Sparks Columbia Rowing Camp

The Big Apple

Head lightweight men’s coach Nich Parker writes, “For a long time now, I’ve wanted to engage juniors with some of the lessons we’ve learned as we brought the Columbia lightweight men into a national title for the first [second] time in two decades. These ideas may seem abstract or complicated to some, but ultimately they are the simple foundation we have built a collegiate program on – and my life’s work. I am excited to share those lessons with more people, and hope they serve in some small way to create change for campers as they have created for us.“

At Sparks, we believe that rowing can help you become a better human being. Lessons are available in the sport experience that are hard to find elsewhere - as long as they're realized. We combine top-tier collegiate coaching and technical work with peer-driven small groups led by trained staff to enable students to get the most out of camp - both insofar as learning and fun. You’ll also have the chance to meet current rowing undergraduates (some alumni) who are happy to share their specific experiences with you.

Camp at Columbia will enable you to picture what it would be like to be an undergraduate at Columbia. This is a valuable experience in itself, because arguably few undergraduate experiences take place in an environment like Manhattan - and Columbia is only one of two institutions in "the city" to offer rowing. Camp takes place on campus and rows out of the Columbia boathouse in upper Manhattan. The university also hosts a sprawling underground athletic facilities complex.

Coxswains have their own staff and mini-camp run off of Sparks’ coxswain curriculum.

Learn to Row (LTR) also has a dedicated coach who journeys through the entire process of camp with students.

Come to camp to learn, but leave with new perspective, education, ability - and hopefully, friends. 

Sparks Collegiate Camps

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Sparks Columbia Rowing Camp

Nich Parker

Head Coach, Columbia Lightweight Men

Coach Parker has guided the Columbia Lightweights to national championship golds in both 2016 and 2018. The 2016 win was the first for Columbia since 1929. 

Beyond working on his Ph.D. in group biomechanics, Nich Parker holds an MA in Sports Administration and Pedagogy. Nich started coaching as a women’s coach at Ohio State before serving as the varsity assistant with the Yale heavyweight men for three years. After that, Nich worked with heavyweights at Columbia before assuming the freshman and now head position with their lightweight squad. He speaks fluent German and holds a fascination for how different (personality, nationality, or level) athletes approach workouts and the end affect of that approach. He acted as editor for rowing legend Jim Joy’s book, The Mind’s Eye.

Andrew Hess

Assistant Coach Men's LWT Rowing, Columbia University

Coach Hess is in his first year as the assistant lightweight men’s coach for the 2016 national lightweight champions and handles recruiting for the Lions. Prior to Columbia, Hess worked at Community Rowing, Inc in Boston as an assistant boy’s coach with former Sparks counselor and current head boys’ coach Wayne Berger. Andrew also acted as communications manager for one of the largest rowing clubs in the country. He holds an MBA in values-based leadership from Xavier.

Sam Warren

Assistant Coach Women's Rowing, Columbia University

A former Junior and U23 National team member, Sam serves as assistant coach and coordinates women’s recruiting for the Lions. Prior to Columbia, she trained with the senior national team and coached at the Hun School of Princeton. When asked about her preference on stuffed animals, she indicates that she has none but thinks of Harambe when she sees gorillas.

Al Morrow

Former Canadian National Coach

Hamilton, Ontario native Al Morrow started rowing at the Leander Boat Club where he rowed for 3 years in high school and 2 summers for the club’s summer teams. He rowed on 2 University team at Western Ontario and The University of British Columbia and 2 Clubs, the St. Catharines RC and Burnaby Lake AC along with 5 National teams. 

Al has been coaching rowing since 1976 at all levels including high school, club, University and the Canadian National team. Highlights of his coaching career have been working for Rowing Canada with the Canadian Olympic team. Crews he has coached include 4 Gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medal winning crews at the Olympics. He has been a member of 10 Olympic teams.

In 1999 Al was chosen as the International Coach of then Year by FISA and he is a member of 8 Sports Hall of Fames.

