You Can Row With Us (Story)

Did you know rowers row backward? I’m a coxswain and the only person in the boat that faces forward. Here’s the catch - I have to look past all of the rowers in the boat to see. The rowers can only be successful if they put their faith and trust in me, and I can only be successful if I do the same.

My job is to sit in the back of the boat and steer while I simultaneously encourage, correct, and cheerlead the rowers through the practice or race. The more I steer or move around the harder I make their job even though doing so would make my job easier. We have to be willing to work as one crew and not as individuals who happen to be in the same boat. I look ahead of the rowers to spot the challenges and obstacles that are always in our way and navigate us around them. I nudge my teammates to dig deep and ignore the voices in their heads telling them it hurts; that it’s too much; it’s too hard; it can't be done, and convince them to keep going.

Do we win every race? Of course not.

Do we win most of them? Nope!

But every single day we know that love wins, words and actions matter, and providing a safe space to land for those who need it is why we’re here.

My club Chicago Rowing Union is the only rowing club in the midwest that is on record as having zero-tolerance for homophobic bigotry. That matters: representation matters: safe spaces matter: lines in the sand matter! I’m the embodiment of privilege: a straight, white, cis-gendered woman. I’ve never had to come out to anyone in my life. Who I am is considered the default. There's a question rowers ask themselves: "Will this help the boat?" I want to live in a world just like my boat. Is what you're about to say or do going to make the world a better place? Who I partner with and who you partner with shouldn't matter. For me, that's a goal worth working toward. In rowing, as in life, when we place the welfare of the group ahead of our individual achievements we make bigger strides that are much more impactful.

  • Melissa Miller from Chicago Rowing Union


Check out the Mean Girls inspired tee we created with Melissa from CRU that calls for equality. Get yours today!