Seamus O’Brien ‘20 was a member of the Fairfield University men’s rowing team for the past four years. As a graduate from the Charles F. Dolan School of Business with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in both marketing and management, He has chosen to extend his collegiate career for an extra year as he pursues his master’s degree in business administration. 

Following the abrupt end to the school year last spring, O’Brien was not able to see competition during his senior season. Feeling unfulfilled and hungry for more, he felt he had unfinished business on the team and decided to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to him by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We had worked so hard last year that it just felt like I needed to come back and complete what we had been working for the last four years,” stated the graduate student-athlete in an email. 

His love for the sport has been strong enough to pull him back into competing, and O’Brien credits his development as a person to his participation on the team. He thanks the rowing program for teaching him how to be an impactful member of society. 

“It has helped me grow in so many ways into the person I have become. I can never fully express into words what the sport means to me,” O’Brien said.

Head coach Casey Fuller was an athlete on the rowing team, and after graduating in 2018 he returned to the team to continue his legacy at Fairfield from a coaching perspective. 

Although pursuing some sort of role on the coaching staff was a consideration for O’Brien during his fifth year, he said that, “when the fall races were cancelled it just seemed in the team’s best interest for me to train all year with our new recruits.” He added that his presence as an athlete could contribute to creating the strongest bonds between rowers, which is necessary for a successful season.

As a two-time, back-to-back, former captain, O’Brien is no stranger to assuming a role of seniority and leadership among his teammates. Although he was not named captain this year, he expressed his excitement to watch his fellow rowers take the lead and assume leadership positions of their own.

“After two years, it’s definitely sometimes an instinct to step up because of my passion for the team and the sport, but it’s been awesome seeing the new upperclassmen take on the responsibility and excel,” he added, encouragingly.

O’Brien’s plate is exceptionally full, as he balances two part-time jobs and five graduate courses, all on top of the rigorously demanding schedule of a collegiate rower. 

He sees a vast difference between undergraduate and graduate workloads, in regard to difficulty; however, the pandemic has made it tougher to compare the two experiences, as they have been so different. He works from morning until night, waking up to train, spending the day working and then taking night classes, in efforts to manage his many responsibilities.

The Pennsylvania native’s expectations for his final season stand true, despite the unpredictability that accompanies the time. 

“I have goals every year, no matter the world around us,” said O’Brien. “I want to win a championship with this team and continue to build our reputation in the rowing world. As long as I give everything I have for my teammates and they do so in return, I will be proud of what we accomplish.”

Thus far, the team has faced many challenges as a result of the coronavirus and the restrictions it imposes. The new ergometer room, which was set to be completed this fall in John C. Dolan Hall is yet another project which has been postponed. Without this brand new practice facility, and small training groups implemented, the team is forced to roll with the punches. 

“With these smaller groups, practice times have been more dynamic. As a team we have learned that no matter what is happening with the surrounding environment, we need to continue to work and adapt to the situation. We can’t stop working,” he implored.

O’Brien noted how drastically his experience as a student-athlete has transformed since last March, and detailed what a toll it has taken on the men. 

“Like everyone, I think it has had an affect on how we work, train and live. Particularly mentally, it is difficult to keep pushing everyday for something that is still uncertain,” he admitted. “However, our goals do not change.”

The men’s rowing team must keep their eyes on the prize, which is medaling at the Dad Vail Regatta in May, and then going on to qualify at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta. O’Brien has been able to look past the adversity, and remains adamant about achieving these end goals. 

“I am here to win championships with my rowing brothers. We want to compete, and no matter what happens, we will give our best effort every day.”


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