Indigo catches up with two members of the University Rowing Freshers’ Squad to find out more about their opinions on Durham life, as well as more about their discipline.
Name, college and subject:
Sam Taylor, Hatfield, Criminology.
Digby Walker, Cuth’s, Natural Sciences.
On average, how much of your time does rowing take up per week?
Sam: Just over 30 hours per week in training, but in reality it’s much more. We think about it a lot! If you have a really tough ergo in the evening it takes over your whole day because you’re thinking about it constantly.
Digby: You board the pain train in the morning, for breakfast, lunch and tea, and the ticket master charges you with blood sweat and tears.
Sam: I’ve cried before.
Digby: I’ve cried and been sick.
Sam: We’ve been sick together.
What is the most useful thing DU rowing has taught you for later life?
Sam: Commitments never stop. I’ve had points where I’ve wanted to give up, but it’s the realisation that the people who you do it with also makes an incredible amount of difference. I’ve been injured for the last few months, but I’ve wanted to pull through so that I can be back rowing with my boys!
Digby: We have spoken at great length about the psychology of rowing and how it does translate into later life; I’ve always considered myself to be a strong-minded person, but when I think of that last five hundred metres on the ergo…
Sam: You discover the fact that your mind has limits that are far beyond what you can ever think they are.
Digby: Mike Spracklen, the Canadian Rowing Coach, said that everyone’s got a mental place where they stop, be it a rainy day, a girlfriend, whatever it is… you need to push those boundaries back. You have to push that barrier to just beyond the 2k mark. For example, last weekend, we won our medal by 0.15 of a second.
At this point, the boys go off on a tangent about how statistically they are the most successful fresher squad ever. It is clear how passionate they are about their discipline, as it’s difficult to reign them back in.
Is the worst thing about it the ergos?
Digby: Er… no… I’m not too keen on the whole of it really!
Sam: You know people say it’s a love-hate relationship? The moment it’s over, it’s great and you love it! Then when you start again you hate it with a passion. But if I had to pick the worst thing, it is the ergos… When you’ve got an ergo for an hour, and you’ve got forty-five minutes left and you hurt… And you know you just have to sit there, and realise that every stroke is going to lead to another. It’s just a game of inches, and pushing yourself that inch further.
Digby: You stack up the inches, and then you make a foot, and then a furlong.
Will you be continuing rowing after this year?
Sam: I will be trying to go into the lightweight category, which will be another challenge.
Digby: I went from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’. I was absolutely a ‘no’! I missed spending time with my friends in college, but when I’d offhandedly mention that I was considering quitting, they’d say, ‘What are you doing?’. So, slowly, I came around to the idea. I’ve become so adept at fitting my time around all these billions of hours of rowing, that I’d have to fill the gap with some other university sport to take up my time, and why quit when I enjoy it? Now that it’s summer and you’re racing as well as training, and you can see the results coming into fruition. The fresher’s squad has been amazing.
Sam: I want to carry on because in a way, it is my university experience. If I were to stop I’d lose the bonds that I’ve formed, and I’m not willing to do that. Perhaps next year won’t be as successful, but by our last year, we will have built up a really good group of guys, and I want to be part of the success of the next fresher’s crew leading into the next couple of years.
In your opinion, which college has the best bar? You can’t choose your own.
You’re not allowed to say your own!
Sam: Cuth’s is open a lot, but Castle is my favourite.
Digby: Jimmy Allen’s… Fabio’s.
They’re not college bars…
If you founded your own college, what would you call it?
They both erupt into laughter. Now might be a good time to mention that ‘Hercules’ is Digby’s middle name.
Sam: I would call mine Fabio’s… Or DUBC? That would get around the issue of having rowing friends and college friends!
In which area of the University would you like to see increased funding?
Sam: We saw a Palatinate article about the funding to DUBC, and we felt quite hurt. It asked how we can spend a million pounds just to scrape half a second from someone’s split time.
Digby: That’s the difference between a gold and nothing.
Sam: And we’re talking about the possibility of being in the GB squad or not. And also, they got some of their statistics wrong. We’re actually funded externally as well. We wouldn’t have rowing tanks and other facilities if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re at the top of our game and we can attract other finding.
I would say on a personal note, I can see that given the increase in tuition fees, people can say how science students get more resources, whereas I get less contact time and it can feel like I’m funding other people’s degrees.
But I would like to see more funding for the academic sports side. We need more help for students struggling with their work.
Digby: For people coming straight out of school it’s a big step. If I were struggling, I wouldn’t know who to go to.
Sam: I am struggling. And I haven’t got a clue where to go to in order to fit in my busy lifestyle. I know there is a way for me to get better grades, but I’ve been out of education for quite a while, and there needs to be a support system for the step up between A-Level and a degree. Whereas for rowing, I know exactly who to see if I have a problem.
Digby: The person I would go and see first about anything in University life is Franz.
Franz is the boys’ rowing coach. At this point they tell me that he is a wonderful person who deserves a payrise.
How would you persuade applicants to choose Durham over other universities?
Sam: Durham has the wonderful ability to entrap you – not in an Oxbridge bubble – but just so that you don’t want to leave.
Digby: The college system is absolutely brilliant. It’s a beautiful place, and fantastic that everything is so close together. Friends, college and sport are great. Ultimately, I chose it because of the academic reputation. If it’s petty things like night-life that concern you, you can get a train to Newcastle, but I think Durham is better.
Sam: Everywhere you go, you see people you know, which makes your day so much better!
Klute or Loveshack?
Sam: You do love a Loveshack Wednesday, though.
Digby: That’s true, but I’m a Klute man through and through.
Describe your discipline in 3 words.
Sam: Committed, Sweaty…
Digby: Disciplined… Ergo, water, gym… Pain…
Sam: Yes, definitely pain!
Digby: Right, we get three words each:
If you are involved in a sport or society, and would like to shed some light on it like Sam and Digby, or think that you can provide a different perspective on life in Durham, email Features with ‘Points Of View’ as the subject.
Interview and photograph by Cressida Peever.