Q&A with Trevor Michelson, interim head coach of men’s lightweight rowing
After being promoted from assistant coach, Michelson reflects on his new role within the program.
After five years as assistant coach, Trevor Michelson recently took over the men’s lightweight rowing team as interim head coach following Dan Roock’s retirement. The Dartmouth sat down with Michelson to discuss his transition to head coach, the team’s return after its elimination and subsequent reinstatement in 2020 and his plans for the upcoming season.
What is your past coaching experience and your collegiate experience? How has that helped you in your new coaching role?
TM: I have spent the last five years at Dartmouth, most of it with lightweight men and a little under a year with the women’s program. Before that I coached at Wesleyan University — which is where I went to college — and before that at Fordham University in New York City, where I grew up.
In terms of my collegiate experience, Wesleyan is a small NESCAC college, similar to Dartmouth, and balancing academic and athletic excellence is something you work through as a student-athlete at both NESCAC schools and in the Ivy League. My experience there helped me understand what the guys are going through and allows me to help them navigate college while trying to balance crew and school.
How do you and the team plan to turn the page from last year’s season?
TM: Coach Dan Roock, my boss for the past four years, was a real mentor and close friend, and we’re going to do a lot of things similarly and a lot differently. This past year was our first year back after the pandemic, and we made a lot of progress, but we fell a little short of our goals at the end of the season. So this year we want to turn the notch up on training and racing with a physical, technical and mental approach to the sport and see if an increase in output and input in those areas can allow us to move up in the Ivy League ranks.
What has been the biggest adjustment from being an assistant and now head coach?
TM: The big thing right away has been the outpour of supportive notes from alumni that I did and didn’t know, which has been really touching. Alumni — along with the Dartmouth sports administration and the new athletic director Mike Harrity — gave me their support and asked me how they could help me adjust to the role. However, in terms of the team, a lot will stay the same because Roock had allowed me to have a lot of autonomy in the program, which gave me some experience in running the team.
How much time have you been able to spend with the team? Are there any limits you have to work around?
TM: In the summer — besides the kids on campus for sophomore summer — guys are all over the country from southern California to the northern tip of Maine doing internships and working and even rowing on an international level like Cooper Tuckerman ’22, who just made the U23 quadruple scull headed to the World Championship. Working around that, I’ve done a couple team Zooms — debriefing them on last season and letting them know my thoughts on the coming year — and I’m also trying to talk to everyone on the team by phone. Most of my time is spent on planning next year and getting ready for the fall so we can go full steam ahead when it gets here.
What was it like when the program was eliminated and eventually reinstated in 2021?
TM: It was tough. The Dartmouth lightweight team is a historic program, and it was hard for the guys and for me to lose the team. When we got cut, we thought we would lose everyone, but all of our guys kept rowing — some joined our heavyweight team, some were off campus and some trained on their own. The best six months to be gone were the six months we got cut because there were few competitions happening due to the pandemic. When we came back, and even now, there is a sense of gratefulness to have each other and have the program back. The guys carry a chip on their shoulders, which is a powerful thing when it comes to athletics.
Outside of the team, we have incredible alumni with the Friends of Dartmouth Rowing being one of the better alumni groups in the country. The elimination definitely fired up alumni and brought them together and connected alumni with rowers. Being cut was terrible and stressful, but at the end of the day, I think we’re better off for it.
What do you see as the Dartmouth community’s role in supporting the team?
TM: I think Dartmouth and rowing really go hand in hand, mainly because our boathouse is right on campus. In the spring and summer, there is so much activity on the water that it gives us a level of exposure not a lot of other schools have. There are also over 100 kids rowing between the heavyweight, lightweight and women’s teams, which is a sizable number at a small school like Dartmouth. So, between those two factors, rowing has become entwined with Dartmouth, and those home races can be beautiful times on the river.
What are you most excited for in this new position?
TM: I’m obviously thrilled and the support from alumni is great, but what stuck out most to me about getting the job is that the guys on the team were so excited. To me, coaching is about relationships: athletes can’t do it without a coach, and the coach can’t do it without the athletes.
I’m excited about continuing to foster my relationships with the guys on the team and pushing the boats to be as fast as they can.
I’ve heard from one of your rowers that you will sometimes join workouts. What prompts you to do that?
TM: To me, exercise is really important for my mental and physical health. Coaching is a job that has a lot of stress and anxiety around it, and you spend so much time taking care of athletes that sometimes you forget to take care of yourself. Carving out time to work out is important to be the person I am, and exercising with the guys is great because their effort motivates me to keep pushing myself.
What’s your favorite workout song?
TM: I’m a big fan of female pop artists from the 2000s, and my favorite song on the erg is “Your Love is my Drug” by Ke$ha.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.