Danielle Ober played three sports at Manheim Central High School in Manheim, Pennsylvania, but she didn’t garner much interest from college programs.
Ober said she was too short to play college basketball, not good enough to play Division I soccer and not interested in track & field at the college level. So she took a different route to become a student-athlete.
Ober’s friend, Sophie Iosue, gave her the idea of contacting Temple’s rowing coach about walking onto the team. Iosue walked on to Harvard University’s rowing team as a freshman and was a thrower on the track & field team in the 2015-16 season.
“Mom, that’s what Sophie said I should do,” Ober said to her mom, Marge Ober, pointing at the boats, as they drove past Boathouse Row in April 2014.
Later that day, Ober sent an email to coach Rebecca Grzybowski. Now, in her sophomore year, Ober rows in the Varsity 8 boat, the Owls’ top boat.
“We actually get emails like that a lot,” Grzybowski said. “Rowing is a really unique sport, unlike almost every other D-I sport, you actually have women competing at a really high level that haven’t rowed until they got to college. And we have a really strong walk-on population. This is all rowing, not just Temple.”
While Ober didn’t get the attention from basketball or soccer coaches coming out of high school, it turns out she has the ideal body for a rower, Grzybowski said.
She added that rowing is a leverage sport, and at 5-feet-9-inches tall, Ober has long legs that coaches look for to help their teams breeze by opponents in the water.
Without experience, it took some time for Ober to get comfortable.
Ober said during her freshman year using an oar felt awkward and being in the water felt strange.
“It’s a very big team sport,” Ober said. “And not that the other sports that I played weren’t team sports, but rowing is so different because you can’t do anything without being synchronized with your teammates and being on the exact same page as everyone else.”
“Trying to learn how to connect with your teammates on that type of level was a lot different,” she added. “You can be the best basketball player and shoot all of the baskets and be the star player, but in rowing there is no star player. It’s a total collective thing, and that was a mindset I had to change.”
Prior to enrolling at Temple, Ober grew up on a farm in Lancaster County.
Ober’s driveway at her house is a mile long, and she knows all of her neighbors, even though the closest one is about another two miles down the road. Her house is surrounded by horse farms and Amish people riding horse and buggies down the winding streets.
The farm has about 25 cattle and a chicken coop the size of two football fields. The coop holds roughly 35,000 chickens, Ober said.
Her father, Dan Ober, hires local farmers to take care of the chicken coop, and he sells the steer once they get big enough.
Ober loved growing up on a farm, especially when Halloween rolled around each year.
“My dad would set up a huge Halloween party,” Ober said. “He would decorate the chicken house, get people from his job to come and dress up as scary people, and make mazes in the cornfield. It was so much fun being able to do that”
Ober helps her dad unload trailers of hay and fence the pasture but admits she should do more on the farm.
But when it comes to rowing, Ober has given her all since being a novice as a freshman last year.
“She’s definitely picked it up and continuing to get better, which is why she is where she is, because she’s open to getting better everyday,” Grzybowski said.
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ignudo5.