Where do I belong?

Emma Attig, Reporter

In high school it can be difficult for some teenagers to find where you belong. For some, athletics/sports contribute to finding your people. It can be hard, and you might even have to try a few different sports. That’s how it was for me.  

After years of attempting to fit into the legacy of my family, playing basketball in the small town of Fletcher, Okla., I found what I truly am meant to do: rowing. But let’s just say it wasn’t an easy path. It’s not that I hate the game, it’s the fact I grew out of it, and experienced bad coaches which diminished my outlook on the sport of basketball.  

I started playing basketball from the time I could remember, and my mother was my first coach at the YMCA. From there I played until I was in third grade. In the fourth grade, I decided I wanted to try out softball, because that was what my best friend at the time was doing. 

It is fair to say that didn’t go well. 

After that I went back to the beloved game of basketball and along with that always came track and field. In my small-town school, I could only start playing for the school team in fifth grade.  

I played for the school team until the middle of my eighth-grade year when I moved to Oklahoma City. I tried to keep up with going to the gym in online school, to prepare for trying out for the HCP Girls Basketball team. It’s fair to say that I didn’t like just shooting and working drills by myself. So, I fell out of the game. I still attempted to try out for the team but couldn’t follow through to even go to the last tryout practice. I found that the game wasn’t the same. That I didn’t love it like I used to, and neither did my mental health.  

I spent yet another period playing no athletics, and it was horrible. I felt myself falling back into the hole that I had just clawed my way up from. So, I was given an ultimatum by my mother. She said you choose a sport or I will. I took me a while, but finally I did.  

I went to my first rowing practice on September 30, 2021., at OKC Riversport. It was a whole new world to me, and I was nervous. I didn’t know how to act or even where to stand. I had never been in a boathouse, picked up an oar, seen a boat like that or saw an erg (ergometer). I didn’t know my starboard from my port (just a little rowing humor).  

As soon as I walked into the boathouse, I was warmly greeted by everyone. I still felt out of place, but I was somewhere I had never been before, so that was to be expected. Everyone was kind and welcoming. I got on the launch with Coach Mary Anderson, and we set off. And the moment I saw them push their boat off the dock, I was in love. At the end of the practice Coach Mary asked if I would be back, and I told her absolutely.  

A week later I was getting thrown straight into a boat. My first practice and I still didn’t know how to row, or erg, and I had never gotten to experience “the tank,” like the other girls, because I joined late. I was so nervous. But sure enough, by the end of practice I had learned how to do the basics!  

By December, I was getting moved up from Novice to U-19. I was astonished. After only rowing for a few months, I didn’t expect to be moved up when they announced the groups for winter training. In January, I took part in the OKC Indoor Rowing Champs, and placed in all three of my events.  

The moment I walked into the boathouse till now has not been easy with my athletics but it has been unconditional support from my coaches Sarah Gehrke, Mary Anderson and Sierra Cydrus. They constantly check up on their athletes, from how our piece was to how we are doing mentally and physically. The coaches know and continue to inform us that success isn’t a straight line. That we are going to have bad days. They just ask how we are going to change it, if we want to fix it and to not let it get into our head.  

Rowing isn’t about the hard training, the blisters, the torture device of the erg, windy days, lifting weights, eating healthy or traveling. It’s the calming feeling of when you are on the water and you close your eyes and you feel the clarity of your mind. It’s the relief and excitement you feel when you pass through the finish line. It’s the accomplishment you feel when you finish an erg piece or you PR. It’s the family and the encouragement. 

The opportunities, family, role models, friends and guidance that has been given to me through rowing is something I am beyond thankful for. The hope that everyone can find their place, and something they love; just as I have.