May 16, 2008
Brittany Skidmore is the only freshman coxswain on UCF's varsity rowing team. It is her responsibility to steer the boat and coordinate the power and rhythm of the rowers. Skidmore refers to her position as the "coach in the boat," and admits it can be challenging to direct and instruct teammates older than she is.
"Some people were definitely a little iffy about it at first. I understand though, because they had such a good season last year. It takes time to build that kind of trust," Skidmore said. "But now, there's no question [about my ability.] The rowers know what they like, and [as] coxswains, we know what we do. It's about finding that middle ground so the girls are motivated and together."
The black and gold varsity 8 is coming off its most successful season in the program's 12-year history. The team was nationally-ranked last year, and ended the season with an NCAA Championship appearance. Skidmore made her decision to come to UCF based on the success of the program, and the fact she would be able to move directly to varsity.
"I was a coxswain all four years of high school. My skill level was adaptable to varsity. UCF is an established program and it is an amazing opportunity," Skidmore said. "I want to get back to the championships. Winning is something I'm used to."
The Ohio native says the competitiveness of her high school program eased her transition into college athletics. "We went to nationals every year in high school. It was a pretty intense program," Skidmore said. "It was more about learning the differences in style and technique in terms of what the coaches want. Coxswains are kind of like the coaches, so we have to learn exactly what they want the rowers to look like."
Skidmore made the transition to college with less difficulty than she expected. "Coming from out of state, it was going to be a big adjustment. I wasn't going to know anyone from down here," Skidmore said. "The first few weeks, I had to get the hang of the little changes. Different clubs [have] different kinds of styles - starting at the catch or the finish of the stroke. But as far as motivation goes, and doing what I've always been doing, it was all sort of the same. I was able to adapt pretty quickly to what different boats like."
Skidmore adds that the coaching staff and her teammates helped make the 900-mile move a relatively easy adjustment. "When I met the coaches and the girls on the team during my official visit, it was like an automatic family and a perfect fit. Rowing takes a lot of commitment. If you have a good coach and a good team, it's all about the family aspect of it."
Skidmore is inspired by the relationships she is building with her teammates. "It's the best feeling ever when everyone comes together and makes it work. Rowing is all about teamwork if you want to succeed," Skidmore said. "[In] other sports you can do individual things and still be good, but if one person is off on a stroke, it affects the whole boat. If one person isn't in synch with the rest of the girls, it throws it all off. Bringing them together and finding that unity makes everything worth it."
Skidmore finds it difficult to put the feeling of success on the water into words. "You can hear it and you can feel it, but it's a very hard thing to explain. When you get the boat moving well, feeling the boat run over the water, it's amazing."
- Stephanie Shaw
This story appears in the April edition of KnightVision. Produced 10 times per year, KnightVision is the official publication of UCF Athletics. Each issue includes stories about UCF teams, student-athletes and coaches. To order 10 exciting issues from August through June, call 1-888-877-4373 (ext. 121) or 336-768-3400 (ext. 121).