Pushing the Boys?

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With tryouts over, practices under way, and the 2010-2011 crew season starting soon, Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high school boys and girls are waiting for the final coxswains to be placed in their boats.

One of the girls, Mackenzie Dafferner, is possibly going to be placed in an all-male boat, depending on other coxswain’s placements.

Regardless of which boat she’s in, the second-year crew member is hoping for a great season.

For those who don’t know, the coxswain is positioned at an end of the boat, bow or stern depending on which type of boat it is, and is in charge of steering the boat and keeping the rowers motivated and on target.  The 60-foot boats used at the Newport Aquatic Center have rudders the size of credit cards that the coxswain controls with small strings.

“Last year I was on a novice team, but this year I’m on varsity,” Dafferner said.  She was also an MVP during her stint on that novice team, a large feat for a non-rower.

Traditionally a coxswain should be a light addition to the boat so he or she doesn’t weigh it down, and Dafferner said they are told to be right around 110 pounds.  She’s grown a couple of inches since she began, but she’s still right around the weight requirement.

What makes her a good coxswain you ask?

“I’ve always talked a lot,” Dafferner said. “I give orders and they have to listen.  It’s fun being in charge.”

To bond the boat into a cohesive unit, there are monthly team dinners in addition to the three hours of practice six days a week.  They have to have perfect timing and row together to have success, and all of that depends on Dafferner’s leadership.  Also, it’s a tradition to throw the coxswain of the boat into the water after a win.

“It’s a team sport,” Dafferner emphasized.

This definitely isn’t a one-time thing, either, as she plans on attending a school back East, preferably an Ivy League school, and competing in crew for as long as possible.

“Oh yea, she’s gone,” her mother Alli Dafferner, said regarding her moving to the East Coast.

Crew is much bigger and more developed in New England, so that would be the right place to be.  Colleges give out as many scholarships for crew as they do for football, so Mackenzie has a great chance to get one if her success continues.

Crew in Newport Beach isn’t directly affiliated with the schools, it’s more of a club sport, but it still counts for physical education credits towards graduation.  Also, it’s year-round (10 months) unlike most high school sports, so there’s not much of a break between seasons.

Crew isn’t cheap though, a lesson learned by Mackenzie’s mother.

Alli said, “When we registered her the first time, I thought we were buying the boat!”

The money goes a long way and pays for their travel, food, and lodging throughout the year.  The National races are in Ohio, but the Newport teams travel up and down California and sometimes into other states for races. Last season, Dafferener said, they made it all the way up to Sacramento.

The population of the crew teams are about even with boys and girls down at the NAC, but a 110-pound girl telling a bunch of boys in the boat to, “Suck it up and row,” or to, “Push it like you’re pregnant,” has to put a smile on your face.

The races and practices go around Lido and parts of the bay, so you might see Mackenzie out there on the water, working hard and directing the boys.

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