Summer Rowing Comparison: Competitive Racing vs. Residential Development

Jul 24, 2017 3:37:25 PM / by Coach Wettach

Competitive rower at summer camp


                         Rowing during the summer is a great idea for any high school rower looking to develop, especially those with ambitious goals. While regular season rowing and racing may be constrained by academic and transportation schedules, summer often gives young athletes the gift of time they need to pursue their rowing more easily. Coaches and teammates also remain together for much for the year, making summer a good time to branch out an experience different corners of the sport.

            When deciding what kind of summer rowing you may want to pursue, it is important to consider the options for summer rowing that exist, as well as your personal goals of what you want to get out of your summer. We will discuss two main types of summer rowing below to give athletes and families the chance to make more informed decisions about where to invest their time in this valuable season.


Competitive Racing Team

            One of the main summer rowing opportunities available to high school athletes is to join a competitive racing team. These are often club-based programs that will train in preparation for summer regattas such as USRowing Club Nationals and Canadian Henley Regatta. Training for the Junior National Team may also fall into this category. Some examples of these programs include Community Rowing Inc. and Penn AC.



          These racing teams provide a great chance for the serious athlete to beef up their rowing resume with more race results and experience. If you are committed to rowing the full summer season, you could be racing in multiple events in multiple regattas. The more you race, the more you learn how to compete and sharpen your tactics.

          Given the preparation for multi-day regatta racing, most racing teams provide high level of training during these months. This means there could be double sessions, with erg tests and seat racing, just like the regular season. More strokes means more opportunities to get faster.



          Unfortunately, since many of these racing programs are club-based, there are only a few that offer residential facilities. Most clubs only have a regional draw and are more location based. So, if you are not lucky enough to live close to a reputable club, you could be commuting a long distance, or just out of luck.

          Since the focus of the racing teams is on peaking for each regatta and racking up the best race results, the stress of the regular season continues into the summer months. It may even be more so given that the timeline is shorter and therefore more seat racing and testing must be done to decide lineups. Rowers who are not prepared for, or looking for this type of training, run the risk of burnout at the end of the summer as they jump right back into fall training.

          While this final point is not true of all programs, often summer programs are rushed to make lineups and lack focus on actually developing the individuals they are working with. The race result and boat combination could take priority over targeted instruction, leaving bad habits in place, even after taking so many strokes.


Residential Development Camps

            The second main category of summer rowing program is the residential development camp. These camps are often run one-week at a time, with housing and food provided. Some will last longer, especially when run by USRowing. Athletes will often travel to these camps, making them location independent, and they are often without any selective application process.



           Since these camps are not designed to prepare for summer regattas, they are best for those looking to develop more deliberately. Coaches are given the gift of time in order to focus on individuals’ technique and begin the process of breaking bad habits. This kind of attention is important for new or novice rowers to learn to row well, while also being very beneficial for the experienced rower who can seem to shake that extra lunge at the catch.

            Rowers have to travel to these camps, but so do coaches. This gives camps the opportunity to draw coaches from a wide range of programs and levels. Often times rowers have the chance to work with Division 1 college coaches, a rare treat for a novice fifteen year old.

            In contrast to the racing teams, development camps have no pressure to make racing lineups, giving athletes the chance to focus on their own skill development, rather than their place in the pecking-order of teammates. This dynamic can foster great camaraderie amongst peers from a variety of rowing teams. It’s always fun to run into your friends from camp at regattas throughout the regular season.

           Given the focus on technical development and non-competitive atmosphere, these camps are oftentimes most beneficial for the new or novice rower who is focused on building a strong foundation. Find the right program, and the top end rower can also find tremendous benefit from the exposure to new coaching and time to sharpen their technique.



            Rowers who decide to focus on skill development over racing will come away with some new technical changes to focus on, but will have to wait to truly apply what they’ve learned. Most will not have opportunities to race until the fall season, meaning it is up to the athlete to remember and maintain the changes they worked hard for during camp.

            If athletes are in the later years of high school, and have the intention of continuing to row in college, racing experience may be necessary to show college coaches. A competitive team may be a better option as a means of building the resume and multiplying the chances to earn respectable race results.  


            Overall, summer rowing is a great chance for all levels of high school rowers to maintain their fitness and technique, develop into better rowers though taking more strokes, and maybe even race for a new club or meet a new group of teammates. If you have the whole summer to spare, you could commit to one racing team, but if you only have a few weeks between a summer job or family vacation, a development camp may be a great fit!




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Topics: Summer

Coach Wettach

Written by Coach Wettach

KSBC B2 Coach 2013-2017 4-time NEIRA B2 Gold Princeton '13

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