Imagine waking up each morning before 6 a.m. to go to practice. Only after three hours of intense practice do you go to class, do your homework, maybe eat some food and then get to bed early enough to wake up and do it all over again. For an entire year. Oh, and you have to pay good money to do this, too.
Senior Kevin Alschuler doesn’t hide the fact that life on the Michigan men’s crew team is hard.
“It’s very similar to what students go through in the ROTC program,” Alschuler said. “Then again, we have guys here that also do ROTC.”
In fact, many of the men’s crew team’s 60 members are busy in some capacity outside of their sport. The average grade point average on the team is a 3.3, so you know that the team is as disciplined in the classroom as they are in the water.
“Having to go to practice makes you structure your time,” Alschuler said. “Whereas most students will have eight hours in which to do two hours of homework, we have two hours in which to do two hours of homework.”
That type of dedication has prompted many crew team members to pursue graduate studies.
“We have several guys who are applying to med school, a couple like myself doing engineering, and others who have gone on to do graduate work in their own fields,” Alschuler said.
The team, founded in 1976 by a group of University students, is just now beginning to enjoy success.
So far this season, the Wolverines have traveled to three races. They took every possible medal in the two regional competitions they attended and were 11th overall at the Head of the Charles in Boston.
In last year’s nationals race at Camden, N.J., the team finished sixth overall. This type of success would be great for any program, but the men’s crew team at Michigan is composed entirely of walk-ons. It is a club varsity team, meaning the team receives only minimal financial support from the Athletic Department.
“There’s something to be said about going to these races, knowing other teams are sleeping in hotels, and then going out and beating them,” Alschuler said. “We travel, sleep on a gym floor, and then wake up and race well.”
Out of the top 20 teams in the nation last spring, Michigan was the only group without a varsity sport at their respective school. Of course, the team isn’t going after trophies or medals to bring home.
For Michigan crew, it’s about winning the shirts.
“It’s a tradition for opponents to give a team racing shirt to the crew that finishes first,” Alschuler said. “We have a motto around here. It’s to come home with more shirts than we started with.”.