Category: College

College Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Hi, I’m a freshman in college. I rowed all throughout high school, and I thought that I could handle not rowing in college but I don’t think I can. It’s all I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve asked my parents if I could transfer home and row for a local club but they told me that I need to buck up and put my education first over my love for rowing. I don’t know what to do. They won’t listen to me at all. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t want to give this up.

I hate to side with your parents but they’re right. Transferring JUST to row isn’t a legitimate reason to switch schools, especially if you’re at a good school right now. You have to think long term – rowing’s not like football or basketball where you can transfer to a better school in hopes of getting more playing time and improving your stock in the draft so that you’ll hopefully land a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. If you wanted to transfer schools because you didn’t think you were getting a good education or you realized that the school you’re at just isn’t for you, those would be legit. If you were transferring to an equally good or better university than the one you’re at, with an equally good academic program as the one you’re currently in, then you might be able to convince them but if they know the reason you’re doing it is ultimately because you want to row, it’s going to be a very, VERY tough sell.

I would investigate opportunities in your current city and at your school. During the summer you can row at your local club at home but during the school year, like your parents said, school does come first. It sucks but it’s just how it is. If you still ultimately decide you want to transfer make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, whatever those might be. Sit down and have a mature, adult conversation with your parents. Gather all the facts (including financial costs of transferring) and present it to them. The more mature and rational you are about the situation, the more your parents will respect where you’re coming from and be willing to listen to you (even if they still say no in the end).

College Coxing Novice Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I’m currently a novice coxswain at my school’s club team. I weigh about 125ish. I’m thinking about transferring schools but I still want to do crew. One of the schools I was looking at was D3 and they said that coxswains should weigh less than 115. Do you think they would let me cox because I have already been doing that or would I need to lose weight? I try to work out. I’m planning on doing winter training but I’m not a good runner and I don’t have much erg experience so I don’t know if it would pay off.

If you have the option you could cox for men where the minimum for coxswains is 125lbs. I think you should talk with them and explain that you’ve been coxing for X number of seasons and would like to continue but be prepared for them to reiterate that they want their coxswains at 115lbs or under. (It’s not an unreasonable request either, especially when racing weight for women is 110lbs.)

If you’re not a good runner, that’s OK. You can always walk on the treadmill (put the speed at higher than normal walking pace but lower than jogging and/or put it on an incline), do the stair stepper, or hop on the bike. You should learn how to properly erg and try doing short pieces so you can develop the muscle memory. One of the things that really bothers me with coxswains is those who tell rowers what to do in terms of the stroke, body positions, etc. but don’t know how to at least erg themselves. There are plenty of ways to workout though beyond running and erging – find something you like and that you’ll stick with and just commit to doing it.

College Q&A Rowing Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I’m 5foot 7inches and I am a heavyweight right now. I weigh 155. Should I consider losing weight to be a lightweight since I’m sort of short to be a heavyweight (compared to the other girls on my college team)?

My initial thought when reading this was no, mainly because 25lbs seems like a lot of weight to lose before the spring season (assuming you mean you want to be a lightweight THIS spring). The reason I say that is because you’d have to lose around 6-8lbs/month between now and March to be at or close to 130 by the time the racing season starts. With the holidays coming up and the major overhaul you’d have to do to your diet/exercise routine, I just don’t think it’s practical. Not that it couldn’t be done, because I’m sure it could be … but like I said, it doesn’t seem practical.

If you’re actually set on doing this and have a goal to be a lightweight NEXT year, that sounds more reasonable because not only are you giving yourself a decent chunk of time to lose the weight, but you’re also giving yourself time to get used to a healthier diet (because you just cannot maintain that weight and vigorous workout regime without a healthy diet). You’ll also have a substantial amount of time to build up your muscle mass, which is critical as lightweight.

You obviously know your teammates better than I do and know what your coach looks for in the rowers so I would talk to them and see what advice they have. My guess is they’ll probably tell you to just stick it out as an openweight, which can be tough at first if it means you’ll “peak” in the 2V or 3V but your health is the biggest factor here and it all comes back to whether or not transitioning to a lightweight is a viable option.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 2

College Coxing High School Racing Recordings

Coxswain recordings, pt. 2

St. Ignatius (USA) vs. Shrewsbury (GBR) 2006 Henley Royal Regatta

Something I like that this coxswain does is tell them when they lost a seat and WHY. The subtle shock in his voice when he says “they’re challenging US?!” is great because that kind of tonal change in his voice gets the rowers thinking about it and ready to make a move to stop the challenge.

