Ask a member of the Lehigh women’s rowing team to summarize the culture of their team, and there is one word that would undoubtedly come up more than once — family.
Family describes the team’s deep-rooted support for one another that has proven itself more meaningful than ever this spring. Whether it is through assistance from academic families the team has established, or the advice offered by a sister figure on the roster, the presence of community on women’s rowing is part of the team’s fabric.
Implementing an academic family structure during her sophomore year, senior captain Jessica Osgoodby said the families are a demonstration of the team’s investment in one another beyond their sport.
She said while the team continuously pushes one another to improve their athletic abilities, there is much enjoyment found in the bonding events that occur outside of practice.
Fellow senior rower Allison Connors said during her time as a Mountain Hawk, much of her success is owed to the strong leadership and sincere friendships she experienced in the last four years.
“We like each other not just as teammates, but as lifelong friends,” Connors said. “That wonderful community aspect I am going to miss very much next year.”
Another tradition of the women’s rowing team is “Team Fridays,” where the team gathers, most often the evening before a morning practice or competition, for festivities such as cupcake decorating and movie watching.
Freshman Allison Lee said this tradition has served as an excellent way of acclimating herself and the other first-year rowers to the team and to college in general.
“These activities where we get to bond with each other have also translated on the water and at practice, as they improve the team dynamic as a whole,” Lee said.
Looking to next year’s season without the current seniors, Lee said she is thankful for all they have done to bring the team together and believes their impact will be long-lasting.
Appreciation for the team’s veteran leadership was echoed by sophomore Bella Papov, who recalled a time that Osgoodby selflessly offered her guidance just before Papov’s freshman year final exams.
“Our senior class has a lot of great leaders, and at the end of the day, they have all led by example,” Papov said.
While the younger athletes may look up to their older teammates for motivation and setting expectations, Connors said she is in awe of all that her younger teammates have taught her.
Connors said she placed a large emphasis on the transition of leadership this season, encouraging younger rowers to take ownership of the team, as she knows they are capable of doing.
“There is so much to learn from the impressive younger athletes on the team, and it is really interesting to hear what they have envisioned for the future,” Connors said.
Such a family dynamic, while uniquely shaped by each year’s team, is by no means a new concept for the Lehigh women rowers.
Both Osgoodby and Connors said Julianna Malachin, ‘18, a senior when they were sophomores, served as a particular inspiration to them. Malachin, who returned as an assistant coach for the team in August, has been a consistent point of support for the two rowers.
According to both rowers, Malachin embodied what it means to be a successful student athlete and, most of all, a leader. They said they were thrilled for her return to Lehigh this year.
While the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent cancellation of their season may have prevented the team from competing together this spring, the graduating seniors maintain their high hopes for the team’s future, in large part due to the family atmosphere they helped instill.
Bidding a difficult farewell to this chapter of their lives, the seniors move forward knowing they will always have a family in their Lehigh teammates.
“I have so much confidence in the group of girls that I am leaving behind, and I know that they are going to pick it up and run with it next year,” Osgoodby said. “Next year’s championship will be for us seniors, too. I am excited to see it from the sidelines.”