Charlie Smith ’23 grew up in North Andover, but it was a revisit day that sold him on the idea of attending Brooks. “I wasn’t thinking about private school until my mom really pushed for it,” Smith says. “I applied to Brooks and to St. John’s Prep, and that was it. I really liked the vibe here on revisit day, and specifically the energy at School Meeting.”
Smith arrived on campus intending to play soccer, which he says was his main sport at that time. He planned to play squash in the winter and golf in the spring. Smith’s soccer prediction stayed true — he’s a core member of the team that just won the New England championship — but he quickly found himself pivoting to wrestling in the winter and crew in the spring. He credits this shift to his teachers and classmates, who saw his potential and encouraged him to try new and unexpected pursuits at Brooks.
Smith didn’t just dabble in squash and crew, though. He’ll graduate as captain of the wrestling team, and he was one of the group of Brooksians who traveled to the Henley Royal Regatta last summer.
Three Successful Stories
Smith has found his way in three Brooks programs. Along the way, he’s solidified his talent, learned lessons about determination and spirit, and experienced one of the most celebrated regattas in the world.
Smith made the boys 1st soccer team as a fourth-former, and he speaks very fondly about his time on the squad. “The team has meant a lot to me,” he says. “We think a lot about winning, and we have a good time while we’re doing that.” Smith also appreciates head coach Willie Waters ’02 and his dedication to the program. “He’s really good,” says Smith. “You can tell how much he cares about the program also, and he wants to win just as much as we do.”
The boys soccer program, Smith stresses, is more than just a commitment athletes make while they’re at Brooks. “It’s just awesome,” Smith says of the bond that soccer alumni have created across class years. “I meet alumni for the first time, and I consider them family. It’s a nice feeling that I’ll remember for years.
Smith found wrestling because another student convinced him to try the sport. “They didn’t have anyone at my weight class,” Smith says, “and the 1st-team spot sounded attractive, as well as the idea that wrestling would make me more athletic and help me out with soccer as I got stronger and more flexible.”
Smith immediately liked the challenge of wrestling, and he speaks about the lessons the sport has taught him. “It’s definitely a tough sport, and the practices are hard,” he says, “but I’ve grown a lot. It’s taught me a lot. Wrestling is so mental. It’s just you and one other person out on the mat, and I’d say 50 percent of it, maybe even more, is just who wants it more. You can apply that to a 50-50 ball on the soccer field or to a crew race. Whoever wants it more, whoever’s pushing themselves harder, they’re going to do better.”
Rowing crew also wasn’t in the plan when Smith enrolled at Brooks, but, again, he was convinced by a friend to try the sport. He ended up going on the team’s Spring Break trip to Clemson University in his third-form year and now calls that trip the highlight of his first year at school.
“I like beating other crews,” Smith says. “The feeling after a race, or even just after some hard pieces in practice. It’s pretty nice and rewarding. You feel accomplished.” Smith has improved over his time at Brooks; this year, he expects to land a spot in the second boat.
Last summer, Smith got to experience rowing at its highest level: He was one of the students who traveled to England to participate in Henley Royal Regatta. “I was pretty excited to go,” he says. “When I first heard of it, I didn’t really know what it was, but after hearing [Director of Rowing Tote] Smith describe it and then doing some research on my own, I learned that it’s one of the biggest rowing events in the world. I was just stoked, and it was more motivation throughout the season to get in the tanks and work hard on the water.”
The trip to Henley itself was, in Smith’s words, “a blast.” The best part, he says “was definitely watching all the racing and seeing these massive guys, like Olympians and elite college rowers, in front of you. It didn’t seem real.” He also enjoyed his time spent with other Brooksians. “We’d row for probably four, five hours a day, and then the rest of the time was spent exploring the town and hanging out with the team, which was fun,” Smith says.
The trip to Henley helped Smith see how expansive the rowing world is, and how competitive it can be at its most elite levels. Smith was inspired by that revelation, and he’s bringing back to Brooks the idea that hard work brings results. The entirety of his experience in athletics at Brooks has taught Smith “to love being part of a team,” he says. “The teams here are definitely the highlight of my Brooks experience, so I definitely want to be a part of a team in college, and just continue to work hard with a group of people towards one goal.”