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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2008

Pulling for teens: Champion rower, filmmaker wants kids to find inspiration

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mary Mazzio and her rowing partner were pulling on all their reserves when they approached a bridge during the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston last October.

They were stunned and energized to hear a chorus of voices cheering encouragement from the bridge overhead. It was the girls of Toledo s St. Ursula Academy, in Boston for a rowing competition and shouting for a rower they hadn t

met but from whom they had gleaned inspiration. For two years in a row, they had

won the Chris Ernst/Hero for Daisy cup for being the fastest eight-woman boat at the

Head of the Cuyahoga regatta in Cleveland.

A filmmaker and 1992 Olympic rower, Ms. Mazzio continues the cycle of encouragement when she speaks and shows one of her films at St. Ursula at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Anybody can become an athlete, said Ms. Mazzio, 46. I d like girls to figure out ways to get a little more self-esteem.

How? Look for inspiration, she suggests, be it in a role model, a book, or a movie. Eat well. And get physical.

Find something that s fun. It can be dance. It can be walking. It can be any one of a number of things. What matters is the intensity of the effort, she said in a telephone interview. Girls that are physically active are less likely to have depression, a teen pregnancy, less likely to use drugs.

Likewise, boys who have an hour of activity before school perform better during the school day, she noted.

Ms. Mazzio will bring a bottle of Spanish champagne she received at the

Barcelona Olympics as a member of the U.S. rowing team, and will christen St. Ursula s new boat (cost: more than $30,000), to be named Daisy s Heroes. More importantly, Ms. Mazzio will bring her 10-year-old daughter, Daisy, for whom she made the 40-minute film she ll show, A Hero for Daisy.

An upbeat, energetic brunette who writes a lively blog that s often a commentary on major sports stories (marymazzio.blogspot.com), Ms. Mazzio lives in the Boston suburb of Wellesley with Daisy, her husband Jay Manson (who she met rowing), and their 11-year-old son, Jamie. Her film company, 50 Eggs Inc., is working on its fifth documentary.

Like A Hero for Daisy, her films are about overcoming obstacles in a

variety of ways.

The 1999 film she ll show Tuesday tells the story of the 1976 Yale University rowing

team. After a long, cold, practice one wintry day, Chris Ernst and her drenched teammates shivered on a bus for a half hour, waiting for the men s team to finish

their showers and change into dry clothes in Yale s boathouse.

They were fed up with the jeers and insults they d received from the men when they worked out, and practice times that were scheduled around the men s.

Ms. Ernst and 19 teammates marched into the office of the women s athletic director and stripped to the waist, revealing backs and chests bearing the phrase

Title IX, the federal law enacted in 1972 that required equality for female athletes.

Accompanying the team was a New York Times photographer; the action got

national attention and Yale built women s locker rooms.

Ms. Mazzio believes an all-female school is essential for young women at some point in their lives. Moreover, she said American attitudes about school sports need to change.

It is ludicrous to cut kids from a team, just from a public health standpoint,

she said. All the attention goes to the quick-burn kids. If you re not a star at 8 or 10 or 12, that s too bad, which is crazy because your body doesn t mature until 15, 16, 17, 18. But if you re not a star by 10, you can t learn the skills you need.

She s also a fan of failure, calling it an underrated experience.

People think if you fail you re a loser the stakes for losing are so high. If you

fail, it s OK. It s about getting back up and not quitting.

It might have been informed by my own experience. I was cut from every team in high school I tried out for. I have no eye-hand coordination.

She wanted to play sports, and did play a bit and became a cheerleader.

When she got to the all-women s Massachusetts college, Mount Holyoke, the

rowing coach stopped her as she strode across campus one day.

He said I should try out for rowing.

She was tall and had strong legs.

So I did.

She loved it, and continues rowing in doubles competitions.

I think girls face what we faced, but the obstacles are much more invisible, she said. Girls have more, but they re willing to accept less. They don t seem to fight like women did in the 1970s did because discrimination is not as blatant.

Mary Mazzio will speak at 1 p.m. Tuesday in St. Ursula Academy s field house. The talk is free but reservations are requested by calling 419-531-1693.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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