What it is like to join a college sport

By Gabrielle Cellucci
May 13, 2021

Women's Rowing team practicing for their upcoming race. Photo by Coach Scott Gavin-Wisniewski
Women's Rowing team practicing for their upcoming race. Photo by Coach Scott Gavin-Wisniewski

I have been playing sports for most of my life. Beginning with pee-wee soccer when I was 5 years old to softball when I was in elementary school to basketball in middle school to field hockey, which I played from the time I was 10 years old all the way through being a senior in high school. However, despite all these sports that I played and loved, I never really pictured myself playing sports in college.

Gabrielle Cellucci (left) with her mom right before her senior night game in high school. Photo provided by Lori Cellucci

So when the time came for me to go off to college, I thought I would be content with not playing a sport. I thought it would be easy not having to attend practices or worry about missing class because of games. 

For the first few months of college, it was nice to not have to worry about playing a sport. However, as more time passed, I began to really miss playing on a sports team, especially field hockey. I tried getting involved in other hobbies such as painting to occupy my time, but I still missed playing a sport. 

I think what I missed the most was being part of a team and having a team bond. I missed being able to joke around with teammates during practices and blasting music on the bus on our way to games and having team dinners together. 

I thought I would be fine with giving up being an athlete when I got to college, but I was wrong. I was not ready to give it up. I tried to join a club field hockey team, but the practices were inconsistent and it seemed like most of the time that no one really wanted to be there. Long story short, the club field hockey team did not work out so well. 

At the beginning of my junior year, I decided to attend the involvement fair mostly to take pictures for The Loquitur, but I also decided to browse around to see what kind of clubs were available on campus. As I was walking past each table, I decided to stop at the women’s rowing table. I talked with the captain of the rowing team, Rachel Hetrick, about what kind of experience was needed to join the time, since I had no experience rowing before. She told me that I did not need any experience since they were always accepting walk-ins. I decided to sign and give the team a try. 

Whenever I played a sport in the past, the practices were always in the afternoon, so it took a while to get used to 6 a.m. practices. That was my first struggle. My next struggle was getting back in shape to row in the spring semester. At this point, I have gone about two years without playing a sport, so I have not exercised as much as I was when I did play a sport. We spent the majority of the fall semester working out in the gym on the ergs (better known as rowing machines). My final struggle was actually getting used to rowing a boat, especially since this was the first water sport that I ever played. 

And so returned the daily practices, the soreness after an extra hard practice, the exhaustion from waking up so early, the frustration from not being to do an exercise right at practice and the balance of trying to keep up with school and a social life outside of my sport. Yet, despite the frustration and exhaustion, it felt so good to finally be part of a team again. Almost everyone was a walk-on like me and was a first-time rower. It felt a bit weird at first to be a walk-on, especially as a junior, but my teammates were very welcoming towards me joining the rowing team.

(Left to right) Juliana Hopwood, Gabrielle Cellucci, Abby West, Emma Valentine, Chloe Griffiths, Jess D’Angelo and Caitlynne Zelazny
Photo by Coach Scott Gavin-Wisniewski.

Quite honestly, I have never been closer to my teammates than my teammates on the rowing team. The rowing team is a much smaller team than what I am used to being a part of, but I think that is also why I am closer with my rowing teammates compared to the teammates I have had in the past. We encourage and push one another to do better each practice. It also helped to have such a great coach and assistant coaches as well to help me feel welcomed to the rowing team. 

Now that my first rowing season has come to an end, I cannot wait for the fall when we can start rowing again!

Gabrielle Cellucci

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