He also doesn’t lie at ANY point during this race – when they start moving, he lets his crew know that Shrewsbury is walking on them and it is not acceptable. Once he tells them to push the rate up they start making their move and he tells them every time they take a seat while continuing to ask for more on every stroke – “7 seats, gimme 8!”

Something I wouldn’t do that he did was count out the timing like he did at the start of the race – not just because it’s pretty amateur but also because at this rate, it’s not going to make much, if any, of a difference. There are way more effective ways of doing that than saying “2-3-4 cha”.

Other calls I liked:

“Let them burn their wheels…”

“Show them the thunder…”

“Load up on the catch, drive the legs, send it back…”

Bucknell Men’s Freshman 8+ vs. Holy Cross

At the start of the recording you’ll hear him say “My hand is up. I have my point. My hand is down.”, which is something you should get in the habit of doing as you’re getting your point before the start of each race.

When he calls the sneak attack at 3:07, there wasn’t really anything “sneaky” or subtle about it because he was yelling out the numbers like he was with every other ten they took. If you’re gonna take a move like that, it’s gotta be a pre-planned thing that you’ve discussed and practiced ahead of time so that all you have to do is say a phrase or a word and the crew knows that the next ten strokes is that move. Your tone and calls should remain normal and not give away that you’re taking a surprise move.

Other calls I liked:

“We do not sit…”

Radnor Lightweight 8+ Mid-Atlantic Regionals 2012

First thing I have to say about this video isn’t even about the coxing … it’s about the stroke. Seven strokes into the starting sequence and he’s already looking out of the boat and he does it throughout the entire race. This coxswain does a decent job of telling the crew where they are in relation to the other crews so there really shouldn’t be any reason for the stroke to be looking out of the boat like that.

One call he made that I liked goes back to the stroke looking out of the boat – he said “heads forward, I got your back”. When I see rowers looking out of the boat I automatically assume that there must be a some reason why they don’t trust their coxswain, otherwise why aren’t they listening to him when he tells them where they are? Establishing trust between yourself and your crew is critical in times like this. The only other thing I would have done is said the stroke’s name so that he gets that he’s talking to him.

He took several tens but there was one spot where I think a move could have helped them … he says “Morristown is fading” and then goes back into his regular calls. Don’t do that! If you can see a crew is fading, make a move and capitalize on it. Another thing that he said a lot was “top 3”, he wanted to be in the “top 3”. Instead of being saying that, I would have added an extra punch of motivation by saying “We’re sitting in 4th by five seats, let’s go for 3rd. In two we take a ten to even up the bowballs, ready to go, on this one.” I think specifics like that are important when you’re sitting just off the podium.

Something he does a lot that I would really caution you to avoid doing is saying “I want…” or “get me…”. Separating yourself from the crew like that just makes it seem like you’re a slave driver or something who’s just there to tell them what to do. You have just as much responsibility for getting your bow ball ahead as they do so whatever calls you make should be “let’s do X” or ” we want Y”. Calls like “I want a medal” are bullshit because you’re making it all about you and that’s not the case.

One quick note about the rowing – if you watch the stroke, you can see him losing his neck and hunching his shoulders at the catch and on the first part of the drive. If you see that, make sure you point it out and remind them to stay horizontal, engage the lats, unweight the hands, etc. so they’re not wasting energy by engaging the wrong muscles.

Other calls I liked:

“We’re clicking on all cylinders…”

You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.

An Irresistible Pull

College Novice Rowing Teammates & Coaches Training & Nutrition

An Irresistible Pull

I found this a few months ago and thought it was a great story, as well as good motivation. There’s definitely a lot parallels to be drawn between it and most of our own rowing careers.

During freshman week, he saw his first racing shell.  The crew captain was recruiting and stepped forward to introduce him to it.  The magnificent lines of the shell seemed perfectly sculpted.  How could a boat be so beautiful and narrow, the freshmen thought.  The captain said it was 64 feet long and held eight men.  The freshman noticed the captain’s weathered face and his developed quadriceps.  When they shook hands, the freshman felt the captain’s calluses.  Come row, the captain said.

The freshman went to the boathouse and tried it.  His first float onto the river filled his with pleasure.  He assessed the world from his sliding seat.  The river was wide and gray.  His coach told him that soon he would learn every turn of it.  He liked the idea of being a river man but knew little of what it meant.

