Feb. 25, 2013
By: Dominique Conley
A Different Kind of Athlete- Stephanie Gentile, SMU women's Coxswain
Measuring in at 5-feet, Stephanie Gentile is not what you would call your average student athlete. A sophomore on the SMU women's rowing team, Stephanie holds the position of coxswain, the person who sits in the front of the boat and leads the crew. Not only does she lead the crew by steering the boat, but by also making calls throughout the race or practice. Over a cup of coffee and Einstein's bagels, Stephanie and I discussed what brought her to both the sport of rowing and SMU, her race rituals, and what she sees in her future for coxing.
Q. When and why did you start rowing?
A. I started the summer before my freshman year of high school. In south Jersey where I live, rowing is very popular. My brother, who is a year older than me, was a coxswain and I basically followed in his steps because I was the right size and definitely loud. He also told me that I would be good at it.
Q. What made you fall in love with the sport?
A. Being so small it was always hard to be exceptional at many sports. Crew gave me a chance to use my size to my advantage, and to be a leader and a vital part of a team.
Q. What brought you to SMU?
A. After my official visit I fell in love with the beautiful campus and friendly student environment. The team was just a perfect fit for me, and I knew this was where I wanted to go.
Q. What do you hope to get out of rowing?
A. I hope to grow as a coxswain and amazing leader. In the one year I have been [at SMU] I have already watched myself learn and grow so much. It's really cool, and I just hope to keep getting better and learning something every day.
Q. What are your prerace rituals, and how do you get in the "zone"?
A. Before races, I like to visualize the race with my crew. I like to go through our set plan and see us winning. One of my oddest rituals is always carrying a wrench with me for good luck. Another important thing for me to do before a race is to pray with my boat before getting on the water. To get in the zone, I use music; I have a prerace playlist. I am also really quiet on race day because I'm usually thinking about what I need to say to be most effective for my boat.
Q. What is your favorite part about a race?
A. My favorite part of the race would have to be the last 250 meters. I love sprinting and seeing how fast we can go and where we can catch other boats. The true winner of the race isn't determined until the sprint.
Q. What is your favorite call to make during a race?
A. My favorite call would have to be the ten I specialize for my crew. For instance, last season we used "swag ten" and it really described my personality and my boat. When calling this during a race it pushed my rowers to their limits and helped them pull their hardest knowing swag had such strong meaning to all of us.
Q. After a good race, how do you reward your team?
A. After a good race rewarding my team is easy. We all feel the same joy and can easily celebrate our hard work together. A tradition in the sport of rowing is the coxswain gets thrown in the water after a win, which is always very exciting to the rowers (not so much me).
Q. Do you think you will continue coxing after SMU? What are you options if you do?
A. I think after college it will be impossible to not to be involved with rowing. It is something I have done for so long now. I hope to coach at the high school level because I really enjoyed high school rowing and I want to help people fall in love with the sport like I did. I have always thought about the national team but I don't know if it's something I would actually ever do.