Tungsten Prep tutor Oliver Broadrick is a Division I rower and Computer Science major at George Washington University. He applies his experiences as an athlete, nature lover, and scientist to help students find balance and perspective amid their own busy schedules and inspires them to push past their preconceived limits toward enjoyment of math and science.
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You had a unique path to becoming a Division I athlete. Tell us about it?
My high school didn’t have an established rowing program. There was no tried-and-true pathway to college recruitment. But I loved rowing and knew I wanted to continue in college. I wasn’t a recruited athlete, so I decided to be proactive. I did my research and sent cold emails to lots of college rowing coaches, introducing myself, sharing my rowing times, and asking if I could pay them a visit. Many ignored me, but a few were very gracious. The GW coach seemed invested in me, even though I wasn’t a top recruit, because I stayed overnight with a rower, attended a practice, and built up goodwill and credibility. When I arrived on campus that September, I walked on and earned a spot on the varsity team. It was a risk, but I share that story with my students. There are always people who want to help you if you are persistent, passionate, and willing to contribute.
College athletes are usually busy. Tell us about a normal day.
I train 20 hours per week during rowing season. Daily, I’m up early and on the water at 6 a.m. Most of my classes are in the late morning and early afternoon and I squeeze study time in between. By mid-afternoon, I’m back at the boat house to lift or row again. In the early evenings, I tutor – I don’t have a car, but I get in an extra workout by riding my bike to students’ homes all over Washington, DC. I love having that extra bit of time on the road to myself. Later, I’m back home where I try to get as much studying done as possible.
What is the most important advice that you offer students?
I used to sacrifice sleep to get work done. The irony is that students think they’re working hard and “pushing through,” but the lack of sleep really hurts grades, well-being and long-term enthusiasm for learning. I tell all my students that my number one priority is sleep – before rowing and school. I encourage them to look at all those small gaps in their schedule – a study hall, the 30 minutes between the end of school and practice – and use those moments effectively. Cramming in three-hour blocks doesn’t really work anyway. Once students are intentional about their schedule, it’s amazing how much you can get done by the time you head home for dinner.
How do you help students who think they’re “bad” at math and science?
I genuinely love math, computer science and physics. Machine learning, cryptography, the future of artificial intelligence – these are related things that really excite me! Being authentic with students and showing them that enthusiasm goes a long way. Even if computer science isn’t their calling, I try to impart my delight with these subjects and it often rubs off on them. But it’s also important to acknowledge how stressful and discouraging these subjects can be for some students and help them manage that anxiety. I remind them that in 20 years, they won’t remember this grade, but they might remember the pride they felt in tackling a hard subject. Paradoxically, when they relax and let go of the grade, they actually do better. My mission is that no student should prioritize a grade above true learning.
How do you relax?
Getting outdoors and enjoying nature recharges me. I’m from Maine, and I love hiking, fly fishing, and backpacking. I’m an Eagle Scout and spent much of my childhood learning about nature. Even rowing can be very mindful for me – I love watching the monuments pass by from the Potomac, and there is no more peaceful feeling than a boat skating across the water in a good rhythm. I encourage my students to find an outdoor physical activity that takes them away from their homework, their phones, and all the noise. Washington, DC can be a perfect city for that.
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