He began long rows, experiencing the yoke of the river.  When he pulled hard, his car dove too deep into the currents.  He concentrated on rhythm.  The coxswain banged the stroke count on the gunnels.  Slowly, he learned to pull with power.  Afternoon practices ended in early darkness.  Half the freshmen quit, in doubt.  The captain said everyone must pull harder.

At Christmas, he shook his father’s hand and his father commented on his blisters.  He tried to talk about rowing but his tongue grew swollen and dull.

In April, the skim ice buckled the shoreline.  His boat was launched in light snow.  The varsity shaved their heads and wore T-shirts.  At spring break, he stayed for double practice.  His legs were always tired.  In sleep, he dreamed uneasily about water, of the river scrolling by.

His family came to the first race.  They stood a mile and a quarter from the start.  Because of a bend in the river, they only saw the last 20 strokes.  In victory, they thought it looked easy.  Two men vomited.  The freshman’s sister said she would never come again.  He threw the coxswain into the river, and the shirt that he wagered he collected from the opposition.  It was washed in collegiate sweat.  It was the finest trophy he had ever seen, and he wore it for a week.

Sophomore year, only six of his boat returned.  He was still green, and the competition was greater.  He, too, thought of quitting. He still resisted the river and blamed her when it hurt.  He imagined that his face looked troubled.  He wondered how much more he could give.  He saw the upperclassmen pull hard, sometimes even with pleasure.  He didn’t know what he was learning, but he suspected the lesson was patience.

In the junior year he rowed on the varsity.  They wagered and won many shirts.  He accepted the equation of practice to victory.  He grew mature about pain and work.  He saw the river as a strict teacher, helping him grow stronger.  His technique was exemplary.  But he did not row to win.  He rowed for a motion called swing.  In swing, he found a clearing to rise above grueling circumstances.  He suspected it was transcendental, where life became more than it seemed.  He suspected that if he got to know this clearing, he could find it again, away from the river.

He started his last year aware of an ending.  He went to the gym during freshman week and stood by a new shell with his quadriceps bulging.  His lobster hands engulfed the hands of recruits.  He was tanned and ready.  He was cordial but did not try to tell them why he rowed.  Instead, he explained the boat and the river.

In his fourth fall, he was bored.  He became intrigued with the perfect stroke.  His roommate studied physics, so they spent a week diagramming torque.  They discussed an oar’s effect on ultimate boat speed.  They placed values on leg drive and arm strength, and he graphed the motion on paper.  He was tested for body fat and had almost none.  He was training harder than ever because he could not do less.  The river was ever-changing, but he trusted her mass.  He saw a picture of the Harvard crew in Sports Illustrated, and wondered about the Olympics.  Then he looked at the seven-man and wanted his shirt.

His boat was chosen to win the league.  They won races but the swing was elusive.  He sensed that there was a struggle in the bow seats, but nothing was said.  His coach studies the ancient Greeks.  The motto of the boathouse was When dying, die in virtue.  But first, they were taught to endure.  Then they could die.  Of the two, enduring seemed more difficult.

Before his last race, the river was brown and foaming.  In a practice start the bowman crabbed his oar, throwing the boat to port.  He heard the strike to the bowman’s ribs.

They drifted in the current, waiting.  They had bet shirts, winners take all.  The opponents rowed by to impress them.  He stared at the seven-man, measuring the size of his shirt, a tall basketball washout from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

A race is six minutes.  Thus, a season is thirty-six minutes.  But he had practiced two hours a day, from September to June.  When icicles dripped from the oar locks, they went to Florida to row double sessions.  In addition, he ran stadium steps, lifted weights, and practiced in the tanks.  It seemed a dismal, inequitable equation.

Before the start, his stomach hurt.  He eased up the slide, legs sprung.  He heard the ripping of the water.  Waiting was harder than pulling, harder to contain.  His heart, which had strained to starting commands for four seasons, pounded for the gun.  When the pistol cracked he lashed out in relief.

At 500 meters the race was even and he longed for swing.  The starting sprint was over, but the coxswain had kept the cadence too high.  The boat struggled, not yet fluid.  He knew fatigue came in stages, but there was already too much in his legs.  Steadily, he shadowed the stroke before him.  His ears filled with static.  He wondered if the bowman was pulling.

