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It's a Family Affair for Anderson Trio

Thanks to Bryce, who lured his two older brothers into the sport, now all three Anderson brothers are avid heavyweight rowers. Travis (right) spent his junior season rowing in the third, fourth, and fifth seats.
Thanks to Bryce, who lured his two older brothers into the sport, now all three Anderson brothers are avid heavyweight rowers. Travis (right) spent his junior season rowing in the third, fourth, and fifth seats. By Matthew W DeShaw
By Leon K. Yang, Contributing Writer

UPDATED: October 22, 2017 at 3:22 p.m.

Following in the footsteps of a parent, especially a parent who excelled in athletics and academics, is no easy task. For the Anderson family, however, this has become the norm.

Steve Anderson ’85 played four years of football at Harvard as a defensive end. Throughout his career, Anderson displayed a grit and tenacity on the gridiron that earned him All-American honors.

Twenty years later, Anderson’s sons, seniors Eric and Travis and sophomore Bryce, have continued their father’s legacy in both academics and athletics. Travis and Bryce are currently on the men’s heavyweight crew team, and Eric rowed for the team in his freshman and junior years.

Throughout elementary school and high school, the Anderson brothers participated in many different sports, but all eventually settled on crew. Bryce, although the youngest, began rowing first at Greenwich Water Club and eventually drew both his brothers into the sport. Travis and Eric eventually joined the Maritime Rowing Club, a 30-minute drive away from their home in Cos Cob, Conn.

“I was swimming, Bryce used to do diving, Eric had some other sports,” Travis said. “By the time high school came around, we all were looking for something new, and Bryce kind of led us into rowing.”

At the Maritime Rowing Club, Eric and Travis were paired in a double together, but initially struggled to row efficiently.

“Over time we realized, we should be able to do much better than than this,” Travis said. “And so I guess that ended up being good because we learned how to work better together, just both in rowing and in life.”

There was always, and continues to be, a healthy competitive culture between the brothers.

“We’re definitely really competitive brothers,” Bryce said. “We’ve all been competitive with grades or anything like that. It was definitely a constructive competitiveness, I suppose because we all weren’t necessarily amazing at crew or anything like that. We would kind of push ourselves with crew, [and] with academics, and we all ended up here.”

In this mutual competition, the Anderson brothers had the help of not only their father but also their mother, Kathy, who supported her children through numerous school events, music performances, and athletic contributions. Both parents pushed the Anderson brothers to make the most of their talents.

“I think there’s always amongst siblings, especially when you have twins like Eric and Travis, but I think it was a good, healthy competition,” the elder Anderson said. “It was neat for me because they all get in to crew, and I know[knew] nothing about crew until they started rowing, so it was a good new sport for me to learn, and very selfishly from a scheduling standpoint, it’s nice that they are all on the same schedule.”

Steve Anderson grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and was recruited to Harvard to play football.

“I had a dad who worked in a factory and mom who was a secretary, so I was pretty much a full scholarship kid back in the ’80s,” Steve Anderson said. “But I saw if you can combine strong academics and strong athletics, that’s a pretty good combination.”

When is came to his sons, Anderson’s view is no different.

“If you can convince kids that academics can help athletics, athletics can help academics, and if you can do the combination of them at such a high caliber institute as Harvard or something semi-equivalent, that’s a great combination in life.”

When raising his sons, Anderson emphasized the importance of athletics and the important interplay between schools and sports. Despite the emphasis on academics and athletics, the elder Anderson emphasizes that these are qualities that go beyond the classroom or the field.

“I think the whole environment, if used properly, can allow you to reach for things that you quite honestly didn’t think you were capable of achieving, whether it’s on the field, or because of things you do on the field, that you gain confidence academically, you can gain confidence in the work environment, you gain confidence in the social environment,” Steve Anderson said. “I think it’s a great part of the building of all your life skill, and I hope the kids get that too.”

Growing up, the brothers were well aware of their father’s impressive accomplishments playing football. Steve Anderson would talk about how much he loved playing for the Crimson.

“I think it was definitely an inspiration to see just how good our dad had been playing football here; he did quite well overall,” Eric said. “And I think the biggest impact was just for us, when we were talking to our dad about his college experience, he would talk about how athletics helped shape the academic side and gave him a really balanced, really great college experience.”

For the Anderson brothers, their father’s experiences made not only the prospect of going to Harvard a dream, but also made them consider competing for the school in sports.

“I felt my dad being a really good athlete at Harvard immediately put Harvard and Harvard athletics on the map,” Bryce said. “From a very young age, I think I made a PowerPoint when I was six that said I want to go to Harvard and play football there. It’s a little cheesy but, it definitely put Harvard on the map, and our dad definitely pushed us, not in a bad way, definitely in a good way.”

All three brothers, however, were quick to note the large influence that their mom had over their lives, whether through sports or academics. Both parents placed an emphasis on effort over outcome. Such support played a key role in driving the Anderson brothers to the crew program.

At Harvard, all three brothers walked onto the men’s heavyweight team as freshmen. Although being walk-ons presented challenges, the brothers said that they enjoyed their experience.

“I got kind of lucky that the rowing team is pretty receptive to walk-ons and if you keep putting the effort in, they’ll keep you around and invest time in you, so I think it ended up being a nice match,” Travis said. “When Eric and I came in, there was a lot of work to be done, and they were really good about helping us at least improve our fundamentals well enough so we weren’t floundering, and since then it’s been great.”

Eric Anderson said that he is grateful for the walk-on tradition at Harvard and recognizes that it helped him develop a mentality and desire for self-improvement.

“It was pretty special to first off have us all here at Harvard, and certainly even more special for all of us to be able to walk-on to the men’s rowing team and row there,” Eric said. “So, I really think it allowed us to further bond as brothers, and it brought us closer together.”

With the Head of the Charles Regatta looming ever near, Bryce Anderson, who will be racing in it for the first time, expressed his excitement. Travis had some advice for his younger brother.

“It is a super unique experience,” he said. “Most of the time, rowing events get nowhere near this amount of attention and there’s not nearly as many boats all in the same area. It’s kind of an experience you have to take in. It’s going to be a normal race, so it’s going to hurt and it’s going to be hard, but also, just savor the moment as best as possible.”

Steve Anderson said he is always excited to watch not only his sons compete, but also their teammates, many of whom he has gotten to know through the years.

“It’s very easy to see when a boat is really in sync and moving, and it’s pretty beautiful to watch, and it’s a little poetic looking,” Steve Anderson said. “It’s not unlike watching a football team that’s clicking on all cylinders or a baseball team that’s really got it going or a basketball team that’s really on fire. It’s a very fun thing to watch when it happens.”

The Anderson brothers said that they appreciate the structure that athletics provide, and the camaraderie and work ethic that crew demands. In general, Steve Anderson said that he enjoys seeing the progress his sons have made, and hopes that they continue implementing the skills that they’ve learned from balancing athletics and academics by continuing to row after college, whether for leisure or at a competitive level.

“I think all three of them have done a really good job at balancing an academic drive and an athletic drive,” Steve Anderson said. “I think that’s hopefully put them in a position for good success in life, however they want to define success.”

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Men's CrewHead of the Charles 2017