The Rowing Experience – Blood, Sweat and lots of Tears of Happiness

6 Aug

Early in October 2013, right at the beginning of my MBA, my fellow teammates and I started a challenge at the Amicitia Rowing Club in Mannheim, which should become one of my very best memories of my year in Mannheim.

None of us had ever rowed before and last year’s victory of the MBS batch 2013 set the standards high to make sure the trophy, which has been passed back and forth between WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and Mannheim for eight years already, stays with us in 2014. We started training inside the boat house and out on the Neckar right away. Class started at 9 am so all MaMBA rowers had to become early birds to make it to school in time. This meant that many of my days would start as early as 6 am, sometimes even earlier.

It is hard to describe what kept us going as outside conditions soon turned into the typical German fall weather with 10 °C and even below. Studying late for classes, then waking up early, running to the boat house half asleep, getting the boats ready and going out on the water were definitely challenges I would not have mastered without my teammates. Especially in moments when it seemed that we would never find a synchronized rhythm, the first blisters and bloody scratch marks on my hands and legs appeared, I asked myself if this is all worth it.

Term one came to an end so quickly that it felt like we had just started yesterday. In the second part of our MBA almost half of the final rowing team went abroad on exchange so we could not train together anymore. We tried to use the various rowing machines at gyms across the planet to work on our speed and rhythm before we eventually reunited in Mannheim at the end of March.

Knowing that the regatta, which would consist of a girls, guys and mixed boat race, was only three months away we realized that it was time for the final boat order and team selection. While the girls boat experienced a shortage of rowers the guys boat had to conduct try-outs to find the best team members. Through the recruitment of another girl, who had also never rowed before and on top of that had to take a train from Frankfurt every morning, the girl’s team was finally set by the end of April. Special thanks to you Melissa. I have rarely seen this kind of sports(wo)manship before and I still have no clue how you made it out of bed at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. On the guys side I was happy to see that the non-selected rowers showed real team spirit and became our coxswains for the race. A coxswain, in case you wonder, is not just sitting in the boat, steering a little bit and shouting at the rowers when he or she feels like it. They are responsible for motivation, coaching and soothing of the sometimes very stressed-out MBA student souls. This should prove especially important in the last phase of our preparation.

At the beginning of June all teams were set and rowing practice took place almost every day. But something was missing. Looking back I think we just did not realize how much we had improved since the beginning and being MBA students who are simply ambitious by nature we kept trying to go / row the extra mile. Although every single team member gave their very best, rowing means that only if everybody is completely in synchronized movement the boat will pick up speed. With all of us being newbies to the sport we needed some professional “technical” support. Luckily we were able to recruit an MBA student from the last batch as a coach, who gave us that last bit needed to excel. Thank you Bilal, you not only brought the right technique but also helped us to keep the spirit high when pressure increased as we approached race day.

July 19. The final day of the race had come. And along with that an event that had to be organized for 120 people from the two schools, program management and other friends and family members. All of this planned and executed by the rowing team and our supporters from the class next to the daily MBA life of BMP pitches, final social project presentations, last classes and exams, as well as job applications and of course the mandatory football World Cup games we enjoyed together as a class.

We decided to race in the order girls, guys, mixed and this turned out to be the right strategy. The only thing I remember of the girls’ race is that we had some trouble as one of the oars got stuck in the middle of the race and how we handled this situation. Here is probably the most important thing about a team that I learned through rowing. Making mistakes is not the point that decides about winning or losing but the team’s spirit is what does. We did not give up when we were falling behind but we started to fight even harder and eventually made it over the finish line just centimeters before the other team.

With this head start into the race the guys’ race would already bring the decision in case we won because the rules said that whichever team wins at least two out of three races gets the cup. And the MaMBA boys left no doubt who was the better team. With a comfortable boat length ahead they crossed the finish line accompanied by the applause of the MBS fans.

This meant that the final race of the mixed boat could become the cherry on the cake of our victory. While half of the class already celebrated the mixed team was informed shortly before the race that in case MBS loses the mixed race the girls team would have to race again as the decision had been so close and apparently there had occurred a misunderstanding at the starting line, which confused some of the rowers.

With that in mind the mixed boat members knew that they were facing another final, and not a fun race, as expected just minutes before. Well, long story short, in the third and last deciding race of the day the mixed boat showed that all our hard work, sweat, frustration and commitment had been well worth it. Without a single mistake, and finally completely synchronized, we crossed the finish line more than three boat lengths ahead of the WHU team.

I think it is needless to say that we celebrated our hard work extensively and I would like to thank my entire class for the great support before, during and after the race. You were the 6th man / woman in our boats.

Special thanks also to the rowing club who showed us the basics, let us use their equipment and fixed it patiently afterwards, when we had no clue what we were doing.

And last but not least thank you Melissa, Tracy, Judit, Val, Ace, Berker, Geoff, Ivan, Chris and Henry for being the best teammates. I think there are no sweeter victories than the ones you work for the hardest. Almost one year of preparation that paid off in the end and seeing a group of strangers that had never rowed before become one team is definitely one of the best memories I will keep from this MBA. I will truly miss our early morning training sessions and will always look back with a big smile at all the fun we had during our one-year rowing challenge at Mannheim Business School.


– Sabrina Armgart, Germany –

Mannheim MBA Class of 2014



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