At a thousand meters the coxswain wanted more.  At each catch the boat jumped, and he felt awake, lightened.  They responded-all eight-with legs and backs in symphonic motion.  The coxswain rapped the gunnels, sounding the beat with his hands.  He wanted more lead-another deck length-but the rowers only wanted rhythm, to hold the cadence, to extend their pleasure.

At the 1500-meter mark, there was a wake.  The boat twisted to port; and in a moment, they felt the swing depart.

With new pain, he searched the shoreline for clues.  How much farther?  How much longer?  How much more?  The stroke gasped to raise the beat by two; but slipping, it only went one.  His legs were gone, his back burned, his throat was numb.

With 20 strokes to go, he heard another coxswain yell that they were dying.  He thanked him, needing anger to penetrate his numbness.  He began counting but thought that 20 was too far.  He told himself to quit at ten-quit the race, quit rowing.  He was in deep suffering.  He once dreamed of falling off bridges in locked cars.  He was now back in the river, on the bottom; the inexorable swim to the surface was far.

On the eighth stroke, he heard his raspy coxswain, hoarse from a season’s yelling, calling his men to their oars.  The voice without panic.  It reminded him of his connection with the others.  He renegotiated with his legs, which hurt the most.  He asked his heart for tolerance, his back to bend.

He counted each stroke to the finish.  He felt his own last surge, making the oar shaft bend.

They drifted to regain their breathing.  Their coach yelled that they had won by a foot.  They wondered when, in their years on the river, they had learned to go that much faster.

At the dock, a small crowd was cheering.  After throwing in the coxswain, then the coach, the oarsmen quickly jumped in.  Himself, he floated in the brisk current, looking at his family on the bank.  The water was cold beneath the surface, but he barely felt it.  He was certain that this race was his last, then he thought better of it.

Image via // @benrodfordphoto

College Coxing Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

I’m 5’5″ and I know I’m not growing anymore (I’m in 10th grade and 15). I’m on varsity as a sweep rower, but I also am bow in most sculling boats so I have a lot of practice when it comes to ‘coxing’ (I know it’s not the same though). Anyways, I really want to row in college, but because of my height I’m scared I’ll be too tall to cox and way too short (and not as strong) to row. Any advice of what path to take, sweep, sculling or coxing ’cause of height?

It all depends on where you want to go to school. If you’re looking at Division 1 programs, you might be too short to row unless you looked at lightweight programs BUT you would be a good size to cox. A lot of coxswains I knew in college were between 5’3” and 5’5”. The only caveat is that they might look at your weight a little bit more than they would if you were shorter. Minimum is 110lbs and the competitive D1 schools tend to really push for that. If you were to consider coxing in college, my suggestion would be to look at men’s programs, not women’s. I feel like men’s programs, while still tough on their coxswains to maintain a competitive weight, are WAY less harsh than women’s programs are. I have my theories on why but they’re just theories.

Related: Hi! So I’m a senior in my first year of club rowing. I’m really athletic and strong from swimming and cross country but I’m 5’2 and like 115. Do you think I have a future in college rowing or should I be a coxswain? Thanks.

If you were interested in rowing, I would look more towards club teams or D2/D3 programs. While most can be just as competitive as D1 programs, they are much less stringent on typical rower/coxswain weight/height ratios. I coach a club team now and all of the usual rower’s body stereotypes are non-existent. You could easily do sweep, sculling, or coxing here.

College Ergs Q&A Recruiting Rowing

Question of the Day

What is a good collegiate lightweight women’s 2k if you want to get recruited?

I don’t know much about women’s times outside of the generally advertised times coaches look for. If you’re trying to get recruited the top programs tend to look for times that are sub-7:40, otherwise sub-7:50 will probably get you some looks. Outside of that, if you’re just looking at general times it’d probably be best to ask your coach since they’d probably have a better idea of what a good goal would be to shoot for.

College Q&A Recruiting Rowing

Question of the Day

Is it easier for women to be recruited as a lightweight or heavyweight?

My initial thought would be that it’s easier to be recruited as a heayweight simply because there are more programs available. Nearly every single school that has a women’s rowing program is openweight. There are maybe only a handful of schools that have lightweight programs though. If you’re borderline lightweight though and pull sub-par heavyweight times but decent lightweight times, the coaches may suggest transitioning to lightweight to better increase your chances.