In recent years, Al has been very involved in Coaching Education and he his known for his ability to be a great story teller and source of a wide variety of information on many topics related to rowing.

Anderson Bourell

Sparks Director of Wellness

The subject of a NYTimes piece on Mike Piazza, Anderson’s title is a little crazy, but it’s true. After prep school in Boston, baseball, and acting (he appeared in Fight Club) in his youth he choose to concentrate in holistic health – i.e. stretching, breathing, yoga, and nutrition – for rowing athletes. He is a known member of the community, attended Harvard training camps with Harry Parker for 10 years and has also been party to multiple New England prep schools’ efforts of the same nature. He has worked in the UK with junior athletes and with a variety of national teams. Anderson is not a typical rowing person in his concentration on holistic health or his approach, but he maintains a following that only lucky coaches enjoy.

Kumari Lewis

Assistant Women's Coach at UPenn

Kumari is in her first year as the assistant women's coach at UPenn. Before joining Penn, Kumari was the head Varsity Girl's coach at Harriton High School just outside of Philadelphia. During the summer she has worked with the Junior National Team and the Yale Bulldogs Camp. Prior to coaching, Kumari learned to row at the Peddie School in New Jersey and went on to row for Bucknell University and the Vesper U23 team. 

Scott Wisniewski

Head Coach, Washington College Rowing

Scott Wisniewski is a well-known figure in Philadelphia rowing. He comes to Washington College by way of Penn, Villanova, and Yale — though prior to that he spent five years as a coach at Vesper Boat Club. Scott was the head men’s coach at Villanova and an assistant with the lightweights at Yale. He then helped Colin Farrell with recruiting for the Penn lightweight program prior to taking over at Washington College. Wisniewski has also served as a coach with the U.S. national team.

Ariel Handler

CRI Coach

Ariel coxed at CRI from 2004 to 2006 and then at Newport Aquatic Center where she finished her high school career with a bronze medal at Youth Nationals in the Junior Women’s 4+. In 2008, she attended Junior National Team ID and selection camp. Ariel coxed for UCLA, leading the team to an overall seventh place at the NCAA championships. In 2012, she won the JV8+ at San Diego crew classic and was in the first UCLA boat to make a grand final at the NCAA championships. After college, she was a volunteer assistant coach at UCLA and a novice assistant coach for Marina Aquatic Center, and has been a resident adviser and coach for the Women’s Junior National Team. She coached and was director of the Row Boston program. Currently, she is in her second year as assistant coach for the CRI varsity girls.

Sparks Columbia Rowing Camp

  • Who: Designed for high school students 14-18; day campers may be 13. (Per NCAA regulations, open to any and all) 
  • Duration: 4 Days
  • When: July 31-August 3, 2019
  • Cost:  $1,249 for overnight campers | $1,086.83 for day campers | same calendar year repeater discount codes available. 
  • Where:  Columbia University in the City of New York; Campers will be housed on campus and use Columbia rowing facilities. Dorms have air-conditioning.
  • Important Dates and Times
    • Registration is 11 AM - 2 PM on the 31st
    • Camp ends at 11 AM on the 3rd
    • Times for Day Campers generally run from 8 AM to 9 PM
    • More specific information is available in the registration packet - though we're always available in the lower right hand corner for questions.
  • Air Travel:  Those flying to camp are advised to use LaGuardia (LGA) and arrive three hours prior to camp start. Campers are expected to take a taxi or Uber to Columbia.
  • Questions: We'd be glad to speak with you; click on the live chat in the bottom right corner.
  • Payment/Refunds:  Payments may be made in full through our registration portal by using the table on the registration tab. Refunds minus a $500 deposit are available until a month before camp.
  • Camp Forms: Camp Forms may be found on your dashboard within 6 weeks of camp. 
  • Supervision:  The staff lives amongst the student athletes, and has oversight 24 hours a day. Unhealthy substances and/or behaviors are strictly prohibited.
  • Staffing:  Coaches are not guaranteed; some are active national team athletes or coaches and must prioritize that schedule. To find out about a particular coach, shoot us an e-mail.
  • Learn To Row:  A very small number of LTR slots are designed for pure novice crossover athletes who possess athletic backgrounds, focus, and the comport to engage intensively with their own staff and schedule.
  • Swim Test:  Per Columbia regulations, all campers must complete a swim test before going on the water. The tests consists of swimming 2 laps (50 yards total) and treading water for 5 minutes.

