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Row Your Way to Health, Confidence and the Ivy League

Crew is the oldest intercollegiate sport in the United States, originating in 1852 when Yale challenged Harvard to a rowing competition and the first Harvard-Yale Boat Race was held on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut.  The number of colleges and universities in the U.S. supporting intercollegiate varsity rowing teams for men and women has since grown to nearly 200.

Unlike most collegiate sports, rowers practice through the entire school year and compete during both spring and fall seasons. Many college rowers also train during the summer at one of the 1,300 rowing clubs around the country.

Crew is a total-body aerobic activity, using the major muscle groups in both the upper and lower body. Rowers become superb examples of physical conditioning. Physiologists have found that rowing in a 2,000-meter race is the equivalent of playing back-to-back basketball games. Try that sometime.

The health and self-confidence benefits of crew are sufficient in themselves to justify a person’s lifelong dedication to the sport. In addition, a student, by becoming a competitive rower during high school, can improve their chances of being recruited by one of the more than 50 top-tier schools that offer crew as a varsity sport.

The “most selective” colleges and universities competing in crew include Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Brown (last year’s Ivy League women’s champion), Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton (last year’s Ivy League men’s champion), Stanford, MIT, Amherst, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Duke, Georgetown, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Vassar, Middlebury, Trinity (CT), Tufts, Wellesley, Wesleyan (CT), Williams, Smith, Hamilton, and Washington University in St. Louis.

How can a high school underclassman prepare for intercollegiate rowing? The answer is… join your school’s team! Crew has exploded in popularity at public and private high schools in recent years. However, many schools still don’t offer the sport. In the absence of a school team, you can compete through one or more of the 1,300 rowing clubs that offer training and competition at all levels of the sport.

There are 70 prep boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada that offer crew as an interscholastic sport. Although most are in the East where suitable bodies of water abound, there are prep crew teams in Texas, Indiana, California, and elsewhere. Many private prep day schools also compete in the sport.

Public high school students are often able to compete on one of the new crew teams that have been formed in the last decade. Among the reasons that high school students are drawn to the sport are the following:

  • The hand-eye coordination critical to success in certain other sports is not an essential skill for rowers.
  • No boating experience is necessary before taking up the sport.
  • Rowing is different from baseball, basketball, football, and soccer, sports that children generally begin to play at a very young age in order to acquire skill sets necessary to compete at the collegiate level.
  • Crew is easy to learn and doesn’t have a complex set of rules. Basically, a rower only needs to know two motions; the drive, pushing back with the legs and leaning back, pulling the oars with the arms, then recovery, when the opposite motion made by pushing the oar up and forward, leaning forward, and rolling up in the sliding seat. Also, rowers need to know how to turn the coxswain’s orders into actions.
  • For those who prefer to avoid the spotlight and the pressure to perform as an individual, crew is the ideal team sport.
  • Teams compete in a variety of weight classes and rowers-per-racing-shell categories, enabling many students to participate on a team.
  • A smaller student athlete can compete as a coxswain, the crew member who directs the rowers and forms a strategy to win each race.

Those seeking a rowing club to substitute for or supplement their high school’s team can use the nonprofit U.S. Rowing Association as a resource. There are over 1,300 member organizations in the U.S., including clubs in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and other unexpected places. The Association can identify the clubs closest to you and provide a summary of the services that they offer. Member services include:

  • The right to train for and compete in over 200 annual regattas with the club’s team.
  • Tutorials and seminars on rules, basic techniques, and advanced techniques.
  • Special clinics for coxswains.
  • Access to events such as the Annual Convention and regional conferences.
  • Member discounts on insurance and equipment; Crew is not an inexpensive sport – for example, a new 8-person racing shell costs about $40,000.
  • Eligibility to participate in the U.S. Rowing Club of the Year program.

If you’re a high school rower or an athlete in another sport and you aspire to attend a top-tier school, using IvySelect as your college admissions consulting firm improves your chances of admission in two ways. First, we provide superior comprehensive and individualized counseling. Second, we counsel you in the athletic recruiting process and guide your communications with coaches who may want to recruit you.

You, as a student athlete, will benefit by selecting IvySelect to provide sound advice and the kind of expert college counseling that will help you to achieve your educational goals.

Now get out on the water – and row!