How to Be an Athlete (or, Why You Should Volunteer With CARP)

By Talia Linneman

What is an athlete? If you want to know, spend some time with CARP, the Capital Adaptive Rowers.

First, an athlete has an indomitable spirit. They eat obstacles for breakfast. Not only are CARP athletes physically tough, but they are mentally strong as creative problem solvers. Every rower has to deal with gear that doesn’t work auto-magically. CARP’s gear is still being invented, both as the industry develops adaptive products, and as coaches and athletes experiment with gear that was likely made for someone with a slightly different body or situation.

For example, CARP received a state-of-the-art fixed seat for a PR-2 rower (that is, someone who rows entirely with arms and body), from a generous donor. But it didn’t quite fit our boats. So, CARP athlete Shannon bravely modified it—with a hack saw, and no instructions. As a volunteer, I sometimes go sculling with an athlete who only rows the port side, so steering is a workout for my left arm and my brain! Almost every week, athletes and coaches are trying out different equipment and techniques to maximize everyone’s performance and to get the most out of the sport.

Second, we all have to define what victory means to us. Most of us aren’t going to the Olympics (although some CARP athletes are nationally competitive and could, in fact, be training for the Olympics). So, the meaning of “ultimate victory” isn’t obvious. It’s even less clear for adaptive rowers, because accessible competitions are still being developed. When CARP athlete Dammy wanted to race a single, CARP’s leadership had to research whether that was an option for someone who is completely blind. Fortunately, it was possible, and he partnered with a sighted athlete who gave him directions for navigation through a headset while rowing—really fast—in another single. (He won, BTW.)

Sometimes, victory means showing up to practice. Victory can also be having the courage to admit that, as an athlete, you need rest and recovery. The stakes tend to be higher, and the demands more frequent, for adaptive rowers, but all athletes take responsibility for their health, whether that means going hard or going home.

Finally, athletes are on a team. On the one hand, no one can take a stroke for another person, and no one can build muscle in another person’s body. So in that sense, the moment of victory is theirs alone. But all the moments leading up to that require cooperation. Even the coach, Jai, knows that he needs his rower’s perspective in order to strategize. I once tried sculling as a PR-1 rower, in a fixed seat with a back, using only arms and shoulders. It was an eye-opener. I didn’t know I’d need to do subtle things, like tapping down faster than I would with a layback. The coach knew that from watching and listening to his PR-1 rowers, and from doing the same himself. It’s a team sport, in many ways.

As a volunteer, I often carry boats, which many CARP rowers can’t do. That’s not fundamentally different from the way that I can’t carry the eight myself at sweep practice. The teamsmanship of CARP is my favorite part.  

So, all the reasons that I personally want to be an athlete are in high relief at CARP:

  • to make an effort that I can be proud of
  • to have moments victory and flow, and
  • to be part of a team.

If that sounds good to you, and if you can carry a boat—or even if you can’t—then you should volunteer with CARP!

Learn how to volunteer!

Purchase a CARPe Diem shirt!

Donate to CARP!

CARPe Diem: Thinking Inclusively

By Michele Woolbert, CARP Volunteer Coordinator

The “CARPe Diem” series of posts celebrates the Capital Adaptive Rowing Program’s 10th anniversary. Get involved by volunteering or donating to CARP today!

Six years ago, I moved to the Washington, DC, area with no intention of joining a rowing team. But as most rowers can attest to, even after your worst practice, seeing water that looks like glass just calls you back to the sport. It was after months of day-dreaming about being back on the water that I started doing some research on what teams were around the area. I don’t quite remember how I landed on Capital’s website but something struck my eye: the adaptive rowing program. I had vaguely remembered seeing some adaptive events at races I had been to in the past but hadn’t paid them much attention and I really didn’t know much about the sport but I thought “why not?”

Six years later, it turns out that signing up to volunteer for the Capital Adaptive Rowing Program (CARP) was the best decision I’ve made since moving to the DC area. Not only have I been able to get back into a sport that I love, but I have learned a new side of it, a side that I’ve found so much more inspirational and educational.

While the coaching staff and athlete roster has changed many times, there has been one constant, the attitude of the team. Each athlete has their own story, their own motivation, and their own overwhelmingly strong determination to succeed. Working side-by-side with rowers and coaches to figure out how to get each athlete on the water and competing (if they wish) has challenged me to think about alternative solutions to the everyday issues all rowers face. I’ve been given the opportunity to learn how to think inclusively on a very practical level and see where I might be able to make improvements to benefit others. This thought process doesn’t only apply at the boathouse, either. It has made me more comfortable knowing when to jump in and offer assistance to others in my daily life, all while recognizing that “disabled” doesn’t necessarily mean unable. The day I started volunteering with the team, I remember being very unsure of what I was getting into, but feeling like I might be able to help some people. Little did I know that CARP would introduce me to some of my closest friends, allow me to meet actual heroes, and teach me some big life lessons on how I can make the world just a little better.

I’m honored to say that I was asked by the team three years ago if I’d be the Volunteer Coordinator. I gladly took on the challenge and appreciate every day that I am able to help out the team that has given me so much more than I could have imagined. It’s re-inspired my love of the sport and is a constant reminder of what can be accomplished if only you maintain the right mind-set. My sincerest thank you goes out to the CARP athletes and coaches for allowing me to be a part of this team. Congratulations and CARPe Diem!!


