Elemental Motivation Part 4: Those Who Raise You Up

The video below is my favorite team motivation video of all time and is quoted throughout the post. I highly recommend watching!


“Every once in a while, it’s good to take a look, inside. A good hard look. So go ahead, peel back the shell and look at your heart. What do you see?” The summer of 2010, I found myself looking inward, looking for answers. I was looking in to who I was, what I wanted, and where to turn. Throughout my four previous years of college, I had always had a team to call my own, my family, my home. It was the lifeblood of my college experience. I dreaded returning to the University as I felt I could not return to the group that had been so fundamental to my being over the past four years. Our fourth part part of Elemental Motivation Series will focus on the group I turned to and how a team can raise up the individual.

“Sure you’ll fail, you’ll fall, you’ll come within an inch of your life, and you will triumph. I know you will.” Upon returning to campus for that last fall in Central Pennsylvania, I summoned myself to a musty classroom filled with unfamiliar faces. Leaders of the group spoke with unfamiliar terms such as: port, starboard, bow, coxswain, catch, erg, and more. It was a whole new world to me as well as a new team and new experience to be had. I had found Penn State Crew. Though I did not know it at the time, I had stumbled upon the greatest team I would ever be a part of. I found myself surrounded by the hardest working, most loving, and most dedicated group of people I had ever met in my life.

“You will become the best there is and it’s because of them… They’re with you, they’ve got your back, they lead you forward, they catch you and lift you, and travel with you to the top. To the summit, the very pinnacle of sport.” As the semester progressed, I quickly began to realize that I had been given exactly what I needed in order to end my college career on a positive note as well as excel my athletic career to new heights. I was engulfed by a group of people who loved me instantly for who I was, regardless of the past and where I came from. From day one, they made it clear that I was now one of them and that carried an immense amount of weight. I have oftentimes heard people tell me that “no one believes in you as much as you believe in yourself”. For the most part, I have found this to be true, however, with Penn State Crew, they helped me to realize anything was possible and fully believed in me.

Rowing the 8

Rowing the 8 with my fellow oarsmen.

“What you have now is stronger and more powerful and blazing with a greater passion than any single heart could muster.” With Penn State Crew, I learned the definition of hard work. I will forever maintain that there is no harder sport than rowing. The 2k test is excruciating, leaving one in a state of fatigue in every sense of the word. After races, my lungs would be on fire, hands bloodied,  legs filled with lactic acid, arms limp, and my body in a state of shock. Not only does crew require physical prowess, but also finesse and power of mind. All those in the boat must work together to row in perfect harmony. Each and every stroke is a perfectly calculated measure with innumerable working parts. This is precisely why those who take on the challenge of crew must be up at 4:30am, every morning, in order to perfect their craft.

I owe much of who I am today as an athlete and person to that wonderful team. As Steve Gladstone says, with crew “there has to be a passion, not a mild interest, but a passion” as well as a complete dedication to the task at hand. I have since taken this mentality into my pursuits of the marathon and Ironman to ensure success in both. Crew has made me realize that my body can take plenty of torment before giving in, it is just a matter of overcoming the mind to take it there. My challenge to you this week is to ask yourself what it really takes to achieve your running goals. Being honest with yourself is often one of the most difficult aspects of training, but also leads to the quickest path to success. Next week, check back (or register your email) for the final installment of The Elemental Motivation Series. You can find previous parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I’d love to hear your stories of those who raise you up whether it be friends, family, teams, etc. Feel free to comment!

Always in Stride,


P.S. We will be back on our regular schedule of Sunday morning posts starting this Sunday!

Penn State Crew Team

The Penn State Crew Team

Quote of the Week – “There has to be a passion,  not a mild interest, but a passion.” – Steve Gladstone

Song of the Week – Will You Be There (Theme from “Free Willy”) – Michael Jackson

Video of the Week – All For One Rowing Video

2 replies
  1. Nate Smith
    Nate Smith says:

    I really like this post, Jack! I’d like to add, though, that sometimes it’s not a group or a team that helps a person find who they really are. Sometimes it can be a single person: a coach, a friend, a teacher, or maybe even a grandmother. Though I can’t say she turned me into a runner, I know I am who I am today, in large part, because of the influence my grandma had on me.


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