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Do You Want to Learn to Row? By Rick Pierson, Northwest Rowing

Rowing Benefits For Homeschoolers

By Rick Pierson, Northwest Rowing, who passed away March 4, 2014.

If you want to learn how to casually putter about a lake in a traditional rowboat, there are a variety of places you can learn to row a boat. Check with your local parks department, YMCA/YWCA, scouts, boys & girls club, or other youth organization for rowing lessons. But if you want to learn competitive rowing (i.e., the sport of crew), you need to learn from a program set up by a rowing program at a school or rowing club.

A competitive rowing boat, more properly called a shell, is built for speed, not stability. The sides of the boat are only a few inches above the water line, and the boat is very narrow, with barely enough room to fit your hips inside the boat. So for safety’s sake you don’t want someone trying to learn on their own, without supervision. Even experienced rowers have unexpectedly found themselves in the water quite a few times, for a variety of reasons.

If you aren’t attending a school that has a rowing program, or homechooling, you should look for a rowing club. Most rowing clubs aren’t listed in the phone book – at least not in a way you could find them. The best way to find a rowing club in your area is to do a search on the internet – use your favorite search engine, simply type in rowing and your location, and you will probably find some good results. Rowing used to be confined to only a few areas of the U.S, but in the past decade it has grown greatly throughout the country.

Generally, there are three types of rowing programs: Junior programs, which are primarily for high-school age rowers; collegiate programs, which is for competition in college; and masters, which are for rowers 25 years old and older. When choosing a rowing club, check to make sure they have the type of program you need. You will find that most rowing clubs are quite enthusiastic about recruiting new rowers.

Be aware that rowing has several seasons, so your rowing program may want you to begin at one of those seasons. The biggest season for junior rowers (high school age) is in the spring, concluding with the US Rowing Youth National Championships in June. But most rowing programs also have some programs for the summer and fall, also. If you already participate in a sport, you can simply row in the off-season for your other sport.

A beginning rower (called a novice for their first year of rowing) will probably be expected to pass a swim test before beginning training. But after that, most rowing clubs expect that you won’t have any prior experience, and will teach you everything you need to know. Quite a few college rowers never even picked up an oar before joining a crew team. In fact, one of the members of the undefeated Univ. of Washington Men’s Varsity Eight (2007 national champions) had never rowed before college, or really competed in any sport prior to rowing.

Rowing is also a bit of an unusual sport in that it doesn’t require a specific body type or talent to do well. It is true that long and lean is considered the ideal for rowing, but at the junior level it doesn’t make much difference. What the rowing coach is looking for is somebody who is willing to take instruction, work hard, and has theheart to compete.

But make no mistake – competitive rowing is an athletic sport, and you will be working very hard to build strength, endurance, technique, and teamwork. Quite a few rowers who participate in other sports report that they worked at least as hard, if not harder, in rowing as they did in football, track, basketball, swimming, and wrestling. Expect to spend a lot of practice time on land building strength and endurance – running, weight-lifting, wall-sits, erging, etc. A favorite tee-shirt worn by rowers is one that says Real Athletes Row – Everybody Else Plays Games.

But it really is worth it? You bet. The discipline and teamwork you learn as a rower can’t be matched in any other activity outside of the military. A local businessman once said that he would always hire a rower before anyone else. “They know the value of hard work, teamwork, and discipline. You can’t learn that in too many other places these days”. In general, kids who become rowers tend to be better all-round persons than the average high-school athlete. There is a running joke in some college circles that they keep the rowing programs going so they can double the GPA of the entire athletic department. The friends you make rowing will often last you a lifetime – some people refer to it as the fraternity of rowing.

Rowing certainly looks good as an outside interest on any college application. It is not unusual for college rowing coaches to recruit high-school rowers, passing out college applications along with a return envelope marked athletic department, which is sure to provide some added benefit.

Your parents might also be interested in rowing as a college scholarship source, especially with respect to high-school age girls. Title IX requires all U.S. colleges to have an equal number of scholarships for both men and women. Since the football teams take up an inordinate number of scholarships in a sport in which women don’t participate, colleges have been setting up rowing programs around the country to provide an outlet for their women-athletes.

So check it out – I think you will be glad you did.

Copyright 2007 by NorthwestRowing.com – used by permission, but no long available. A guide to rowing and sculling in the U.S. Pacific Northwest – featuring rowing club directories; rowing classified ads; rowing scholarship information; rowing products; and links to rowing articles, humor, pictures, and books.


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