Year in Sports : Rebuilding a powerhouse: Dave Reischman wanted the challenge of bringing SU’s men’s rowing back on top. In less than 6 years, he’s accomplished plenty

Home   /   Year in Sports : Rebuilding a powerhouse: Dave Reischman wanted the challenge of bringing SU’s men’s rowing back on top. In less than 6 years, he’s accomplished plenty

first_img Published on April 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm On the bank of a river in Racice – an industrialized city in the Czech Republic still wearing the affects of communism, Dave Reischman flew down a bike path. The finish line appeared in sight, and excitement swelled in Reischman.A bit strange considering:a) He wasn’t actually in the race.b) The finish line was not on land. It was in the middle of the manmade river he rode alongside.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut this was the No. 11 Syracuse men’s rowing coach’s first time being involved in the international scene of men’s crew at the 1993 Rowing World Championships, coaching a qualifier for the men’s single sculling competition. And as long as Reischman’s legs could keep up with the methodic movements of every rower on the waterway, he wasn’t going to miss a race.Why else would the head coach devote time leading up to the races fixing up a rickety Ukrainian mountain bike? Why else would he put up with the ragging from senior coaches for his borderline obsessive enthusiasm for the race? Why else would he log several miles a day to watch each 2000-meter sprint?Why – Reischman knew that bike trail would provide him with a view to the quality of rowing that he’d never seen before. ‘I’d be like ‘Wow, did you see that?” said Reischman, his face still becoming wide-eyed as he describes the scene in Europe from his office in the Archbold Gymnasium 15 years later. ‘And then I’d turn and peddle back to the start and catch the next race.’That’s the fervor generated by a rowing maniac. One who prefers to spend his time picking the brain of former and current rowing stars. One who mastered terrain by bike just so he could get a better glimpse of the water. A bit geeky perhaps – after all Reischman holds a computer science degree. Then again, there’s that one time the head coach recalls he landed a computing job. All day he just fantasized about rowing. Lineups, strategies, rowing techniques. He couldn’t get it out of his head.Now he’s brought that expertise, that obsession, to SU. In 2002, Reischman took over a once-great, now floundering program. He’s turned it into the most successful sports team at Syracuse. His Varsity Eights crew has lost only one race during the regular season in the past three years. The team has won more hardware than the school had seen in its trophy case in more than a decade. ‘Rebuilding is sort of a young guy’s game sometimes,’ the 43-year-old Reischman said. ‘And I didn’t know how many more shots I’d have at it. So I figured (Syracuse) was the challenge I was looking for – I couldn’t leave it for someone else to do.’He has built up programs twice before – first with his alma mater Gonzaga and then transforming a run-of-the-mill Oregon State program into a national contender.At the time, Reischman said he looked at all the team’s that had once been considered a crew powerhouse and felt Syracuse had slipped the furthest. But after leading Oregon State to a fourth-place finish at the national championships in the spring of 2002 – that’s exactly the test Reischman wanted. The SU program’s supporters couldn’t be more pleased.‘I can’t be more satisfied with what coach Reischman has done for this team,’ said John Nicholson, editor of the Syracuse rowing alumni newsletter the ‘Orange Oar.’Last weekend, Nicholson said the rowing alumni listserv flooded the server with e-mails. Crew members from as far back as the 1950s were sending congratulations out to Reischman and the approximately 250 rowing alumni on the listserv. The Orange crew had just pulled off a win over Cornell and Navy to win the Goes Trophy. Both SU opponents were ranked near the top 10 nationally. But for the SU alumni, the win signified something much more than that. Reischman had said he didn’t believe in rebuilding seasons. Now he had proved it.Last season’s crew graduated 12 of its 16 best rowers. That senior class had previously completed back-to-back unbeaten seasons. That core had done a majority of the work turning around a program that had managed one victory in the first three seasons of Reischman’s tenure. But Reischman wasn’t going to settle for a down year.He plucked walk-ons like Tyson Bry, Brian Azeff and Mike Bagnall out of the crowd and turned them into varsity rowers, while also relying on junior Martin Etem and senior Ryan Armstrong. Reischman and his assistants built a competitive team that sped by its rivals last weekend – and in the process captured the Goes Trophy for the third consecutive year, a feat Syracuse had never achieved in the 54-year history of the race.Reischman brings a ‘fierceness’ to every race, Etem said. Reischman’s honest, blunt – not afraid to share his thoughts, including the insight he’s picked up through the years. Etem said he believes quality helps create victories. And it’s a trait others also have noticed.‘He’s a very diligent driven guy, who puts all his energy in his programs, teams,’ said Kris Sanford, SU’s women’s rowing head coach. She toured Reischman around the athletic facilities, the first time he came to campus, while considering the Syracuse job in 2002. ‘I think it came across very clearly he was somebody who liked to build programs,’ Sanford said.Walking through Manley Field House and the boathouses with Sanford, Reischman said he could sense potential. But he realized he’d have to change nearly every single aspect of the program to discover that capability. First, he noticed a disconnect on the squad. Reischman wanted his players to have a certain attitude. He got rid of the ones who didn’t and implemented his own regime. He applied a little bit of everything he had learned over the years. Everything from watching stroke counts while peddling his bike in Czech to what he picked up form mentors on his path to Syracuse. Throughout his 21 years of coaching – including 19 as a head coach – Reischman remembers studying and apprenticing from older coaches. But his greatest mentor was the first he met. Harvard head coach Harry Parker, who Reischman described as the ‘Vince Lombardi’ of rowing coaches, took Reischman on as an intern when he graduated from college.‘He’s pretty green when he first came,’ Parker said. ‘He was very observant. He showed very good judgment. Even then he had confidence in himself and his ability to teach. That’s important.’Even today, Reischman likes to pick the brain of the 71-year-old Parker. The two still go rowing together – one of the most recent tours was at the prestigious Henley Regatta in England – discussing their lives and the sport that dominates it.Reischman imparts on the SU crew members a focus on attitude and an intense work ethic. Even the alumni get a taste of it. Reischman will let them ride alongside him during practices for some in-depth perspective on how the head coach ticks.‘When I sit down with Coach Dave you know his heart and his intellect are with this team and this program,’ said Jason Premo, president of the Syracuse Alumni Rowing Association. ‘And his knowledge of this sport is beyond anyone I’ve ever spoken with.’ With the established success come heightened expectations. Reischman talked about changing the ‘institutional memory’ of a school used to losing when he arrived at Syracuse. Now that he’s created that atmosphere, Reischman knows he’ll have to deal with the opposite – a program that always expects to win. Naturally, Reischman plans to do that. He guarantees his expectations are higher than any alumni. Due to all the recent successes, Reischman said he’s optimistic about the program’s direction. He’s less animated now down at the raceways, adding he bikes to view his own races but usually not other heats.Reischman uses his spare time on race day to relax. The head coach owns a Gary Fisher mountain bike for riding with other coaches alongside the water, but he now prefers to cycle around in order to unwind between races.Still, as he rides around, the fervor for the sport he can’t get enough of churns in his mind. Reischman said Syracuse needs to be one of the top six boats to qualify for the Grand Final. The Orange needs to compete for a national championship every year.‘Yeah, we’ve had some success,’ Reischman said. ‘And we’re happy about that. But I don’t know if anybody in the program is satisfied. There’s plenty more speed to gain.’mrlevin@syr.edu Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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