“The Rowing Team,” Liahona, Mar. 2002, 38–39
“So what about our rowing team—is it history?” the upperclassman was passionate as he put the question, obviously a rhetorical one, to the first-year students. “No way! It’s a tradition!”
I was one of those new students beginning medical school at the University of São Paulo, which had long been famous for its victories in rowing competitions. Team members had asked our professor for a few minutes to recruit for the team. We would be replacing those who had graduated.
As a result of the enthusiastic pitch, about 30 of us decided to try out. None of us had any rowing experience. We were all out of shape, as our coach constantly reminded us. He had been in the military and made no effort to hide his disgust at our sorry physical condition. He had lots of jokes, too, about the irony of poor muscle tone in students of medicine.
Training was grueling—held at 5:00 A.M., six days a week. We had to set our alarms for 4:15 to catch the bus to the training area. The less disciplined did not show up for long. Those of us who stayed noted that the coach gave all his attention to the team veterans. Meanwhile, we recruits were ordered to run around the campus perimeter.
The University of São Paulo campus covers a large area, so the run was about 6 miles (10 kilometers) and required enormous effort from men in our condition. We were exhausted when we finished, and the coach ordered us to the showers without comment.
This routine continued for several weeks. In time, a few ingenious souls discovered that they could cut their running time by taking a shortcut. Instead of making a full circle around campus, they detoured through the woods. Of course, they thought themselves very clever when they beat us to the showers. They even gave their shortcut a name: the easy return.
In time, the coach announced that he was ready to name those who would join the official team. To their surprise, not one of the men who took the easy return was selected. I still don’t know how the coach knew.
Each of us has a race to run in life. The course may become difficult at times, but we have a Coach who knows us well. He has promised us, “He that is faithful and endureth shall overcome the world” (D&C 63:47). Some people may seem to profit by breaking the rules, but in reality, no effort to keep the commandments will go unrewarded.
I always feel grateful when I think back to the rowing team. I still have the gold medal I was awarded for our victories. But more importantly, I have the determination I developed then never to take the easy return.