It’s so rare that people take the time these days to show their gratitude, much less send a thank you note. Stephen Whelpley took time out of the insane demands of a U.S. National Team Quad Camp training schedule to write the following note of thanks to the PBC Board. That’s practically an Olympic feat itself.
Steve thanks the club, but as you read on, you will see all of the thanks appropriately go to Coach Reilly Dampeer. Reilly’s scullers train hard and row to win, but at the end of the day, just like her, they truly represent the best of our club and the best of our sport … win or lose.
Steve, we are unbelievably proud of all of our athletes, and yes, we are proud of you and Willy. Some have said your race was the best race they had ever seen. Ever.
And yes, when you chose to row with Willy, you chose us, too, and like it or not you’re part of the PBC family now. This means yet another young nubile energetic person will allow us to sit back here in DC, whether at home or in our offices, and live vicariously through you and your relentless pursuit of excellence in the sport we all love.
For that, we thank you. The best is yet to come.
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Dear PBC Board,
My name is Stephen Whelpley, and I spent the majority of the majority of this rowing year as Willy Cowles doubles partner. Considering my current situation in quad camp out in Chula Vista, I ask you not to judge the magnitude of my message by the brevity of its delivery.
There are a lot of things that could be said and a back story that could be illustrated. I will simply say that I have been training full-time for over 7 years now since graduating from college, primarily for Penn AC in Philadelphia. This very well could be the culmination of my “serious” rowing career. Rather than accept my original invitation to go to quad camp, I knew pursuing the Men’s Heavyweight double was what I wanted to do for numerous reasons. After some back and forth emailing, Willy and I came to an agreement to pursue it together. To some degree, I knew that in choosing Willy, I was also choosing PBC. And at the time, due to various logistical reasons, it made more sense for me to do that than for Willy to choose Penn AC. What I did not know at the time, though, was the degree to which this would shape and ultimately help me in my pursuit of my Olympic goal.
I first want to thank Potomac Boat Club for its impeccable support of us and our pursuit to represent the U.S. in the Men’s Heavyweight double. The rowing community is small, and there are countless stories of its “brotherhood.” Nonetheless, for a club to support such an effort that so closely benefited a non-club member as much as its own member was extremely benevolent and generous. I also admired the way that the club and its athletes (both those with whom I trained with in the sculling group, as well as all those I came across from other groups, as well) carried themselves on a day-to-day basis. There is a familial quality to everything you do that is quite welcoming and healthy. Considering the amount of resources that are required to compete at an international level in this day and age, it is not an easy thing to stay competitive. However, I feel that PBC helped make it possible through both actual resources and the intangibles of the institution.
I also wanted to take a moment to give what is certain to be insufficient praise of Coach Reilly Dampeer. I have rowed for a total of 14 years now. During that time, I have come into contact with countless coaches and have been coached directly by over a dozen coaches. Some of them were already considered legends of rowing – Ted Nash, Kris Korzeniowski, McLaren, and so on – and others will be soon. I think Reilly’s efforts this year would have been up there with any of them.
Despite the outcome, I have absolutely no regrets about this year. We trained hard. We executed our race. We went fast. If I could do it all over again, I would select Reilly as my coach every time. Sure, she is a relatively young coach, but she makes up for this tenfold with her dedication, willingness to learn, and intense work ethic. Aside from her direct coaching of our boat, she successfully managed an entire training group in a foreign location, managed the psyches of many different athletes, and flawlessly prepped both young and older athletes for an extremely important race. It is easy to see the physical resources we need like boats, video review equipment, ergs, and facilities, and clubs obviously need to maintain those resources as well as they can. However, the importance of a good coach should never be underestimated as a resource, and I feel that Reilly proved to be an invaluable resource to us.
I really saw myself going to the Olympics this year in the Men’s Heavyweight Double. I have gone to trials and national selection regattas for plenty of years now, and even when I thought I was good enough, I never could picture outcomes as vividly and confidently as I could this year. I’m sure you know what a respectable time and race we rowed by now and how competitive our event turned out to be when you look at our final’s times against the World Record.
While I wish we could have brought pride to PBC, my family, myself, Reilly, Willy, and many others with a trip to the Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne and ultimately a formidable club-made boat in the 2012 Olympics, I am still extremely proud of our endeavor and hope that PBC is as well.