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Finding success both on and off the water through rowing together

February 20, 2019

“Do you want to make a fast boat, or do you want to make a boat go fast?” That was the question former Queen’s University Varsity Rowing coach John Armitage asked my teammates and I at the beginning of each season. From the first day of freshman training camp to the last race of my senior year, it was understood that we were not there to simply make the cut, but rather to continue to push for success—and speed—with each stroke, at every practice, and inspire those around us to do the same.

Success in a crew boat is only possible if each rower is as inspired, dedicated and passionate as the next. Oars must enter and exit the water in one swift, strategic motion. Hands and bodies must swing in unison. The crew must truly focus on “rowing together”—an attitude that I was looking to maintain when transitioning from my athletic to my professional career; and a concept I have gladly learned is alive and well at NATIONAL.

This focus on team mentality and collaborative attitude was obvious at NATIONAL Toronto’s recent 2019 kick-off meeting and reminded me a lot about what it means to be part of a rowing crew. Together, along with members of NATIONAL’s executive team, the office discussed its “race plan” for 2019 and set its sights on gold for both its clients and its own crew. Inspired by my colleagues’ drive to win, I reflected on how NATIONAL has become my new crew.

Here’s how NATIONAL embodies the mentality of “rowing together”:

1. Commitment to learning—and coaching

Often made up of individuals of various levels of experience, it is important for a team to support an environment of both learning and coaching. At NATIONAL, there is ample opportunity for junior staff to learn from seasoned vets, who in turn continue to teach the agency’s leadership teams what is needed to ignite their team’s passion and further its success.

2. Identifying teammate’s strengths

With nine seats in a crew boat, each rower brings a different strength. Identifying this early on in the season is important. NATIONAL is quick to identify the skills and capabilities of its team members and uses them strategically, complementing one another, to get the job done well. Team members are also always encouraged to explore their interests beyond their current strengths, helping the team to grow even stronger and reach its ultimate potential.

3. Perseverance to push to the finish line

I would be lying if I said that 5 a.m. wake-up calls for practice in the frigid, Kingston wind did not sometimes deter my motivation to get to the boathouse. In those times of doubt, when I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge, it was the perseverance and determination of my teammates that got me out of bed and on the water. A tenacious group, my NATIONAL teammates have continued to inspire me in similar ways, conscious that our hard work pushes us closer and closer to success each day—regardless of the adversities faced—and I definitely don’t mind that this team doesn’t require 5 a.m. alarms.

Just like Coach John always said, success (and speed) will only come for those willing to do all they can for their teammates—a mentality I am maintaining well past my final race, with the help of my new team at NATIONAL.


Written by Alexandra Abdelwahab

Stepping out to step up
February 18, 2019