SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara University has a long history of student-athletes having success in their respective sports once they leave the Mission campus. Reilly Dampeer '00, the Santa Clara all-time record holder in the 2k ergometer, is no exception. She has gone on to compete for the U.S. National Team and been able to pass on her passion to others as a coach.
Everyone has a different story of how they found the sports they love. Usually it includes a lifetime of playing or watching the sport. With rowing, it is often different because many of the rowers at Santa Clara have never rowed before.
"After registering for my first college classes in-person at the Leavey Center, I was funneled out to the back hallway to face the sea of student groups and upperclassmen recruiters and this is where they found me," said Dampeer. "The upperclassmen from the men's rowing team asked me to sign up for the novice women's rowing team. I had played sports most of my life, but had not expected to participate on a Division I team in college. I was intrigued by the idea of trying out for a sport I knew nothing about with other girls who would be in the same position as me. My novice coach, Des Stahl '91, defined rowing for me, and I was hooked."
Sports are not only a great way to get physical exercise and stay in shape, but the skills and discipline learned can help in many other aspects of life as well. Dampeer has seen these benefits first hand.
"Rowing has given me a way to express myself, which enables me to approach life, work and relationships with confidence," said Dampeer. "Rowing has been one of many tools to measure myself by. I know how to push my limits to go after the things that I want."
Dampeer has been both a rower and a coach. Both ways of being involved in the sport have given her special moments and memories.
"As a rower, a landmark memory is sitting at the start line in for the Women's Single final of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, listening to the starter announce 'United States of America' and know at that moment I represented my country," said Dampeer. "As a coach, I feel that my most meaningful memories happen when I see the athletes discover strengths they didn't know they had."
Most collegiate athletes finish their careers once they graduate. Dampeer has had the opportunity to stay involved directly in the sport she loves.
"It has been incredible to stay involved with rowing," said Dampeer. "I know myself well and I am learning how to get the best out of the athletes I work with, which is so fulfilling."
Dampeer has also had the good fortune to work with two-time Olympic coach Matt Madigan. Working with a coach of such high caliber has benefited Dampeer on the water and on the sidelines as a coach.
"Matt was my coach for two seasons, and in that time taught me to be curious about the sport, the discipline to be an elite athlete and how to endure some of the most complicated drill sequences imaginable," said Dampeer. "After I stopped rowing, I sat in his launch for two seasons, learning how to communicate the sport to a diverse audience. He taught me that it is possible to show love and respect for the athletes and the sport and be successful. He continues to be my mentor, and is always providing me enthusiastic, constructive support."
Being able to row for her country is something Dampeer will always cherish. She knows how hard it is to reach that goal and will forever be grateful for her opportunity.
"Rowing for the National Team is an amazing, earned opportunity," said Dampeer. "Every minute is a minute to be used toward achieving your goals. I will never ask myself, 'What if?' I lived my dream for a brief moment in time, and for that I will always be grateful."