Ovi Kabir, freshman in political science, wanted to continue his rowing career while he was in college. So when he discovered UT had a rowing crew, Kabir was naturally interested.
“When I found out that Tennessee had a crew team for men, I had to join,” Kabir said. “I asked around, and I saw them on Ped Walkway. And they had an (info) session there, and they were so welcoming. I had to join.”
After Kabir started rowing his first weekend, he realized he loved the sport as much as he did in high school and knew he had to stay on the team.
Not to be confused with the official Women’s Rowing Team, the Tennessee Crew is a club that combines women and men.
Greg Maynard, now coaching at Baylor University, founded the club in 1972, making Tennessee Crew one of the oldest clubs on campus.
“We basically have four and eight person shells (the rowing boats), not including our coxswains (the person who steers the boat, directing and encouraging the rowers during the races). You sit all in a row, and you have your oars and just go,” Sarah Burleson, senior in child and family studies and the current president of Tennessee Crew, said.
“It’s weird because you row backwards and most people think you can see when we cross the finish line, but we don’t until we already cross it.”
Competing against other SEC schools and non-conference universities, the Tennessee Crew is a competitive machine.
The squad usually participates in about three or four competitions a semester. In fact, the Tennessee Crew is currently preparing for the upcoming Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta, a big competition in Oak Ridge this weekend that will include several clubs from SEC schools.
These competitions are exhausting affairs. The Tennessee Crew arrives at the competition site at 6 a.m. and races all day. It sounds tough, But Kabir said the competitive nature of the club has been the highlight of his experience on the crew this year.
“Even though it’s a club team, it’s been interesting to see how competitive UT Crew is,” Kabir said. “We have been going against D1 teams and beating them. It’s a really awesome experience, and I would definitely encourage anyone who’s wondering about Crew to come out and try with us. Everyone on the team is so welcoming, and it’s a fun sport where you can get a good workout if you want. And everyone looks good in spandex … most of everyone, maybe not me, but most of everyone.”
Passing the presidency onto Kabir, Burleson’s time as president has been both challenging and rewarding. Burleson has watched Tennessee Crew almost double in size from the fall to the Spring.
“I was trying to get everyone into boats, on the water, working with everyone’s schedules, and that’s been the hardest thing,” Burleson said. “Likewise, making sure that everyone gets the time they need to prepare for the regattas (rowing meets), the entry fees, just keeping track of all the logistics stuff.”
With the drive that the Tennessee Crew has, the upcoming SIRA Regatta can prove fruitful for the team, increasing its medal count and possibly a place in Nationals in Philadelphia later on in June.
“It’s an amazing sport,” Kabir said. “You got to try it because when you’re rowing and see the sunset down on the water, there's no other experience like that.”