By Taylor Gull
Special to GoHolyCross.com
College life certainly comes with its own set of challenges- from time management to choosing a major. Caroline Laurendeau (Sudbury, Mass.), a freshman coxswain on the women's rowing team has had her own unique set of challenges to overcome. Despite having cerebral palsy, a disorder that hinders body movement, Laurendeau has not only managed to navigate the hills of Holy Cross, but has also had a successful first season as a Division I varsity athlete.
Laurendeau's love for the sport of rowing began while she was playing field hockey, a sport that she decided would soon become too physically demanding. Still wanting to compete, Laurendeau began searching for a sport that would curb her competitive edge. A friend who rowed for Laurendeau's future club team, Community Rowing Inc., thought she would be perfect as a coxswain. Once she tried it, she never looked back. As she learned more about the sport and the position, Laurendeau fell in love with it. "I finally found a sport that wasn't too physically aggressive on my leg but at the same time gave me the competitive edge that I love," Laurendeau said. "There is no better feeling than knowing that you're pushing your teammates and helping them along the way to be successful. Coxing was always so rewarding to me knowing that I had a purpose on the team and a job to do in the boat."
As she continued with the sport, she began to integrate her desire to continue into her college search. She received a great deal of influence and input from her family, especially since her father, Jack (Class of 1979), played football at Holy Cross and her brother, Jack (Class of 2011), played baseball. She also has a sister, Mallory, who graduated from Holy Cross in 2013. After seeing her siblings' positive experiences, and especially her brother's experiences as an athlete, Laurendeau knew Holy Cross was the place she wanted to learn and continue with the sport she loves. "I looked into other schools during the college process but I knew in the back of my head all along that this was where I was supposed to end up," said Laurendeau, "Watching my brother through his college career playing baseball at Holy Cross and seeing the positive experience he had with it was a big influence in making my decision. He immediately had a group of friends to turn to for guidance and support from his team which is something I knew I wanted in college."
The transition from her highly competitive club team to collegiate athletics was an easy one for Laurendeau. Since the size of her club program was so much larger than that of Holy Cross, the transition was smooth. With a smaller program however, comes a higher level of competition. "College rowing is obviously much more intense than high school," Laurendeau said, "But my coaches were really supportive in making the transition from high school rowing to college as easy as possible. Both my coaches and teammates made me feel welcomed and excited to join the program which really helped."
Over the years in high school, club and collegiate rowing, coxing has taught Laurendeau a number of invaluable lessons, which she has found useful in all aspects of life. Most notably Laurendeau has learned that with success, comes defeat. She believes, "Coxing especially helps you develop thick skin when things don't always go as planned and you need to assess the situation." It is this thick skin that has helped her to move past an obstacle, her cerebral palsy, that might otherwise stop someone in their tracks. Before finding rowing, Laurendeau said she was never confident in her abilities to compete. Although it began as an outlet to satisfy her need for competition, rowing has become a support system, a source of confidence, and has given her the willingness to face any obstacle. "Coxing has given me a confidence I never had with my CP," Laurendeau said.
Laurendeau's confidence is only compounded by the support given by her team and her coaches. "Both my coaches' and teammates' support has meant the world to me," Laurendeau said, "No one makes my CP an issue and they do not treat me any differently. My teammates have become my second family over this year and have made my freshman year even more memorable. I know that I can turn to any of them for support and they will always have my back. We all look out for each other." Laurendeau says this support is what drives her to push herself every day.
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