What do I remember? Cold, wet, and every muscle in my body burning as if they might actually catch fire. At this point, I wouldn’t be all that upset if they did- at least I could stop. Guess what- it’s only Monday and I’ve got 4 more days of this. There are three other guys in the boat who I imagine feel about the same, but we can’t quit because we won’t fail each other. Through the fog there’s a man with a bull horn and if he says one more thing to me about my stroke I may jump out of the boat, swim over to him, and kill him. In the fog I entertain the idea that I could get away with it, but then, “WITT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HIT THE CATCH, HIT THE CATCH! UP AND AROUND!” I comply and after what seems like forever we stop, or pause rather. As a freshman in high school I’m thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” This was the beginning of a thousand similar practices on the East River with Mobjack Rowing Association.
Fast Forward: I thought Coach was teaching me how to row all those years ago, but really he was teaching me how to live. He instilled in me that which he has in many others who complete his painful instruction sessions. Kids keep coming and keep suffering out the genius of Coach and I think it’s because he has proven that his methods work. I’m a living, breathing example. Coach’s methods gave me the strength and courage to get through some of the darkest moments of my life: injuries, hardship, the loss of my father to cancer, and four years at the United States Naval Academy. On or off the water Coach was in my mind. I didn’t need to find out what to do because I already knew. Coach taught me.
Mr. Tim Ulsaker, or Coach, (as we all affectionately, though sometimes behind gritted teeth, call him) is a man who has never quit. “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible”. Coach dreams in the day and his dreams are realized through relentless effort, tears, laughs, and the miles upon miles completed by his pupils. True, Coach is an expert in rowing, but rowing is merely the avenue to give instruction in his real purpose: the art of Fortitude. Many men fail or simply quit when obstacles impede their progress, but not Coach. He thrives on obstacle and hardship; he feeds on it like plants absorb sunlight. I have personally seen him hide a smile when he is ‘up the East River without an oar.’ Many people question the madness. Most don’t understand it, but it doesn’t matter. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood”.
LTJG Tucker Witt
Lieutenant Junior Grade, USN