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One crew, eight rowers, 32 brains... Wait a minute. How many brains?

This article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. There’s a rowing race coming up for the brand-new crew I coach at Southern Oregon University. We don’t yet know when, where, or whom we will race. But the answers to these questions matter enormously because they will probably define the nature of this team. An eight-oared shell can become a glorious community more powerful than the sum of its parts. Not just the strokes fall in unison, but heart rate, breathing, and more transcendent rhythms that science is just beginning to measure. To achieve this blessed state requires a goal. So the question becomes: What regatta will offer the perfect amount of possibility to focus their hearts, minds, and guts so that their spirits soar, their muscles sing, and their shell seems to leap out of the water and fly? Good question. But at this moment I’ve got bigger concerns. I have come to realize that I don’t know how to row. Sure, I’ve got credentials. Twenty-two years ago I made a U.S. Olympic team. I’ve won international medals and currently hold an age-group world record. I’ve w …

Stephen Kiesling is editor in chief of S&H. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.


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