A simple and old fashioned, yet meaningful part of the rowing team, the vintage wooden handle dubbed the “Hoosier handle” has refreshed a longtime team tradition.
The award is given out on a weekly basis to the athlete who goes above and beyond expectations, assistant coach Amanda Perry said.
It can be for a stellar performance or outstanding example of leadership, but overall it deals with going above and beyond, and finding the athletes that take initiative.
The idea for the concept came from the old weekly award, the athlete of the week.
In previous years, the athletes would pass on the award to each other; however, Perry, assistant coach Kristen Brownlee and the rest of the coaches said they felt they could better judge the players’ potential.
Therefore, coaches gave the accolade a new spin, and the Hoosier handle was born.
The handle was awarded for the first time in January during the team’s winter workouts, which Brownlee said were some of the most grueling times of the season. The recipient was sophomore and Indianapolis native Connie Brahm.
“The handle is something that really promotes competition within the team, but also makes everybody push to do their best,” Brahm said.
Brahm pushed to do her best during the team’s Queen of the Hill event, the main reason why the coaches selected her as the inaugural Hoosier handle winner.
The Queen of the Hill competition pitted the rowers against each other in a friendly workout competition. Brahm started toward the back of the pack, but quickly began to emerge and passed 15 rowers before reaching the top spot.
“Its going to be exciting to the see how this young group of freshmen develops in the year to come, especially with our freshman class,” Brahm said.
One of those strong freshmen Brahm is excited to develop is fellow Hoosier handle winner, freshman Paige Spiller, who, like Brahm, had no thoughts about pursuing rowing until she decided on IU.
“I always played sports in high school and still wanted to be a part of a team to work out and stay away from the freshman 15,” Spiller said.
Spiller chose IU over the University of Louisville due to the openness of the IU rowing program.
“My sister found the rowing team for me, and I found out they take people who have never rowed before, so I gave it a shot,” Spiller said.
She had no previous experience with rowing, much like many of her other teammates. The team is split roughly in half between experienced rowers and athletes that have had no previous experience.
Rowers with no experience can earn the award over some of the athletes who have participated in the sport for their entire lives.
As a freshman walk-on, Spiller won the handle over dozens of experienced rowers.
That alone makes the award something all of the teammates can be proud of, something more than an “old school” aged wooden handle.
The team begins its Spring Break training trip in Tennessee, where they will take on the Tennessee Volunteers in a scrimmage. Their first real competition doesn’t come until the Double Dual on April 1 in Bloomington.
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