College Coxing Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Hi! So I’m a senior in my first year of club rowing. I’m really athletic and strong from swimming and cross country but I’m 5’2 and like 115. Do you think I have a future in college rowing or should I be a coxswain? Thanks.

It depends on what schools you’re looking at. If you’re looking at Division 1 programs you’ll almost certainly be a coxswain. Unless you pull a phenomenal erg score for your size, they won’t look at you as a rower. I knew a rower in college who also swam and ran track but was 5’3” and about 115 so she had to really prove that she could hang with the rowers who were 5’10”, 5’11” and weighed 40-60lbs more than her. She was a good rower and had good erg scores for her size but rowed mostly in the lower boats just because she was so small.

If you go to a Division 3 school, then you could probably row. D3 is competitive, don’t get me wrong, but their requirements are less stringent than the hardcore D1 programs. Same goes for club teams.

If you’re interested in rowing/coxing in college, I would email the coaches of the schools you’re looking at. Tell them that you’re interested in being a part of the team but are unsure of whether you should row or be a coxswain. If you’re leaning towards wanting to row, make your case. Send erg scores (2k, 6k, etc.) along with something like your weight-adjusted times (your coach can help you with this) so they can see what your power to weight ratio is like. Ask them what they need – are they in desperate need of a coxswain or do they need rowers? If they have a lightweight program, inquire about that too. (Not all schools do though.)

Another option is to email men’s team coaches and see about coxing for them. Since guys are naturally bigger than girls, I’ve found that men’s coaches are pretty willing to snatch up female coxswains when they can simply because we’re smaller and lighter.

College Novice Q&A Rowing Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hi! I go to a D1 school and our rowing program is supposed to be really good and any woman can walk on. If you can stay with it, you’re on the roster. I spent this past summer learning to row, and stroked my first regatta (novice masters women’s 8) early September with my local boathouse. I’m upset right now though. My skill and athleticism level is at the bottom of the recruits and the walk-ons. And I’m having trouble making friends with either group. How do I assimilate and what do I do?

Why do you think you’re having trouble? Is it because there’s an age difference between you and them or is it something else? My advice would be to just strike up a conversation and see how it goes. Talk about practice – how’d their boat do today, what drills did they do, how’d it go, etc. Ask about classes – are they taking anything interesting, what are their professors like, etc. Talk about why they decided to do crew. What’s motivating them to stick with it? Discuss your annoying roommates or the weird people that live in your dorm. This is a great ice breaker because you’ll end up having some kind of weird pissing contest to see who has the roommate or hall-mates with the most annoying habits, weirdest quirks, etc. It’s a good way to get everyone talking because even if you’ve only been on campus for a week, you’ll already have at least one story to share.

Is your skill level and athleticism REALLY below the recruits and walk-ons or do you just perceive it that way? What are you basing that off of? The recruits are going to be better than the walk-ons because they’ve been rowing for 3-4 years already – they were recruited for a reason. If you just learned to row this summer, you’ve only been rowing for … what … 4 months, max? It’s like comparing a major leaguer with a minor leaguer. The major league player has years of experience whereas the minor leaguer has a few years of high school, maybe college experience. The two are incomparable because their experiences are different. The minor leaguer is still learning, similar to you and the other walk-ons.

I know when I first started in college, the walk-ons were all terrible. I can’t believe that your skill level is lower than theirs if you spent all summer learning to row and have already stroked an 8+. Has your coach given you some kind of indication that you’re not up to par? If he/she has, I would talk to them and get some clarification. Tell them what’s bothering you and ask for advice. If they’re a good coach, you should feel comfortable talking to them and they should in turn be able to help you out with any questions you have.

As far as your athleticism, that’s something you can work on on your own without everyone else around. Go to the gym, hit the ergs, hit the bikes, lift weights, go swimming, etc. and work on your strength and endurance. It’s a fantastic way to get out your aggression and frustrations, trust me. If you don’t want to do something by yourself, see if your rec center offers group Pilates classes and then ask some of the other girls on the team if they’d like to go with you. Pilates is awesome for building a strong core, which is something you need in order to be a successful rower. Afterwards, go grab a coffee and just sit and chat. Two birds, one stone.

I’m sure you’re doing better than you think you are. Give yourself credit – most people wouldn’t do what you did over the summer. That shows commitment and an honest desire to be a part of the team. Talk to your coaches or some of the older varsity members and ask for some advice. They’ve ALL been in the position you’re in right now and might be able to share some of their experiences.