No matter who you are, you will always be a foreigner to someone. This is something interesting to keep in mind because at one point in your life, you will train or row with someone from a different place. Here are 3 things I’ve learned from rowing with foreigners.
Find the balance
Having a dual nationality has put me in this situation multiple times. I learned how to row in France, but then moved to the U.S. where I was a foreigner during my first year on the team. With this type of culture mix, we can easily find different approaches to training, technique, and racing. No one is completely right or wrong, but there is a balance to be found. Coming up with a way to understand one another and compromising is the most efficient method to make the boat go fast. For me, I was able to race a double with the only other rower who knew how to scull. We were on every podium, and it worked out very well.
Accept who they are
It is always exciting for a team to accept someone new into their environment, and usually leads to a stigma: that foreigner is better. You constantly hear U.S. crews saying how the European/Oceanic rowers on their team are on a different level. Yes, if you’ve been recruited to be on a team from a different place, you’re most likely good, but if you just show up, it might not be the same case. Even if those rowers aren’t better, you can still learn something interesting from them. Appreciate their level of performance and apply then apply a sense of balance.
Understand & be proactive
As the years have gone by, I’ve rowed and raced with multiple South Africans. Before even talking about rowing, the interaction is very important. As a junior rower, learning about their approach to training, understand their way of living, and hearing their ambitions was similar to discovering a whole new world to me. Coming from different parts of this planet does not mean you cannot be friends and teammates. Rowing-wise, language can be a very difficult obstacle because not everyone speaks English, or French in this case. Coming up with a way to communicate and being patient are key ways to keep progressing together. As the foreigner, you should always try to incorporate yourself into your new environment and not fight it.
The best part of rowing with foreigners is building a great relationship with someone who lives in a different country. This gives you an awesome opportunity to travel somewhere new, row with new people, and yourself become a foreigner.