CARP and the Ugly Duckling

Hi, my name is Sherman Anderson. I have been a part of CARP for almost three years now. I joined CARP when I was in a rough place in my life. My experience with CARP and with the larger Capital program has been life-changing. I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to share the blessing that CARP and the rowing has been in my life.

Because of my age, I took physical education courses, running and doing the best that I could like everyone else with no accommodation and never even thinking to ask. If I remember right, one of my lowest grades ever, in 7th grade, was my PE class because of my slow mile time. Later, in high school, I did the mile-and-a-half at our school’s track. I have a memory of walking around the track doing what I was assigned to do, finishing in something like 15–18 minutes.  

To share a little bit more about myself,  I have a genetic form a Cerebral Palsy. Because it is genetic, and no one else in my family had similar symptoms, it was hard to deal with growing up. When I was born, the idea of genetic forms of palsy was not even a possibility. The doctors gave me a diagnosis, and said to my parents anything that didn’t hurt me would be okay. With this encouragement, I tried really hard to fit in, to be like everyone else. As you can imagine, growing up it was difficult to be different. 

I spent much of the first 40 years of my life trying to fit in, trying to look like everyone else. What it reminds me of was the story of the Ugly Duckling. I felt like if only I could be like the other ducks around me I could and would be happy. In fact I was so repulsed by the idea of not fitting in, when I was invited to participate in an adaptive skiing activity in college I rejected the invitation and told myself that I wasn’t “like those people.”

Fast-forward twenty plus years, some difficult things have happened to me in my life, and I was searching for meaning for connection.  When I started coming to CARP, I was not thinking that it was the best fit for me. I was searching for maybe another non-water alternative. Coming to CARP, I learned and more importantly began to experience the joy and exhilaration that I had NEVER felt before in my life.  I was able to compete using those parts of my body that were strong, and I knew that with help I could achieve some pretty amazing things. This last week I did a 2000m during practice and I was blown away by the fact that I was able to go 2000m in about 9.52 minutes. The significance of this was not lost on me. Twenty plus years ago to go about that same distance it took me about 18 minutes. Now, with adaptive equipment, with support and encouragement from friends, I was able to finish in half that time.

I still haven’t found my wings yet, I haven’t been able to fly away yet like the ugly duckling from the story, but thanks to CARP I have been able to begin to embrace my difference, to recognize that I am not a duck, that my journey in life can go in a different and rewarding path.  

Something that I found the other day that applies to my experience with CARP is a Japanese saying:   “A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.”

Get involved by volunteering or donating to CARP today!

CARPe Diem—Celebrating 10 Years!

The Capital Adaptive Rowing Program (CARP) is celebrating 10 years! We’ll be featuring stories from athletes, coaches, and volunteers throughout the year. Learn more in last year’s 30for30 post, Capital Adaptive, from the Beginning.

For our inaugural post, a poem by CARP athlete Sarah Davies:

Row Row Row Your Boat
As our CARP Crew claims its first ten Herculean years
Exchanging wheels and canes
for blood, sweat and tears
Exchanging eyes for ears
And tortured limbs coaxed to rid fears
Oars obey charging forth, as each of us tuning our own instrument learn
To command different notes from the struggle it takes to earn
Which makes each one played well on the water or erg worth taking a turn
Each of us hears new music earning individual gains
So we can satisfy and relish just like the rest in the main
Triumphant sculling to celebrate  courage put to the test
Inspired by each new journey while trying our best
The challenges we’ll keep meeting day after day
Remain CARPe DIEM! everybody, one right after the other

It’s the very best way!

Get involved by volunteering or donating to CARP today!

RaceRoundUp: BAYADA Regatta 2018

Some great racing from our CARP athletes at BAYADA Regatta in Philadelphia on August 18. This was our 8th showing at BAYADA, and our most successful yet!

Nine athletes represented Capital in 11 events, bringing home 9 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze medals.

  • PR3 Mix 4+ Final: Gold—Josie Williams (c), Dammie Onafenko, Margaret Rajnic, Dan Longo
  • PR1 M1x Final: Gold—Shannon Franks
  • Composite PR2 M 2x Final: Gold—Sherman Anderson, Madalena Aspiras
  • PR3 1x Mens Age A-B Final: Gold—Dan Longo
  • PR3 M 2x Age D+ Final: Bronze—Chuck Linderman, Thyra Smith
  • PR2 M 1x Final: Gold—Kenneth Marss
  • Composite PR3 2x Mens Cat F+ Final: Silver—Dammie Onafenko, Jeremy Filsell; Fourth—Hal Quayle, Michele Woolbert
  • Racing Invitational PR2/PR3 1x Final: Gold—Dan Longo; Silver—Kenneth Marss; Bronze—Margaret Rajnic
  • PR3 W 1x Final: Gold—Shannon Franks, Kenneth Marss
  • PR2 M 2x Final: Gold—Margaret Rajnic; Silver—Sarah Davies
  • PR2 2x Mixed/Mens Final: Gold—Margaret Rajnic, Dan Longo