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Men’s Crew | Men’s crew puts early-morning practices to bed

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 03:04


When most people think college crew, they think early-morning practices — and for years, 5 a.m. practices were the norm at Tufts. Now, that tradition is over. 

This past fall, the Jumbos changed their schedule so they could practice in the afternoon instead of the morning. So far, the decision has stuck.

“In rowing, having practice at five in the morning is an element of special pride and tradition,” senior Chris Park said. “However, when we realized that we were sacrificing athletes’ sleep to an extent that made it hard for them to keep up with academics and performance, we made the decision to change our program to accommodate two afternoon practices a week.”  

The system worked well in the fall because of a small roster and small number of schedules to accommodate.  Increased numbers this spring have made things slightly more difficult, but while 5 a.m. practices ensure full team attendance by avoiding conflicts, the team is committed to keeping the new arrangement.

Whether it will continue beyond this season remains to be seen. 

“It’s really up to [the] captains next year and how the guys will feel about doing all early-morning practices,” Park said.

As much as anything, the change was made so that the team could get more of what every college student wants: sleep. 

“The reason why schools like MIT and West Point — where students are allegedly getting fewer hours of sleep due to rigorous academic scheduling — suffer during in-season performances is partly due to the fact that they are not getting a healthy amount and regularity of sleep required to perform at 100 percent,” Park said.

  The tradition of early-morning practices dates back to the early years of competitive rowing.  In English rivers, where trade and transportation dominated the waters, competitive races were held at dawn to ensure that they would not be hindered by boat traffic. For Tufts, that’s hardly a concern.

“The traffic on the Malden is sparse, and so we haven’t been necessarily keeping up with this tradition for its original functional utility,” Park said. “Rather, because our coaches have full-time jobs and transportation issues to consider, practices were usually held early in the morning, before classes and work began.”

Everyone has chipped in to help make the system work.

“The head coach is willing and committed to the idea of a healthier environment for his athletes. The team captains and coxswains work together and put in the time to come up with flexible and workable schedules, [and] a strong consensus is formed among teammates,” Park said.  

Unsurprisingly, the move to eliminate 5 a.m. workouts has been popular among the rowers.  

“It’s helpful getting more sleep,” junior Kyle Flood said. “With a normal schedule, your body can be fully prepared for training and be more focused on the task at hand. Going to practices after class means you don’t have to keep reminding yourself of impending coursework. You can just concentrate on rowing.”

Ultimately, the Jumbos decided to sacrifice a long-held convention in favor of their well-being. 

“In the end, it is a story about how a group united in a common purpose can engineer an environment that is more efficient for the team,” Park said.

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