What’s in a Rowing Camp?
Folks seek rowing camps for different reasons. Age and goal set are the most common differentiators for rowing camps, though the camps themselves come in all shapes and sizes – from 3 days to 3 months, sculling and sweep, internally and externally competitive.
This site was established by the folks at RowingCamps.net, which is a review engine to helps people in the rowing community find the right fit in a rowing camp. While this site serves as wonderful advertising, it was established in the hopes of providing a quick guide on rowing camps in the US and how to pick the right one for you.
We seek to unify a fragmented rowing community via free information, reviews, and connecting people for the betterment of the sport.
The Rowing Camp Scene
Rowing Camps are often established by parent organizations to help raise money for their clubs – from Yale to small high schools, rowing camps provide an enormous revenue source for the community as a whole, filling club coffers for new boats and sometimes coach’s incomes for the entire year.
It is important to determine the cost benefit of the camps you’re interested in for both you and the camp producers to really find a great fit. There are a few misconceptions about going to rowing camp:
“A week long camp will help lower my erg score.”
It simply isn’t possible to lower your erg in a week – just as it isn’t possible to run a mile significantly faster after a week’s training. You can, however, learn important technical tips on your stroke such that your efficiency will improve on the erg as a result over 6 weeks.
“I can’t goto rowing camp if I don’t have any rowing experience.”
A number of fantastic camps offer to take on ‘pure novices’ – in this way, the communities sees and benefits from incredible athletes from other sports joining its ranks.
“Rowing works like LAX and other sports where junior athletes will be ‘ID’ed’ for collegiate recruiting at camp.”
Rowing at a particular institution’s camp or for that institution’s coach does not impact that particular program’s recruiting 90% of the time, though it is a nice way to experience that campus for one’s own benefit. The recruiting world is one that is a buyer’s market on the coach’s side with huge volumes of kids interested in rowing in college – so many that recruiting comes down to erg and competitive experience more so than connection with coaching staff.
“I have to attend a 5-6 week competitive summer camp to row in college.”
This comes back to the previous point, but also extends into the fact that colleges are seeking kids who are passionate about the sport and have athletic ability. If you can’t afford to attend a six week program but your erg is low and your academics are good, don’t worry. More information may be found at rowingrecruiting.com
“Shorter rowing camps are expensive and not worth the money.”
It totally depends on your goal set. More about this below.
Shorter Rowing Camps
75% of rowing camps offered are generally less than 10 days long. The most popular length is 5 days, and can be found any number of places – from Ivy League camps to professionally run businesses to local skill and drill camps in your area. The point of these shorter camps is really to provide experiential value and focus on rowing, though the level of that value varies greatly.
The quick rule of thumb with a shorter camp is that “if it doesn’t sound like fun, it’s not going to help.” The psychological and didactic educational components are really the only things that can be affected in a shorter camp with other coaches and folks from across the community. Because rowing in the US is so fragmented in terms of different coaches’ opinions on what makes boats go faster, good training, and good mindset towards the sport, camps can be a wonderful place to experience a healthy diversity of successful viewpoints that allows athletes to form their own opinions and become better educated as a result.
Shorter rowing camps are generally good for juniors and masters looking to focus and develop their technique and open themselves to new thoughts on the sport. If participants can identify what they’re interested in accomplishing technically and educationally beforehand, these can be a real opportunity to finely tune that skill and knowledge set.
Longer Rowing Camps and Competitive Rowing Camps
25% of rowing camps tend to be much more dedicated affairs – weeks long, they do offer an opportunity to lower one’s erg and experience a different competitive culture. We would actually advocate not attending a camp held locally at your own club if you’re considering this as given the diversity of viewpoints in the sport and different coaching styles, it’s easier to maximize benefit when you leave your own club behind completely when pursuing this type of camp.
The majority of these camps are for junior and collegiate athletes during the summer. Given this, parents and athletes should carefully identify realistic goals in terms of erg score by the end of the camp and investigate the training during the camp. They also should consider the cultural implications of camp and what rowing in a different place may do for them personally over 6 weeks as the mindset will be different and more intense – guaranteed – than their scholastic teams, and can hurt or help their overall relationship with the sport based on coaching and the program’s past record with personnel outside of its win/loss percentage.
Colleges do prefer kids who can find the time to row over the summer, though it’s not a prerequisite as it can be too expensive for some families – and given the type of kids who are drawn to rowing – too time consuming to squeeze in with their other activities, like internships, time abroad, and extra classes. Given admissions officers favor these activities sometimes over a kid who’s only invested in rowing, it’s important to understand that sometimes academic activities should take precedent over summer rowing if you’d like to row in college.
Specific Camp Ideas for Different Rowers
Given you enjoy the workout but still would like the luxury of the praise (whether or not your really deserve it!) and nicer accommodations, full time professionally run outfits are the best places to go. Most of them offer excellent housing, food, and professional staff – while offering a choice of time between 3 days and 10 days in beautiful locations. There are a few ‘rowing abroad’ outfits as well if folks would like to travel to Italy or other destinations whilst in camp. Generally, the majority of masters operations are sculling based.
For “Pure Novices”
Don’t sink the boat! There are a number of “Learn to Row” programs that should be local to your area. Try Googling your city with Learn to Row next to it, if not you can also try a few of the professional outfits above (found on rowingcamps.net) – though a small number of more advanced camps will accept pure novices as well.
For Highschool Freshman and Sophomores
Local camps can be an option this year, as well as any number of 5 day camps with excellent coaching staffs. The top five day camps are generally either held at colleges and staffed by their staff and potentially others or held in neutral locations and staffed by a high diversity of collegiate coaches. The advantage to ‘sleep away’ camps is that the kids gain the same things as they would from a normal sleep away camp, but also hopefully learn and are inspired from being connected with folks who have spent their careers and lives in the sport. They are impressionable, and will improve as a result. Sculling camps are OK if they’d like, and recommended by some as they teach basic, foundational skills that rowing in large boats do not.
Highschool Juniors and Seniors
If you’re serious enough to have read this far on the site, whether a beginner or not, a 5 day sleep away camp will be beneficial if kids are concentrated on improving. Sculling camps are great, though the majority of kids this age and junior year head to sweep camps where they’ll row eights. Perhaps 15-20% of juniors are rowing in longer, competitive camps – though this is not a requirement. If kids are interested in rowing in college and starting late though, a longer competitive camp is a far better alternative to a 5 day camp given the amount the student’s erg will need to drop to be recruited as a late bloomer. Some seniors take their summers off before rowing in college, though some similar competitive programs to attend.
A Final Note on the US Junior National Team Camp Process
The US Junior National Team runs a selection process every year for certain birth years they’re required to stick to. Kids attend “ID Camps” around the country early in the Spring where they’ll pull an erg and go on the water with USJNT coaches. If they’re selected, they’ll either be invited to development camp or selection camp – both are an honor, and some of the better camps in the country.
Development camp is generally made up of four eights and is for kids who have potential but are not yet competitive enough to make the Junior World Championship team. Inside the community, it is still considered an honor to be a part of and part of the US national team. Selection camp is made up of kids who have the potential to attend the Junior World Championships in late summer. Both camps will generally take a student’s entire summer, but do contribute greatly to their recruiting processes.
Regardless of your skill, we recommend attend an ID camp to be a part of the process and support USRowing. Many kids who have no idea if they’re good or not may find themselves invited to development camp. For more information, see USRowing’s junior site. http://www.usrowingjrs.org.
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