Phil Schmehl & Marietta College Rowing

By Ryan Sparks | February 23, 2013

Let's talk about tradition. Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio is nothing if not one tightly spun web of academic and athletic tradition. Although chartered in its original form in 1835, the small liberal-arts college of around 1,500 students evolved from the community's Muskingum Academy which was established in 1797, making Marietta almost as old as America. Men's Rowing Head Coach Phil Schmehl says this is one of big draws for the student-athletes he recruits, and he is not talking about just academics. When it comes to intercollegiate competition he says, "There is a lot of history and tradition here. We're one of the founding Dad Vail members [hosting the regatta for the first time in 1935], and we have numerous Dad Vail championship banners in the rafters of our boathouse, so when recruits come in, they see all that history and tradition." Competing at the NCAA Division III level, both the men's and women's crews routinely medal at the Dad Vail Regatta.  In 2012 the Freshman/Novice 8 won Dad Vail gold while the women defended their Varsity 8 championship.

"There is a lot of history and tradition here. We're one of the founding Dad Vail members [hosting the regatta for the first time in 1935], and we have numerous Dad Vail championship banners in the rafters of our boathouse, so when recruits come in, they see all that history and tradition."

In his first year in charge of the men's Pioneer navy, Coach Schmehl is working to add to that tradition. After having spent the previous three years as an assistant with the women's team, as well as stints coaching at Mary Washington and Oregon State, Schmehl talks about the culture of the school, and the one he is trying to create for the team. "Marietta is a unique place. It's a small school, and from the rowing perspective, the men have to excel in the classroom so they feel confident they can contribute to rowing. It's one thing to come to practice, but another thing to be 'at' practice." Academics-first is paramount to Schmehl for that reason, and because of the intimate size of the college, the coaches have developed close relationships with professors. This way, in the event a rower is struggling academically, coaches can deal with problems before they arise. As for the rowing, Marietta turns out to be an ideal place to train, with their historical boathouse on the Muskingum River less than a mile from campus, which, minus thunderstorms or flooding, provides endless rowable flatwater (the Pioneers have 6 miles upstream from their boathouse on the Muskingum and are virtually unimpeded on the Ohio River).

"I'm trying to teach the guys to make good decisions, that we are one team. We value education first, and as college athletes they are visible on and off-campus.

The roster this year is young, and small, with the MC men will be fielding a varsity 4+ this Spring. Coach Schmehl is looking forward to working with and developing this dedicated group of young oarsmen.  Winter training is yielding very positive results on the erg and in the weight room, so optimism is running high.   Schmehl sent a strong message to the group regarding expectations and team values. "I'm trying to teach the guys to make good decisions, that we are one team. We value education first, and as college athletes they are visible on and off-campus. There are challenges with a smaller roster, but the guys who are on the team are on board with what we're trying to do. We had some goal setting [earlier this year], and one of theirs was to win and compete the right way." The right way, Schmehl says, involves "integrity, competitive desire, work ethic, and attitude, and that we'll get faster because we're confident in our training plan."

"It's one thing to come to practice, but another thing to be 'at' practice."

The Pioneers resume their competitive season on March 23, 2013 in Indianapolis, IN at the Marietta/Purdue Challenge Cup.