Feb. 3, 2012
BERKELEY - With the start of the 2012 California men's crew season less than two months away, the Golden Bears have been practicing hard everyday for the outset of the campaign. CalBears.com had a chance to sit down with junior coxswain Jonathan Hoon about how spring practices have been going thus far. Hoon was the coxswain of the Bears' varsity eight boat last season.
CalBears.com: Did you feel any additional pressure competing on the varsity eight last year as a sophomore?
Jonathan Hoon: Sure, as a sophomore, they were initially quite intimidating. The group of seniors from the previous season already had already won a national championship. However, their collective leadership and drive to excel that came with their experience became contagious to the rest us. They knew what it would take to win, which was very reassuring and helpful in learning how to get better.
CB: How much experience did you have in the sport entering last season?
JH: In high school, I competed on the Marin Rowing Men's Junior team for three years as a coxswain. Midway through my freshman year, I transferred [to Cal] from the University of Michigan. My first semester at Cal was a huge wakeup call in terms of what would be required to compete on such a talented freshman class. The coaching I received under Coach [Wyatt]Allen and Coach [Luke]Agnini during my freshman season definitely helped me understand how much more there was still to learn. They were both very patient with me, and that made what could have been a very difficult transition enjoyable and exciting.
CB: Did it come as a surprise to you when you first learned you would be competing on the top boat?
JH: Of course! I am still very appreciative of every opportunity I've had to train and race with the guys in the top boat from this season as well as last. Coach [Zach]Vlahos, who had been the varsity boat coxswain the previous two seasons, shared lots of great advice with me in getting through the year and handling the pressure.
CB: Being a coxswain, how much differently do you prepare and train from the rest of the rowers?
JH: The role of the coxswain on our team is to help prepare the rowers to be in the right mental and physical condition for them to be successful. I learned that most of this preparation does not come from always trying to be competitive within the team, but rather helping the coaches teach in the most efficient way possible. For me, the most exciting part of the season comes in implementing a race plan where all the results of the training can be fully realized.
CB: What's the most challenging aspect of being a coxswain?
JH: For me, one of the most challenging aspects is finding a certain role to play on each boat so that you can be as helpful as possible. Often times this is one of the most exciting parts of the sport because coxswains get to work with and learn from so many different kinds of people. We are especially lucky at Cal because so many of our rowers are from all over the world with incredibly diverse backgrounds.
CB: How have preseason practices been going so far? What are you working on in particular?
JH: Preseason has been very productive as our team is anxiously awaiting the start of spring racing season. We have been training since the beginning of September, developing a lot of the sophomores who will definitely be great additions into our top boats this spring. Lately, a major aspect of coxing that I have been trying to improve is my attention to detail, making sure I can hear and then communicate our coach's instructions as clearly as possible.
CB: What are your personal goals for this season?
JH: My goal for this year is for our entire team to win a national championship. After coming so close to winning IRAs last season, I definitely want to make sure that we can finish this year with a win.
CB: Describe what it's like being under the tutelage of a coach like Mike Teti with tons of international/Olympic knowledge and experience.
JH: I feel very grateful to be coached by Coach Teti. His Olympic level of experience motivates all of us because we know that his standards are so high. One of the greatest lessons I've learned at Cal has actually come from him. Last season, he always emphasized how I needed to distinguish and then focus on the "important things" rather than become overwhelmed by trying to do too much at once. I am constantly reminding myself of this in all aspects of my life.
CB: Despite only being a junior, after being on the varsity eight last year, do you feel like you need to take on more of a leadership role this year?
JH: I do my best to be as helpful as possible every day with a positive attitude. We have a group of seniors this year who have also really embraced being roles models and supporting our entire team. We are all doing our best to encourage many of the younger guys to improve and understand what will be required for them to help us win at the varsity level.
CB: You were named to the Pac-10 all-academic second team last year. How difficult is it balancing athletics and academics?
JH: The time commitment that crew requires definitely takes its toll on academics, however, I've gradually learned how this limitation can actually help with focusing on school work. One of the toughest things to learn in college is how to budget all the extra time. The time constraint from practice forces you to spend that extra time studying as effectively as possible. I am also very lucky to have had understanding professors who encourage the student-athletes in their classes to really engage with them on a personal level.
CB: What made you decide to come to Cal?
JH: Since I was only a year old, my dad started taking me to Cal football games. The tradition and competitive nature that is associated with Cal athletics has always been greatly respected in my family. My grandparents, who also attended Cal, come to every single football and basketball game. I've been raised to share a similar enthusiasm for great players such as Jason Kidd and Aaron Rodgers. When the opportunity to come to Cal arose, I was overly excited and humbled to be able to share in such a strong athletic tradition.