P.J. Fleck’s ‘Row the Boat’: UMN Gophers football coach explains – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
It is the phrase that will fly around press conferences and social media and follow new Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck anywhere he goes: “Row the boat.”
That’s Fleck’s mantra. But what does it mean? Fleck explained at the What Drives Winning conference in 2016.
“First and foremost, Row the Boat has nothing to do with a Bronco, nothing to do with really adapting or relating anything to do with wins or football. It’s a never-give-up mantra.”
But where did it come from?
On Feb. 9, 2011, Fleck lost his second son, Colt, to a heart condition. Row the Boat originated after his son passed away.
“As you hold your son as he passes away, your whole life changes. What you believe in, how you’ve believed in it, what you’ve done to that point, where you’re going to go and how you’re going to live your life all changes. But Row the Boat is really my second son’s life as I continue to live his life for him. It’s his life.
“It’s a never-give-up mantra that has to do strictly with life or adversity or handling success, never giving up, and it means a few things. When you row a boat, you’re rowing, don’t ever look at me and paddle. That’s completely different. We’re rowing. Your back is to the future, which is something you cannot control, nor can you see. You have to trust the person in front of you, that you’re looking at, that they’re doing their job and rowing at the same speed, same efficiency as you are. But that’s the future, you can’t control that. You don’t know if there’s rocks, water falls, stormy seas, you don’t know what’s ahead of you. You’re rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can actually control, and the only thing you can actually have an impact on. You either choose to take your oars and put them back in the boat and stop, or you put them back in the water and continue to go. But you’re looking at the past, which is the only thing you can actually learn from. But you can’t change.
“There’s three parts to rowing a boat: there’s an oar, there’s a boat and there’s a compass. The oar is the energy you bring to your life, your family, your team, your spiritual life, your personal life, your social life. It’s the energy. Energy breathes loves. If you love something, you’re going to put a lot of energy into it.
“The second part is the boat. The boat is the sacrifice. What are you going to give up for something that you never had. The more you sacrifice, the more you give. Our program is about two things: serving and giving. The more you give, the bigger the boat gets, the more people you can put in it and the sturdier the boat gets. You can go through any waterfall, any storms, you can fall off waterfalls, you can do a lot more when you have a sturdy boat. But there’s going to be people that want to put holes in that boat. There’s going to be people that want to throw you out of that boat eventually as a coach.”
“Then last but not least, the compass, which is the most important part for our young people, and that’s who you surround yourself with. Your compass is the direction of where your boat is actually traveling. But your traveling in the direction of people that you’re actually surrounded by, and you’ve got to be OK with your circle getting smaller as your life goes on by the decisions you make.”
“So, again, it’s our version, it’s my son’s life, it’s my obligation as a parent from now on, to live his life through my life and to make sure that people are aware he couldn’t live his life for himself, so I have to live his through this never-give-up type attitude.”
Watch Fleck’s full conference here: