Caroline Lind (L) and Lindsay Shoop (R) compete in the women's pair race during the FISA Rowing World Cup on July 10, 2009 in Lucerne, Switzerland.
For years, Olympic rower Lindsay Shoop knew she had a story to tell.
She was reminded of it every time she had a speaking engagement and the audience members would approach her afterward and ask the questions: Do you have a book? Followed by, why don’t you have a book?
Now she does.
Released earlier this month, “Better Great Than Never” tells of Shoop’s journey from a high school basketball player to an out-of-shape college student with faltering grades to a Division I rower and, eventually, an Olympic and world champion.
“There are a bunch (of takeaways I hope people get from the book) but one is that it’s never too late to decide to do something to make you better,” Shoop said. “You have possibility and greatness in you, you just have to stay patient. That ‘never too late ’message is a big piece of it. Another piece is that it’s all the people and small connections and moments around you that allow you to become who you are. A life of significance is not because of one big moment but because of all the small moments that lead you there.”
The book opens with Shoop and her teammates in the women’s eight boat at the starting line of the gold-medal race of the Olympic Games Beijing 2008. They’d finish as champions, and the women’s eight would grow so dominant that they won every world and Olympic title from 2006 through 2016.
Shoop’s rowing story, however, begins at the age of 20 while in school at the University of Virginia. Not believing herself a good enough basketball player to pursue it in college, she’d given up on athletics and two years later was 30 pounds heavier than she’d ever been. Her grades, which had always been As, had also turned to Cs and C-minuses.
That’s when she ran into Virginia rowing coach Kevin Sauer, who is one of the people to whom the book is dedicated, and he remembered meeting her back when she was in high school. He’d told her during that initial encounter that if she ended up at Virginia she should give rowing a try, and when she bumped into him at a swim meet on campus he reiterated his belief that she’d make a good rower.
“The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Lindsay, it’s never too late to row,’” recalled Shoop, who would go on to become a two-time NCAA All-American and team captain at Virginia. “Here was an opportunity to try something different that entered my life serendipitously as a suggestion years before, and here it is coming back.”
Because Shoop has kept journals throughout her life, she knows that the night before that second run-in with Sauer, she couldn’t sleep with some of the thoughts running through her head.
“Basically I wrote down that I wished I wasn’t such a lazy bum,” she said. “And if I weren’t, maybe I could have been something but the world will never know, and that includes me. There are moments we don’t pay attention to if we aren’t ready for them. I was just ready.”
After she retired from competition, Shoop went on to coach and in 2016 joined the University of Miami staff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. She stepped away from that role in June 2019 and turned to private coaching, speaking, doing commentary for races, working in ocean rescue for the city of Miami Beach and finally writing the book she knew she had inside her.
“I wrote 115 pages, scrapped it, started over, wrote another 115 pages, scrapped that and started over,” she said.
Eventually, Shoop hooked up with a company that helped her understand the writing process and an editor who asked her all the right questions to help draw out the details.
In addition to going through her journals and looking back on everything she was thinking and feeling at different moments in her life, Shoop said, she enjoyed telling stories about her Olympic and national team teammates and all they shared.
“There was a moment on the water during one of the last practices (in Beijing) where one of my teammates said to savor the moment because you never know if you’re going to be in a boat like this again,” she said. “At that time I was planning on going back to the Olympics, I wanted to race forever, but she was right. You can’t take anything for granted, and savoring it for what it was was important.”
To learn more or to purchase a copy, visit https://bettergreatthanneverbook.com/ or any retailers where books are sold.