Jenna McCarthy

CRI Competitive Varisity Girls 

Breaking through the mental barrier of erging is a challenge, let alone for a new rower in 8th grade. 

When Jenna McCarthy learned to row in the summer of 2014, she knew she wanted to try out for the competitive novice program the following fall. “I was hooked by the sport” but as a young new rower, Jenna was not invited on the team.

With the encouragement of the competitive novice coaches to focus on her long-term athletic development, Jenna participated in Youth Crew League and Winter Training before trying out again. Jenna’s determination to race competitively paid off and she earned a spot on the team

It was during that first season on the novice squad when Jenna began appreciating the weight and mental challenges of being a competitive youth athlete. “I was putting so much pressure on myself to perform, but couldn’t make it through an erg piece. It was disappointing because I had worked so hard over winter training to earn my spot on the team.” Jenna stuck with it thanks to the incredible support and empathy of coaches Brent Bode and Nigel Gallaher. It was this very support on her path to personal growth and evolution that enabled Jenna to race successfully that spring and summer.

But with the erg-heavy winter training season right around the corner and varsity tryouts looming, Jenna’s anxiety came flooding back. With those nerves, though, came her grit and determination as well. Jenna proactively sought help by talking to her coaches and parents, speaking with her teammates, and eventually engaging a sports psychologist. She showed up for winter training armed and ready to conquer her fears.

“By my junior year, I was finally able to really push myself. I was no longer afraid of being uncomfortable. I wasn’t afraid of being fast.” The atmosphere on the varsity squad was positive and supportive. “It’s not always easy to find that with high school girls, but we had that. We lifted each other up.”

Jenna unearthed her mental toughness by finding joy in new challenges and through self-confidence that comes from self-advocacy. Her rowing journey at CRI gave her a better awareness of how to set realistic goals and achieve them through hard work.

“We don’t always know what our coaches are thinking, and that can be stressful, but this toughness helps me know I’ll be ok. We have to be OK with failure.”

Coach Skye Elliot is immensely proud of his athletes in this way: “The members of this team are so positive, supportive, responsible, fearless, and inspiring. They are patient, humble, and caring young women with one another. Watching them handle the challenges and adversity that has come their way has been pretty awesome.” It is that very environment at CRI that allowed Jenna to push through her struggles and be a stronger person for it. “I show up for practice and try my best. If an erg piece doesn’t go well, you still have to come tomorrow. And even if it does go well, you have to show up tomorrow and do even better again. There’s always tomorrow.”