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Loyola Women’s Rowing Takes on ‘Team Culture’: How Positivity Helps Strengthen Their Team

Loyola+Women%E2%80%99s+Rowing+Takes+on+Team+Culture%3A+How+Positivity+Helps+Strengthen+Their+Team
Craig Chase

Our Women’s Rowing team has seen significant success during their season, bringing home race results that have never been seen before here at Loyola. The reason? The women’s team captains, Juliana Merlino ‘24 and Lindsey Bonavita ‘25, identified it as “team culture.”  

Though the rowers did not have many races this season, the team formed strong bonds during the time that they spent together. Coach Megan Patrick, who coaches both the men’s and women’s teams, shared her admiration for the team’s bond and their ability to find balance in the sport.  

She said, “The athletes are finding the right balance between working really hard and having fun.”

Coach Patrick and the captains, specifically Bonavita, emphasized how important it is to maintain a positive attitude and mindset when going into practice.  

“Team culture is an active thing that you have to work at every day. It means showing up to practice every morning with the right attitude no matter how you wake up. It’s a mindset of being better than you were the day before and focusing on how you can get better as you progress,” Bonavita said.

Setting this positive intention when heading into the practices helped produce strong results both on the water and in the Erg Room. An “erg”, short for ergometer, is a modified machine that rowers use to simulate rowing in an actual boat. The erg produces scores that measure how fast the athletes can row over a certain distance. According to Coach Patrick, the team gets faster times on the water than they do in the Erg Room, consistently out rowing their previous scores.

A moment of pride for Bonavita came when a boat malfunctioned during the first race of the season. According to Bonavita, the team noticed that there was an equipment malfunction in the boat right when they got off the dock. Instead of calling it quits, the team worked with the boat and set off for the race like normal. They were still able to perform and finish the race despite the malfunction.

Both captains spoke on how important creating a positive environment is to their team. Merlino suggested that team culture goes beyond just how the group interacts during practices. 

She said, “Team culture goes a little bit outside of being in a boat or being in the Erg Room. I think it’s the small interactions that happen like saying ‘hi’ when you walk past [other teammates] or getting dinner in Boulder…that adds to team culture.”  

This aspect of unity and a positive culture is at the center of how they work as a team.  

The rowers also work to be inclusive of everyone on the team, including their new first-years. Coach Patrick said that rowers who deliver the speed will rank over seniority in terms of who gets a spot in the boat.  

“Some rowing teams at other schools keep their freshmen separate and have them race in their own division…for our team, we welcome them onto varsity right from the start,” Patrick said.

Specifically, this has proven true for first-year Mikayla Smith ‘27 who rowed in the Varsity Eight race at Princeton Chase. Coach Patrick took time to recognize Smith with a shoutout. Smith also won the team’s “Hound Award” after the race, which is a display of the coaches’ approval and recognition.   

Patrick said, “Mikayla especially has shown a lot of maturity [and] leadership; she’s a kid who comes in and does the job…I would love to have more athletes like her on the team. She’s an example.”

Coach Patrick called attention to the first-year students on the men’s team as well and said they are doing an excellent job and putting the work in. Both the men’s and women’s teams have performed well this season, and they credit that in part to their positive team culture.  

Keep up with the women’s rowing team by following their Instagram

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