By Patrick Moroney
Nobody can deny that school rowing is a physically and mentally demanding sport that requires focus, dedication, and teamwork. To excel in this challenging environment, a school rowing team needs a strong leader who can inspire and motivate the crew to achieve their goals. This role is currently occupied by upper sixth pupil and 1st VIII captain, Alex Cresswell. The captain is not only responsible for leading the team on the water, but also for ensuring that the team members are prepared, focused, and committed. Patrick Moroney met with Cresswell to discuss all that his senior role within the sport entails.
What are the responsibilities of being captain?
It’s a combination of things, ranging from acting as an intermediary between the athletes and the coaches to leading warmups and delivering the occasional motivational talk or speech. I also have to organise the different types and styles of kit that the squad wants.
What do you enjoy most about being captain?
I mostly enjoy the responsibility of it all and having the younger years look up to you as a role model. It really inspires me to be the best athlete I can be.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as Captain?
Balancing the time all the extra tasks take, along with the regular training and school work is always difficult, however I’m lucky enough to have close friends in and out of the squad who I can turn to if I am ever struggling.
What is the highlight of your Hampton career?
Rowing at Henley Royal Regatta for the first time in J16 was an incredible experience and I felt hooked after my first stroke. Returning again during my J17 year in the 1st VIII somehow managed to top that (winning against an American crew on the Tuesday probably had something to do with that).
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring sportsmen at Hampton, what would it be?
Find what you love and stick to it.
Do you have any aspirations for the team?
As a squad, I think we’re looking to get as many crews as we can into the top half of the A final at National Schools, both in 1st and 2nd VIIIs. For the upper end of the squad, I think that we have a really good chance of doing well at Henley this year and it would be nice to end my Hampton rowing career with a competition so elite, that even qualifying is an achievement.
How do you manage to take an extra stroke when everything is hurting?
You just have to shut your mind off and push really, there’s not much else to it. You know that the race or piece will finish eventually and you just have to cling on until then, working as hard as you can within your crew.
How does it feel being captain while having to follow the cox?
Personally, I find it rather easy, particularly because of how much trust I have in our cox. It’s the same with the rest of the crew, if you can trust them then it becomes easier to work as a unit and go fast!
What goes through your head pre-race? How do you keep calm and focused?
Everything. My head is always buzzing pre-race with both exciting and nervous thoughts. Mostly I just have to trust the training that I have done, hoping that it will get me down the course. Breathing exercises sometimes help me stay central to the race, but it really depends on how I’m feeling on the day and how long the race will be.