This week's row2k Interview is with George Mason senior Natalia Kanos. We chat with Kanos on finding the sport and balancing being a student-athlete while student body president.
row2k - You started rowing as a novice at George Mason, what was your athletic background prior to enrolling and how did you end up in Fairfax?
Natalia Kanos - I started rowing for Mason my first semester of Sophomore year. Before that, I planned football (soccer). Being from Nigeria, everyone has a passion and love for football, and I did as well. I played football for a very long time, starting off in elementary school until when I graduated from High School in 2018. I still play it occasionally when I have time; especially when I go back home for breaks. All my friends and former teammates get together and play throughout the break. Football will always have a place in my heart.
As for ending up in Fairfax, I am a government and international politics major and knew that I wanted to be as close to DC as possible. Being an international student, I was drawn to Mason for its diversity, as I knew it would make my adjustment a bit easier.
row2k - How did you find your way into the rowing program?
Natalia Kanos - I always joke that I found rowing due to a sign. At the start of my sophomore year, I realized that something was missing from my college experience. I missed being on a team, I missed having teammates, and I missed competing. Then one day I was walking around campus and saw a yard sign saying something like, “Interested in rowing? Attend an interest meeting.”
I saw the sign, but I was like, I know nothing about rowing and kind of left it there. I kept seeing the sign and then when I decided why not, just go to the meeting, I had missed all the interest meetings. I thought I had missed my opportunity but that weekend I ran into someone on the team and expressed what happened and she gave me coach El’s email and I emailed her, and I guess the rest is history.
row2k - You are the student body president at Mason this year, how do you view your role in that capacity and what are your goals for the year?
Natalia Kanos - I take my role as student body president extremely serious. It is a great honor for me to hold this title and I’m working very hard to leave a positive impact before my term is up. It’s a lot of work, but I have amazing people supporting me and helping me.
My goals for the year are to help improve the lives of students, to make them feel comfortable in their environment, to help create initiatives that make college more affordable for students, and to bring concerns of students to administration. More specifically I am working with a lot of organizations on campus to improve how policing happens on campus and create transparency in its process.
row2k - What was your most exciting experience from 2021?
Natalia Kanos - Well, I got to meet Vice President Kamala Harris. She came to Mason to promote voter registration, and due to my role as Student Body President, I got to welcome her to Mason. It was a surreal experience and one that I will never forget.
row2k - What strategies have you used to balance your time between classes, rowing, and being student body president?
Natalia Kanos - Well, my planner is my best friend! I start by putting things I have weekly that I know I must do. These include assignments, practice, races, meetings, and events that I have. If it's not in my planner, I will probably forget about it. It takes a lot of balancing and planning in advance to make sure that I have time for everything, and nothing overlaps.
It also takes making sacrifices for things. Some of my friends and teammates joke with me when we plan that am I going to pencil them into my planner or write it in pen. It just takes flexibility, as important things do come up that I haven’t planned for and it's just about letting people know ahead of time. However, I have understanding coaches and teachers that are willing to work with me around my busy schedule when things do clash.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Natalia Kanos - What I like about rowing is how different it is from other sports I have played. I am used to contact sports and rowing is not that. It is a mental game and I think that’s what I like about it. Rowing takes a lot of mental strength and intelligence. Mental strength is important to ‘master’ the stroke and to focus and connect with your teammates in the boat. It also takes physical strength, there are no breaks when you are racing, no rests, no moments to take a breather. From the start you are on until you are done.
I also love how connected the sport is, everyone must put in effort and continue to work hard and not give up. You can’t give up because it’s not just you, if you are out of time, or not putting enough effort, or aren’t mentally focused, everyone in the boat will feel it.
On a lighter note, when you row you get to see the most beautiful sunsets.
row2k - How has this season gone so far and what are your goals for the spring for yourself and the team?
Natalia Kanos - The season has gone great so far. We are all excited to be back and are excited to race and do a lot of things we did not get the chance to do due to Covid. As a team we hit some great times during the fall and I’m excited to see how the spring goes. On a personal level I’m focused on getting faster, getting lower splits, and just improving my form. As for the team, it's just to continue to show up and give our all everyday as we work toward A-10’s.
row2k - What are you studying at George Mason, and do you have any plans for after graduation?
Natalia Kanos - I am double majoring in Government and International Politics and Conflict Analysis and Resolution. My plan after graduation is to take some time to rest over summer before I start graduate school in August.