Kayleigh M. Durm
Coach Durm grew up in Marietta, Ohio and was a four-year varsity coxswain for the Marietta High School Tiger Navy. In her senior year, she coxed the novice eight to a very successful 43-1 season (including heats, semis, and finals) before graduating and moving on to Syracuse University, where she joined the women’s rowing team in the fall of 2006. Here she coxed the Junior Varsity 4+ as a freshman before deciding to take some time off from rowing to focus on school. While at Syracuse, she pursued an undergrad degree in Exercise Science and a minor in Nutrition. In 2008, she transferred to The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH where she continued to pursue Exercise Science before deciding to change her major (three months before graduation) to something that better fit what she wanted to do as a career, which was working with athletes. She created her own major by combining five majors into one (exercise science, sports nutrition, sports medicine, athletic training, and sport psychology) and titled it “Sport Science and Human Performance,” for which she received her bachelor’s degree in March, 2011. During her 5th year she held an internship with the OSU football team, working in the strength and conditioning department primarily with the quarterbacks and wide receivers. During this time she took a class entitled “The Theory and Practice of Coaching Football,” taught by Coach Jim Tressel, whom she credits with first getting her interested in coaching. For this class she wrote a 150 page book on the history of the Ohio State football program that is currently used as a recruiting tool by the coaches when they travel to visit prospective athletes.
Two weeks after graduation, Coach Durm moved to Boston, MA. That summer, she worked for the Boston Red Sox as a baseball coach with their youth summer camp before resuming the “post-grad full-time job search” in the fall. The following spring she had the opportunity to get involved with rowing again and began working with the Boston College High School novice team as an assistant coach. It was during this time that she realized how much she truly loved rowing and made the decision to pursue coaching as a full-time career. Over the summer, she began coaching at Community Rowing as well as coxing a Master’s 8+ with the Style Driven Rowing Club. In the fall she coached the novice men at Brandeis University before joining the Wayland-Weston staff in the spring of 2013. Her goal within the next 2-3 years is to make the jump to collegiate coaching full-time as an assistant with a Division 1 program.
During the day when she’s not writing endless cover letters and polishing her resume, Coach Durm writes and publishes the blog “Ready all, row…” (http://readyallrow.wordpress.com/). After noticing a serious lack of educational resources for her fellow coxswains, she decided to start writing her blog with the goal of providing them with all the information they need and want to know but aren’t taught and/or don’t know how to ask. She found that some coaches were willing to give coxswains control of $30,000-$60,000 worth of equipment, but not tell them what to do, and then would blame them when something (inevitably) went wrong, something she felt strongly against. Her goal is to arm coxswains (of all skill levels) with the tools and information they need to succeed while also encouraging them to take their education in their own hands by asking questions, recording themselves, gathering feedback from their peers, and getting as much experience in the 9th seat as possible. She is in the early stages of figuring out how to write a book on coxing, something she hopes to start doing sometime this summer.
How did you get involved in crew?
The father of a friend who was in high school and on the crew team was one of the history teachers when I was in 8th grade, and he would always point me out in the hallways and say, “You need to be a coxswain!” For awhile I had no idea what a coxswain was, but after about six months of him telling me I needed to be one, I googled it and became intrigued. A tiny person that bosses people around at will? Sounded like I’d found my calling. I told my parents that I was going to be a coxswain in high school, which they happily supported although I don’t think they had any idea what I was talking about. Because I did marching band in the fall and our team didn’t really do a fall season, I officially got started immediately after New Year’s in 2003. We went out on the water for the first time on Valentine’s Day and 10 years later (and counting), here I am.
What’s your favorite crew memory?
I was part of an amazing team in high school, so I have numerous favorite memories. Racing at Nationals with the varsity lightweight 8+ my junior year (where we placed 10th overall) was an incredible experience for all the obvious reasons, but I think all of my most favorite memories come from my senior year. I coxed the novice 8+ but unless you were on my team and knew they were novices, you would have thought they were a varsity 8+ that had been rowing together for 2-3 years. It blew me away how quickly they picked up rowing, how dedicated and focused they were, and how intent they were on succeeding as a crew. We won all of our regular season races (even setting a course record in Virginia with a 43 second win over 2nd place) before advancing to the finals at the Midwest Championships. This race will be the one I tell my kids and grandkids about. The race started the same as any other, but this time we had a crew of equal strength in the lane beside us. Our crew executed everything perfectly and so did theirs. For 1475 meters we were right beside each other, nearly stroke for stroke, the entire way down the course. Looking back on it, it seems surreal that a race like that is even possible. Coming into the last three strokes, the crew beside us took the stroke rate up about half a beat above ours and crossed the finish line midway through the stroke while my crew crossed at the end of the stroke. Both crews were dead as we crossed the line and it was one of the few races where I think both coxswains were equally exhausted. Since it was a photo finish it was awhile before we found out who won but it turned out that we lost by less than a bow ball. In the moment it was infuriating, but I got over it pretty quickly when I realized that I just had the PERFECT race…that race that every rower and coxswain DREAMS of having, I’d just had.
What has crew done for you?
Crew and coxing have become such huge parts of life over the last ten years that I can’t imagine future-me not being involved with rowing in some way or another. It’s not even an option at this point. I’ve always said that coxing is my release – it’s cheaper than therapy and I get to yell. There’s no better stress reliever. After I stopped coxing in college to focus on school, I was pretty miserable because I didn’t have that outlet anymore and nothing really measured up to it. The phrase, “if you love something let it go, and if it comes back it was meant to be,” has never been more relevant than it was with crew and me. After being away from it for about five years, I had already come to terms that I might not ever be back in a boat or involved with rowing again, but then I got the chance to coach and start coxing my 8+, and I realized that rowing just makes me happy, plain and simple. There’s a certain inner tranquility that I get from being on the water that I don’t get anywhere else. Even though I’m 100% focused on what I’m doing with my boat and my brain is moving at 800 m.p.h., I’m still in my own bubble where no one can bother me. It’s my “thinking place.” I equate it to when people climb to the top of a mountain and suddenly everything makes sense. Whatever that feeling is, that’s what crew does for me each time I get on the water.
Why do you coach?
I coach because I want people to fall in love with rowing the way I have. Coaching and coxing are the only things I would ever willingly do for free if I had to – they’re that much fun. One of the best parts of coaching so far has been seeing the rowers respond to what I’m saying mid-row and then catching that smile that creeps onto their face when they realize they’ve figured it out, made the change, and are now making the boat go faster. There’s nothing better than seeing that smile they think you can’t see.
Favorite written quote?
“Strive to be a great coxswain, not just a good coxswain. Of all the coxswains in the world, 50% are just plain bad, 30% are decent, 15% are good, and only 5% are great. Strive to be great.”—Anonymous
Favorite spoken quote?
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”—Written by William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but said to me numerous times by my coaches.