Q&A: Margaret Schwiebert


Anjini Venugopal

It’s been less than a year since senior Margaret Schwiebert picked up her rowing paddles for the first time. Now, Schwiebert will be joining the San Diego State University rowing team in the fall. Schwiebert was a competitive gymnast until a broken knee stopped her from competing. Junior year, she tried various sports, including water polo and diving at MVHS. None of these sports matched her love for gymnastics so she decided to try another sport – rowing.

EE: What was your first experience with rowing?

MS: I started this school year, so a little late[r] than most athletes in college. My first experience was [learning] to row during the summer. [My junior year] was just a weird season of switching [between] a whole bunch of sports and trying to find another one. I [thought] rowing [was] the only thing I haven’t tried, so I did a learn-to-row over the summer, and it was one week. The second day, we were doing planks to emulate what a practice would be like, and they saw that I could do a plank properly. So they took me … to a varsity women’s practice. I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t even know what rowing is,” but they put me in the bow of the boat. I started rowing with the varsity women, which was scary and weird, but it was really cool.

EE: How difficult was it for you to pick up rowing?

MS: I’d say that no one is really a natural at rowing since it’s such an odd thing to do. I’m definitely not a natural, but from being an athlete, I had the mindset to work hard. I think that’s literally the epitome of rowing. It’s all really a mental game, so it’s just a matter of how you can push your body to the limit and go a lot harder than the person next to you. I definitely say that doing gymnastics helped because I had that competitive understanding. But nothing really equips you for that rowing machine.

EE: How would you say that your experiences with other sports have shaped your view of rowing?

MS: It was really weird going from highly competitive gymnastics to JV water polo … I had this preconceived [notion of being] already a really competitive athlete. To go from that to ground zero was really frustrating. I definitely struggled with that because although I was a beginner, I was like, “Where’s the conditioning? Let’s get more intense.” The mindset was different. I think going to Los Gatos [Rowing Club] and seeing the intensity and the seriousness that all these kids my age were having was pretty cool. I think the thing that is different about rowing is that you can start it at whatever age. It’s about working your butt off to be as good as the rest of the people; I thought that was really cool. It’s really just a matter of putting in the hours … being purposeful with your practice. You just have to be strong.

EE: Did you switch to so many sports because you wanted to get recruited?

MS: I had no idea I was gonna get recruited for rowing; I knew it was the last sport I could try and still be good at because you can start late. Rowing is just an older person sport. I started [the recruitment process] pretty late … I started emailing coaches and I had no idea what I was doing, but I guess it worked out.


To hear about Schwiebert’s recovery, click here.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Schwiebert