By TESSA CATE
On Friday, March 18, the University of Mary Washington’s crew team held their practice on Ball Circle rather than on the water.
Multiple erg machines (a type of rowing simulator) were set up on Ball Circle from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m.. for the team’s “Ergathon” fundraiser in which rowers took 30 minute turns on the machines, hoping to receive donations in support of their hard work and give passersby a little insight into the strenuous world of rowing.
“The money goes [towards] buying equipment for the team and goes to helping the team out with different expenses,” said sophomore crew team member Brian Lee.
The crew team’s funding took a rough blow when they were stripped of their varsity status and reclassified as a club team in 2014. Since then, the team has been awarded team status, a step up from club.
“Team status is basically varsity status but without funding,” said sophomore crew team member Kyle Moran. “The lack of funding causes us to pay out of pocket for our own activities, so we have to be nitpicky now about what we do and what we train for.”
In addition to funding, access to training specialists and practice spaces have been reduced, forcing the team to make the necessary adjustments and take matters into their own hands.
“We had to go out and find a coach for ourselves – the school doesn’t hire them,” said junior crew team member Theo Doughty. “We don’t get access to trainers [either]. I think we get access to someone who comes in on Friday mornings at [6 a.m.]… And even then, we have practice at that time… So if you get hurt, you’re kind of in trouble.”
The loss of funding and support hit the crew team hard in terms of morale and their relationship with the school.
“Being demoted makes it seems like the school doesn’t really care about us. We all really love what we do and it’s really discouraging when we’re being put down,” Doughty said. “I think collectively all of us were pretty upset. For me at least, the fact that rowing was a varsity sport was one of the reasons why I came here.”
Though the team no longer holds the varsity title and status they once had, their work ethic and drive are unwavering.
“The actual year they demoted us to club status, we had one of the most successful seasons among any sport at Mary Washington and actually took the title for best club that year,” Moran said. “The school demoted us, and we did improve and [are] improving… We’ve had some of the best erg scores this year that we’ve had, to my knowledge, in years past.”
In order for the team to maintain this standard of success, they desperately need funds.
Throughout the year, they hold multiple fundraisers including Rent-A-Rower and the Ergathon, relying on the UMW community to aid them in funding their sport.
A crew team’s expenses can add up very quickly and can include uniforms, transportation, equipment and maintenance.
The sport is not known as a major spectator sport and does not bring in as much money as it shells out.
“I think that’s what is the determining factor for the school demoting us,” Doughty said when asked why he believes the team lost its varsity status.
“I don’t really know the full story, so I can’t say exactly why, but that’s how it feels and that’s how I think almost anyone on the team would feel.”