Peter Awad ’15
Residence: 41 Park Street
How did you start rowing?
I actually decided to walk on to the team when I got here. I had played football and lacrosse and swam in high school, and everyone had said to me that I had the body for swimming or rowing. I had gotten tired of swimming so I started to think that maybe rowing in college would be a fun thing to do. I started rowing in the fall and found some success with it and a great freshman crew so I stuck with it.
Had you come in as part of the freshman novice program?
So I decided I wanted to row while in high school, a decision that is not usual for most novices. Most are completely novices to the sport, they are told the first week of school that it is this thing they should try. I knew what I was getting into but I had not done this sport in high school at all, so I guess I was a prepared novice, you could say. I mentally knew where I was going to go, but I had not done it at all.
How important do you think bringing in freshman novices has been?
Even large programs – Harvard, Brown, Yale – have had this walk-on model simply because rowing is not a very large sport at the high school level. It is very capital-intensive, it is isolated to a lot of prep schools. This is changing, so maybe in 10 or 15 years we will see fewer walk-ons, but I do think it provides a unique culture to the team. It brings a lot more youthful energy to the sport, whereas a lot of people who are recruited for their sports have played them for a very long time and at very high levels. They are more likely to get burned out in the sport. By contrast, a big group of walk-on freshmen provides a different type of feel. Freshman year is, in a way, a grace period before you get on the varsity squad where you get to spend a lot of time rowing before focusing on those finer details.
How is captaining both the same guys with whom you have spent the last four years and freshmen to whom you are teaching the sport?
The way our program is set up, it’s a very natural dynamic. There is a freshman coach and a varsity coach. On the one hand, we are not necessarily teaching the novices the rowing except for when in the offseason we teach them how to train. Some of these guys have never played sports before or they were just playing sports at the high school level. We want to teach them how to take care of their bodies: nutrition, training, all that type of stuff. It’s pretty natural for a lot of us who came in as novices. You really have to pick it up quickly, but the best teachers are the best students. The kids who really paid attention when they were novices, the ones who were really students of the sport, this is a natural task for them to pass it on to the next set.
Was there any particular point during your freshman season where you knew this was going to be a central component of your collegiate career?
We had an incredibly tight group of guys and two full boats, which amounts to about 20 guys. That fall was really successful. We won everything that we raced. In the winter, we were really excited to hit the training for the spring where we went undefeated until the last race of the year when we lost by .8 seconds. That was a really formative experience for a lot of those guys and that is why so many of us are still on the team as seniors. Almost every single guy from that top boat and most of the guys from the second boat stayed on the team. That’s against the norm; you’re always going to lose some people. A lot of the guys found the second level of the sport beyond just the results: the incredibly close tight-knit aspect of a sport like rowing.
What kept everyone together for the next four years?
When you think about how to make it through the gauntlet that is Williams, the most important thing is having some sort of home base, however you define that. That could be your entry, your team, your club; everybody expresses this in a different way… A lot of guys race not because they want to win gold medals but because they care a lot for the guys on their boat. They join because they want to be a part of a group that really cares for each other and goes through the pain together. I think that is a point of stability. I think this keeps everyone straight with homework and everything. When you know you have practice everyday and that you have these obligations, this forces you to really work around that. We have guys from a lot of majors at this school, and we really have resources for everyone when it comes to choosing professors or needing help on a problem set. I know the school offers a lot of resources, but the team really helps you get through everything.
What role will rowing have in your life after Williams?
One of the benefits of rowing is that, like tennis or golf, it has the ability to be a lifelong sport. It’s not harsh on your joints and you can do it at variable pressure. You see these 70-year-old guys out rowing, and they are not going fast, but they can be on the water and enjoy it. I would love to do that. I have also spent a couple summers coaching rowing and that was a really rewarding experience so I could see doing that as well.