This week row2k interviews Wisconsin senior Brianna Dahm. Dahm has had a very busy four years in Madison, balancing rowing with school, National Guard, and ROTC.
row2k - How did you start rowing and what was your novice year like?
Brianna Dahm - One of my best friends who rows for the University of Washington really influenced me to try out the rowing team. We had always done the same sports through high school, and once we got to college, she told me how much she liked rowing, and how much I would like it, which led to me trying out for the team. I had a similar influence on her; I talked about how much I liked the Army National Guard, and she ended up enlisting.
I remember hearing “things aren’t always like this” numerous times my novice year. From the long frozen lake, staying at interesting hotels, and numerous weather conditions resulting in cancelled and delayed races, my novice year was very different. I remember thinking I was the worst rower in the world, thankfully rowing was a sport that rewarded effort, and I was really good at trying. I ended up being in the 1N through the whole year. My novice year was also the time where I made my best friends.
row2k - What was your athletic background prior to Wisconsin?
Brianna Dahm - In high school I played volleyball, and soccer and competed in powerlifting. My brother was big into lifting, and I did not have a winter sport so I decided to give lifting a try, and I am very thankful for a lifting background. All of these sports made me a well rounded athlete which really helped my rowing career.
Dahm in National Guard Training
row2k - You're part of the Army ROTC and National Guard, how and why did you get involved there?
Brianna Dahm - I first enlisted in the National Guard, which is a branch of the Army where you live a civilian life, and your requirements to the Army are monthly drills and summer training. Education is important to me so I decided to enlist in the National Guard because then I could still go to college while be part of something that is bigger than myself and have a chance to make a difference. At Wisconsin I learned about Army ROTC and found that it would be something that would really challenge me and help me in my future. After I graduate, instead of being enlisted, I will commission into the finest Army in the world as an Aviation Officer.
row2k - How do you balance school, ROTC, and rowing?
Brianna Dahm - Sometimes I have had a hard time believing that I am doing everything. ROTC is a lot more time demanding your junior and senior year, and spring is even more demanding, which is similar to rowing. When I had the idea of doing ROTC, Army National Guard, rowing, and double majoring, I had a meeting with my coaches and all the cadre (ROTC teachers who are also in the military).
It was very difficult to find a balance because I was part of four activities that ask 100 percent of me all the time. One of the biggest issues is the overlap. Practice constantly conflicts with ROTC classes, or PT sessions, and I knew I would have to miss races, and training weekends for ROTC and the National Guard. In the end everyone decided that it would be on me to figure out a way to balance everything, and they would do what they could to help. I go to my coaches every semester with a calendar with all of my drills, and ROTC training on it. After discussing that I go to my cadre and let them know about all of my races and practice requirements. It also took some time to get my coaches, cadre, teammates, and peers in ROTC to trust that I can balance and succeed in every area.
Now everyone is confident that even if I have to miss three practices a week, or miss PT three times a week, or have two exams in a week, I will find some way to make it work. There really isn’t a special formula for how I balance everything; I just work really hard, am really organized, have open communication, am good at compartmentalizing, and have a lot of support from my friends, family, coaches and cadre.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Brianna Dahm - The things l like most about rowing is the competition, and the confidence it has given me. Because of rowing, I honestly feel like I can take on any physical military task and excel. I am very respected by all of my ROTC peers because the training I get from rowing helps me perform at high physical levels, and perform really well under stress.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
Brianna Dahm - My most memorable race is finals at NCAAs in 2015. Everything really clicked for us as a boat, and we won the race which gave us a lot of momentum for the coming year. It was also memorable because it was our last race with our seniors who were really awesome to row with.
row2k - What are you studying at Wisconsin and do you have any plans yet for after college?
Brianna Dahm - I am majoring in Legal Studies, Psychology, and getting a minor in Criminal Justice. I plan to commission into the Army National Guard as an Aviation Officer. I also want to start skate skiing and find my way onto the Wisconsin National Guard Biathlon team. In my civilian life I just got an internship with the US Marshals which will help me on my way to becoming a federal agent.