Remi McClellan is a junior communication studies major and a member of the women’s rowing team. Outside of class, Remi enjoys writing in her journal, reading and spending time with her family and friends. She hopes that her story demonstrates that though the road to success may be bumpy, anyone can come back after a downfall by working hard and remaining dedicated.
1,210 miles away from my family and friends in New Jersey. 1,210 words flying through my head telling me I can’t. 1,210 reasons why I should never give up. 1,210 other female rowers who want to be where I am. But, just one mind controlling it all.
Being a college athlete is more mentally and physically challenging that I ever could have imagined. As a student athlete, I face problems that any student would experience, such as struggling in classes, stressing out about midterms, binge eating, facing peer pressure to go out and having difficulties managing time. Those issues are just speed bumps in the road to success as a student. But as an athlete, I’ve gone over mountains that feel as big as Mount Everest to follow my dream of being an Olympic rower.
In rowing, athletes have to earn their ranks or positions on the team and promotion takes time. There are four classes of rowers: freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Out of those four classes, there are, typically, a top-two or three rowers in each class. Those top rowers from each class make up a varsity-8 boat and a varsity-4 boat, the best boats on the team.
As a freshman, I, literally, started on the bottom of the freshman list and advanced all the way to the top with a few other teammates. I was extremely excited going into my sophomore year because I ended my freshman year in the varsity lineup. I knew sophomore year was going to be hard since I started taking more core classes. Plus, I had to secure my position on the team while dealing with outside problems that could affect my mental focus.
I had to learn and perfect time management skills in order to succeed in the sport. My sophomore year, I color coded my schedule and highlighted activities. After managing my time, I was set to succeed — or so I thought. My rank on the team was secure. I was still in the top varsity boat, and the ways to hold the rank, such as achieving personal records, only increased and got better. I felt unstoppable.
That unstoppable, fearless, motivated drive suddenly ended when I injured my back rowing. The little voice in my brain whispered to me, “Just give up. You’re never going to be able to get back to where you left off.” My positive attitude was demolished when I had to miss practice and go to physical therapy every day to strengthen my back. I was recovering so well in therapy, that when I was told I would be able to join practice again, no one could take the smile off my face.
I went back to practice more eager than ever. I started off in the weight room being careful of the movements that might affect my back. That day, I thought no one could break my smile. While many people were anxious for me to make a speedy recovery, the voice in my head told me, “Remi, be careful. You can’t do those movements yet.”
But I went against my own intuition, and did the workout as I was told to do. Because of the pressure to recover, the pressure to be the best, and my own competitive drive, I went against my inner voice and hurt my back again — this time, severely. I was miserable when I was told I would be out for the season.
Sitting on the side line, unable to row, was devastating. I knew my attitude had dramatically changed when my professors came up to me, asking me why I wasn’t smiling as always. All of my hard work suddenly felt pointless and the feeling was heartbreaking.
Growing up, I was constantly reminded that nothing in the world comes easy; you have to work for it. Rowing was something I mentally prepared myself for every single day. I was my own motivator. No other person wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted myself to succeed. I was so successful in rowing because I took every practice as a new way to challenge my own potential. So, instead of focusing on the negative thoughts that took over my mind, I started to look at being injured and getting better as a challenge. I was able to take the negative thoughts and prove to myself that I could change the way I thought. I started writing daily in a diary and fi nding quotes to motivate myself to get healthy.
At one point, I was completely disconnected from my teammates and coaches. I missed practices with my team due to physical therapy and my inability to travel to their races.
I was alone and the only people on my side to support me if I were to fall were my athletic trainer and my family, who were a phone call away. Even though I had support from my family and trainer, they were not the one’s making my decisions; I was.
I learned quickly that the only person you can rely on in life is yourself. You must believe in your decisions and act for a better life. You cannot blame others for what was thrown in your path to success. Every bump is placed there on purpose to help you develop as an individual. When life gets hard, I remember what Alicia Rosita, a sports blogger, said, “Don’t judge me for trying and failing. Guess what? I’m still trying.”
I am now a junior at NSU and guess what? I’m still trying. In life, you can never give up on yourself. So, after being out for an entire season, and watching my teammates win the NCAA Division II Rowing National Championship, I knew I had to work hard to prove to myself just how capable I am.
And, that’s exactly what I did. I trained all summer, continued to strengthen my back as well as my mental focus, and channeled all of my energy toward the goal of being the best that I could be. I did all of those things for myself. I told myself this year that I will be in the varsity lineup winning a national championship ring. I know what I’m capable of, and I know I can push my own limits. So, NSU, prepare to see the NSU rowing team win the Division II title again — only this time, I’ll be in the boat.