Novice year is a rite of passage at Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA). Every rower goes through it, but everyone has a different experience. Trish Miller describes her novice year as one that changed her life.
Miller currently serves as Activities Coordinator and teaches Leadership classes at Evergreen Middle School, where she previously taught Science and Fitness. In 2000, a fellow Fitness teacher and previous SRA rower asked Trish if she had ever tried rowing. It took Miller some time to work up the courage to try it, but after years of her colleague’s pestering, in July of 2008, Miller decided to give rowing a shot. Miller was hesitant to join because she knew nothing about rowing and had never been good at sports. She remembered, “I tried every sport known to man growing up and I was terrible at all of them,” but she knew she needed something. “At that point I just needed something for myself. I had a two-year old son, and I needed something for fun and fitness—something on my own where I wasn’t anyone’s mom, wife, or teacher. I needed something for me. That’s initially why I started.” Trish completed Learn to Row (LTR) I and LTR II before she found out she was pregnant and had to stop rowing. After her daughter was born, it took her two years to come back to rowing, but she just couldn’t get it out of her head.
In the spring, Tom Woodman asked Trish to seat race for Opening Day. At that point she had not even been rowing for a full year. “We had one mixed eight going. When he asked me to seat race, I didn’t realize I was actually competing to go. I thought I was just helping the experienced team seat race.” She laughs, thinking about it. “I really knew nothing about this sport. I had never seat raced before. But somehow, I won my seat race and that May I was able to race Opening Day. It was incredible to be given the chance to experience that level of competition so early on.”
One of her favorite rowing memories happened later that year at another prestigious race: The Head of the Charles Regatta. Miller opened up about everything that went wrong that day in October 2012. “There were major equipment issues. We rented a boat from CRI. Their boathouse was beyond the finish line, so had we to row about 6,000 meters through boat traffic to get to the start line. We were not even passing the finish line area when we realized we had lost our skeg.” She talked about how she wondered if they would even make it to the starting line. They saw another CRI crew who had finished rowing and asked to borrow their boat thinking what could be the harm in asking? The CRI crew agreed, and both crews swapped places on the water!
Miller admitted she lacked confidence and was afraid to try new things before rowing. She said she did not put faith in herself to rise to a challenge. “Now I welcome the challenge. In the last two years especially, I’ve been better about trying new things, testing my limits, and seeing what I am capable of. It all started here (SRA),” Miller said.
Miller, like many other rowers in our SRA stories, had some advice to give. She encourages new or inexperienced rowers to trust others. To her, trusting teammates is more important than technique. “Trust in a boat is the one factor that will make or break a race and will make or break a team. Always assume the best intent of your teammates. If you look at our 5AM women at a start line, we are not the biggest women or strongest women, but we absolutely trust and support one another, and I think that’s the magic. That is what makes us a winning team—that we will support each other to the end.”
Miller went on to say, “I was extremely lucky to have such an incredible novice experience, but even without all the excitement, I would’ve kept coming back. I was hooked from that first month. This is a lifetime sport for me. I think it’s because the sport itself, and the people who do it, won’t ever allow me to get complacent. You can never be perfect at it. The sport is always changing, depending on the race, the crew, the conditions. The challenges are endless. You have to keep pushing and learning, stretching yourself and growing. My closest friends are rowers, people I met at SRA. And I love them for the same reasons that I love the sport. They push me to continually strive for more than I ever imagined I was capable of. I’m not afraid to try new things anymore. I have SRA and my teammates to thank for that. Any boat, any seat, anytime, anywhere. I’m in. Bring it on.”