Monday press conference: Bebe Bryans

Women's rowing coach discussed her team's season, the Midwest Championships and UW's new boathouse

Opening statement: "Well, it's been a good spring so far, other than the fact that the Wisconsin winter wasn't too kind to us and we've only been on the water for about a week and a half. We went down to Austin for our spring break and had the opportunity to race the University of Victoria from Canada and Texas right at the beginning of our spring break, so it was a good way to get started — to get the women jump started into their season right away, knowing that we were probably going to be indoors when we came back again, which in fact was the case.

"The beauty of this facility is that we have fabulous training capability indoors, where we do spend quite a bit of time. So I feel that the quality of our training and the goals that we set for ourselves weren't really hampered too much by the fact that it was a long freeze on Lake Mendota.

"So we went to San Francisco with our top two boats and raced Cal, Washington, and Stanford, which are three of the top-10 teams in the country. Our second varsity did very well, winning two of three, and our varsity struggled a little bit, but got more and more confident as the racing went along. And that's the whole key to this, I think, especially at the varsity eight level, at the top level, is not letting early results really negatively influence you, but to keep learning and getting better every time you go out on the racecourse.

"So we were able to do that, and I think we raced better this weekend against Michigan and Michigan State. Again, our second varsity eight and our four were both, they won both of their races against those two top schools. And our varsity eight was close behind. And again, I really believe that time on the water, time together, and the competitiveness that I saw this weekend in that top eight will bode well for us at the Big Ten Championships, the Midwest Championships this weekend, and hopefully the NCAA's. Our lightweight women are doing extremely well. They were undefeated out in San Francisco, and coming off of their national championship season last year we were really pleased to see that. They raced hard this weekend. They were in a lot of races out in New Jersey and the Knecht Cup, came in second to Princeton, but we're very confident that they're well on their way to doing a good job at defending their title."

Coach, not knowing much about boathouses, how does this rank up nationally in Division I?

"Well, every program has different needs, and every program has different opportunities. I would put this up against any other boathouse in the country and any other boathouse in the world really. For us, for Wisconsin, there is nothing that I would do to improve upon this facility. It's really as close to perfect as you're ever going to get.

"The team is just so grateful and the coaches are so grateful to have this kind of facility to come to every day. We feel absolutely first class. It makes us want to go out and do a better job, if that's possible. Rowing out of the tent was a challenge. I was lucky I only had to do it for a semester, but a semester was enough. My character was built enough, I think. And, you know, it's just, to have heat, to have running water, we don't need a lot, but we have so much more than that here that we're flying. It's just, it's undescribable, it really is, to have this kind of a place to come to work in.

"I mean, we're so lucky anyway to get to go out on the water every day and be outdoors and do our jobs out there. But for all the other stuff that we have to do, which really takes up 80 percent of our time, to have a facility like this that coaches can be together, we get to interact with each other, it's unbelievably fantastic. Hopefully that's strong enough."

Coach, can you talk about how your rowers have responded to the new coaching change? There were, it was a bit of carousel last year with Sue [Ela] and [Maren] LaLiberty leaving. Can you just talk about how they've responded, and how you're adjusting so far?

"Well, first of all, the team, I have so much, I'm so grateful to them, because they have made this transition as easy for me as possible. To be honest, it was the one thing I wasn't sure about coming in. I knew that, you know, I'd been in a similar situation.

"I was fairly comfortable with the job. I knew, I was very comfortable with the department at Wisconsin. I was not at all worried about that. But how the team would react to me, you never know until you get here. They were so welcoming, and so open, and so willing to get better that it really made my transition as easy as it could possibly be.

"It's never easy to make a coaching change, and they've had to make a lot, a lot of coaching changes over the course of their careers here. The seniors, I think, have had 10 coaches over the course of their careers, between their freshmen coaches and their varsity coaches. So to believe me, to have faith in me, we had to work hard at it, and we're still working hard at it, but I could not be more grateful to them. And they have set the standard for what's to come, and we will only get better and better.

"As far as my adjustment goes, Wisconsin is a little bit different. There's a lot of things that we have to deal with here. We are all weather nerds. We have the Weather Channel or weather.com as our homepage when we get off the Wisconsin homepage. We know which way the wind is blowing. We know how hard it's blowing. We know what the forecast is, because we have to travel around. But other than that, it's been good. I am so happy and proud to be here. It's been a great transition for me."

And can you talk about the Midwest Rowing Championships this weekend? Obviously the school, on both the men's and women's side, have established a great tradition of success. As you mentioned last week, a lot of the top teams don't come to this event, but can you talk about your expectations and how your top boats will do?

"Absolutely. Any competition is good competition, so we're going into it expecting to need to row well and row hard. Whoever we're racing against, that's always going to be our mission, and we don't take anybody lightly. That being said, it is the week before Big Ten Championships, so we're going to be using the opportunity to tune up our racing strategy, to tune up our lineups.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see some changes between last week, this week, and next week. And we use every racing opportunity we have to do that. It's also a great time for the men and women to be together, because we hardly ever get to do that, and for the parents to get to see everybody race. And add the boathouse opening on top of that, and it's just going to be a really fantastic weekend. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and it'll be great."

I don't know a lot about rowing as far as your boats are concerned, with your top varsity eight and your second varsity eight. Do you adjust competitors in those boats? I mean, looking at your, how you've done so far, your second varsity eight is doing very well and your first is struggling a little bit. Do you change any of those lineups at all? How does that work?

"We're always looking for the best people to go in the boats. And again, not being on the water as long as pretty much anybody else we're racing against right now, it takes us a little bit longer to find the lineups. You can't do that on the ergometers and you can't do that in the tank. The only way to do that is to get them out in the boat together and see who makes the boat go.

"So, yes, there will be changes, really not to slow one boat down, but to make all the boats go as fast as we can. Obviously the varsity eight is the, I'm not going to say it's more important than any other boat, but our varsity eight has to be elite. It's got to be premier. And all of the boats are important, especially the three that qualify us for the national championships, which are the varsity eight, the second varsity eight, and the four. We need those three boats to be fast.

"The varsity eight has to be really fast. The other two boats need to be fast. So we've got really fast four and second varsity eight, and I know our varsity eight will be there. We just need a little bit more time. It takes a little bit more time to get that top boat up to speed. And we know that. We have to be patient. We have to take every single day. And I wouldn't be surprised if it takes us all the way to the Central Championships. If we're fast at Big Tens, that would make me very happy, but that's not the end for us. We have two more weeks to get ready for the Central Championships, and we have to be fast there. But we've got four weeks. We need to take four weeks."

How is it for you to row against your former school (Michigan State)? It looks like they're doing pretty well too.

"Yeah, I was proud to see them go well. They looked very good, which, you know, made me happy on one hand and not very happy on the other hand. But Matt's doing a great job there, as I knew he would. The women are strong, as I knew they would be. I didn't expect them to roll over for us and they didn't.

"We raced extremely well. We did not row extremely well. We can row better. We have time. I can't make them race better. They've got to do that from their hearts. So I was really pleased to see the level of racing. It was a step up from the week before.

"Unfortunately, their rowing took a little step back from the week before, but, again, time on the water will definitely improve that.

"If you don't have it in your heart, it's a really hard sport. It hurts a lot. And so if you don't really need to win, it's easy to just back off enough, and they raced hard this weekend. All of the boats raced really hard. It was a big difference from the week before. I know we're going to row better, and I think so do a lot of other schools. I'm pleased."


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