It’s barely 5 a.m. on the Otonabee River as the Trent Excalibur rowing team hits the water for one of their six practices of the week, the sun peeking over the Peterborough hills. As she balances the boat on the water, passing through the canal, lightweight rower Rosalyn Shepherd can look up to see the three stars of Orion’s Belt shining back towards the water.
This is only a part of their experience as student-athletes, but it’s a unique way for many Excalibur rowers start their day.
Entering her fourth-year with the Excalibur rowing team, Rosalyn believes that being a student-athlete on the rowing team goes beyond the water. With their accomplishments and athletic achievements, it always flowing back to the community that has given so much to support them individually and as a team.
Supporting community needs
“We have such great community support,” said Rosalyn. “We know that we come from a place of being able to give back, and as a student-athlete coming into Trent, it’s really cool to be on a team that gets that kind of fulfilment and opportunities to get to know and work in the community. Peterborough has such a vibrant community and being involved really gives people the opportunity to make those connections.”
The team has explored many ways of giving back -from volunteering with local meal programs to fundraising for Movember and Bell Let’s Talk, to working with numerous organizations like Trent Active Minds and Canadian Blood Services, the Excalibur rowing team has developed a reputation of community service.
Starting a face mask fundraiser in April 2020, the team was able to work with a rowing equipment company to provide face masks to clinics around the Peterborough community.
“We had face masks from JL Racing that typically make unisuits and rowing gear and, with their leftover material, they were able to make face masks,” explained Rosalyn. “We directed all of our efforts into that fundraiser and other Trent Excalibur varsity teams supported us so much and made huge donations which was super cool. We were able to raise a good amount of money to get these face masks to clinics so that they could open and see people again.”
Dedication to wanting to be there, together
The dedication from each member of the rowing team has only grown as the years go by. Both women’s and men’s teams of all levels (novice, junior and varsity) train together, volunteer together, and hold social events together which created a bond of comradery between everyone.
The dynamic and united team effort was recognized, as the rowing team received the Community Betterment Award, presented to the team contributes significant community contributions and active involvement towards the betterment of social, economic, or environmental issues within Peterborough.
As two of the more tenured student-athletes on the team, Taylor Bryan and Abbigail Sibbald have seen how the tight-knit nature of the rowing team meets the united dedication to giving back.
“Volunteering in the community brings us closer as a team, knowing that we’re working together towards something positive, both on and off the water,” says Taylor. “Coming together as a team to do that is definitely special.”
Abbigail will be competing in her third year of varsity rowing with the Excalibur team, so when asked about how everyone is able to balance academics along with rowing and volunteer work, the answer was simple. Everyone wants to be there and wants to be involved.
Balancing hard work, community and fun
“Balance comes easy when it’s something that you want to be doing,” said Abbigail, the recipient of the Gary Wolff Leadership Award for the 2020-21 season. “It’s the same with community events, I want to do that and we want to do that. It’s something that we’re excited about doing, so finding that balance, it is a lot but when you want to do something it makes it a lot easier to find time for it.”
Rosalyn, who was in charge of the philanthropy on the rowing team’s executive group, echoed that sentiment, “I found that if you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing and it makes you feel accomplished, it’s so easy to be busy because it doesn’t feel like hard work, it’s just fun and really rewarding.”
With student-athletes Rosalyn, Abbigail, and Taylor, they hope that their involvement in the community allows for the team to continue developing great student-athletes as well as better people.
“This community at Trent and Peterborough does so much for us,” Abbigail concluded. “Supporting and being engaged with us, whether that’s at Head of the Trent or at other events, I want to give back because we’ve been given so much and that cycle continues. That’s what drives us.”