Who Rows in College?
If you love rowing and want to row in college, the chances are good that you will find a place where you can be happy and fulfilled academically, athletically and personally. As a female student-athlete you have a lot of choices including NCAA Division I, II and III rowing schools, in addition to many club programs. If you are a talented athlete you can be recruited to row at college, even if you have never rowed at high school. There are opportunities for lightweight rowers and coxswains too, although your choices are more limited.
Choosing Between Division I, II, and III Schools
There are many collegiate rowing programs of varying ability. You may desire top-level competition with a shot at competing for a National Championship or racing at England’s Henley Women’s Regatta, or you may be content to train less often and compete at a lower level. Whatever your ability, size or shape, there is a program for you.
There are approximately 140 women’s rowing programs that are supported by the intercollegiate athletics departments at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member institutions. These are further divided into NCAA Division I, Division II, and Division III programs.
- If you want to compete at the higher level you should begin by looking at Division I schools. The competition in Division I is higher than in Division II and III, and so are the demands on the athletes.
- Division II and III schools are typically smaller, have a different environment and offer a different collegiate experience than do many Division I universities.
- Training time at Division II and III schools is much less than in Division I.
- Only Division I and II schools offer rowing scholarships.
Each school is different and has its individual pros and cons. It is important that you do your research and look closely at everything that a prospective school has to offer you.
Much collegiate lightweight rowing is performed at the club level only, but there are a few varsity lightweight programs that are supported by their respective athletic departments. Talented lightweight rowers can be recruited to row at the openweight level at colleges that may not have a supported lightweight team.
Currently the main supported programs are:
- Harvard (Radcliffe)
- Bucknell has had good success at lightweight level recently, but unlike the others listed here does not specialize in lightweight rowing, but recruits athletes who may also happen to be lightweight.
- Women’s lightweight rowing is not an NCAA sponsored sport, and its annual national championships are held in conjunction with the men’s Inter Collegiate Rowing Association championships (IRAs), rather than with the women’s NCAA championships.
The eBook Row in College – A Recruiting Guide For Female Student-Athletes contains a neat way of seeing which college teams race lightweight and how they compare not only to each other, but also to openweight crews.
Lightweight rowers should be sub-7:40 for the standard 2k ergometer test in order to be recruited by one of the top lightweight programs. You still have a very good chance if you are 7:50 with good racing experience and great academics.
During your senior year at high school you must make sure your weight is consistently at, or below 132 pounds, otherwise the top lightweight programs will not be interested in recruiting you.
Opportunities exist for good coxes to be recruited. Obviously coaches recruit more rowers than coxes to their teams, but they are always looking for coxes with the potential to make a positive impact on their team.
- You need to proactively market your abilities, and demonstrate your assertiveness and leadership qualities as you pursue a spot at your chosen college.
- Send college coaches your audio tapes, which should demonstrate how you run a practice and how you call both head races and sprint races.
- You should include information from your team’s formal coxswain evaluations to help show what you can offer a prospective college coach.
- Ask your high school coach to recommend you to the coaches of colleges that you’re interested in.
- Make sure your weight is consistently under 115 pounds.
Walk-Ons and Non-Rowers
You do not need to have rowed at high school in order to row at college. There are many opportunities for tall athletic women to walk-on to most collegiate rowing programs. Good high school athletes can be recruited to row despite having no prior rowing experience. The eBook Row in College – A Recruiting Guide For Female Student-Athletes contains a link for more information about “college prep” coaching services for non-rowers to be recruited to row in college.
Row in College – A Recruiting Guide For Female Student-Athletes is a comprehensive guide to the women’s college rowing recruiting process. It contains most of what you’ll need to know and the actions you will need to take to be successfully recruited to row in college.