s how you treat your teammates, and it’s how you treat your competition.

“There’s a level of respect there and a level of perspective of where you fit into the sport and the history of the sport and everything that’s happened before you, sort of being a part of that. The athletes have to commit to each other and to a greater good. And they sort of have to submit themselves to that process.”

USRowing has partnered with American Experience and Liberty Mutual Insurance to share this documentary with the rowing community. Featuring interviews with Brown, historians and surviving children of the 1936 team, The Boys of ’36 premieres Aug. 2 at 9 p.m. EST on PBS in conjunction with the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 80th anniversary of the miracle crew’s triumph.

Watch the PBS film on Volpenhein here.

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