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Sparks Columbia Rowing Camp

Get Ready for Camp! Click below to Register.

Men & Women: 14-19 - one season of experience or more.
Coxswains: 14-19 - one season of experience or more.
LTR: 14-19 - Learn To Row/Cox - No Rowing Experience Required
Day campers may be 13 with the above requirements if they are entering ninth grade.

Are you a same calendar year repeat camper? Click on the live chat below and get a discount code.

Sparks Columbia Rowing Camp

Congratulations on making it to Columbia. 

On your first day at camp, you'll arrive on the Columbia campus in upper Manhattan. First off, congratulations on making it this far - you have successfully navigated the Big Apple! You'll be met inside by our staff and go through check-in. 

Welcomes are important at Sparks, so after you drop your stuff and say goodbye to your folks (if you didn't fly in without them), introductions will be made all around before we head off to meet the coaching staff and utilize Columbia's Dodge Fitness Center, which is under the Manhattan campus. The afternoon will hold an assessment meant to help the coaches put you in the right training group for your position and skill level at camp. The assessment at Columbia does include a swim test on the bottom floor of their underground athletics facilities - a subterranean pool! 

After assessment, you'll meet your small group - which is not the same as a training group - and hopefully encounter a variety of folks from all over. This group will be your home at camp.

The next few days will be sometimes predictable - and sometimes not. Twice daily water training will combine with meeting with coaches, your small group, and evening seminars. There will be an opportunity to speak with coaching and camp staff one on one about everything from better 2,000m ergometer scores to calling the right race to recruiting. There may even be an opportunity to pull a 2,000m piece at camp with collegiate staff's instruction. ;) If you're a coxswain or LTR, you'll have your own dedicated staff. Coxswains have their own curriculum at camp

Each night, you'll meet in your small group for various actitivies. You'll also learn about recruiting, injury management and prevention, and discuss ways to serve your home team. That said, much of this occurs in an interactive format and is different each time - we're serious when we talk about education through experience. 

Camp will move along extremely quickly, and the last night will arrive almost immediately. Given camp is short, and our goals are lofty, we aim to have you walk away from camp with a far deeper knowledge of the sport, new friends, and an improved relationship with rowing. 

Important Dates and Times

  • Registration is 11 AM - 2 PM on the 31st of July
  • Camp ends at 11 AM on the 3rd of August
  • The times for Day Campers generally run from 8 AM to 9 PM
  • More specific information is available in the registration packet - though we're always available in the lower right hand corner for questions.
  • Don't miss the details tab for more information

    If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

    Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

    Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Sparks Columbia Rowing Camp


What are the camp dates? 

These are found under the detail tab - but just for handy reference, they're July 31 - August 3. There's also a map of all of our locations and dates here.

Do you offer scholarships or discounts?

We can offer day camper discounts for campers not staying in the dorms and discounts for same calendar year repeat camper. Beyond this, we cannot offer discounts that are not open to all due to NCAA regulations.

Touch base with us via the live chat for discount codes. 

What level of experience is necessary for camp?

If you've never rowed or coxed before, see our section below on Learn To Row. We require coxswains to have one season of experience or more and both experienced men and women to have one season of experience or more. 

Once you get to camp, you'll be put through an assessment the first day to place you with a group that will work best for you - so don't worry about whether you're good enough (or potentially, "too good" ;) ) for camp. 

Where are camp forms found?

Camp forms are issued at least six weeks prior to camp on our site via your dashboard.

What differientiates Sparks camps?

We are the only camp in rowing with a full-time staff that has academic and professional backgrounds in experiential education. We also have a summer operations staff (many are returners that teach during the school year) who buy into the idea of personal growth at camp not just for campers - but for themselves as well.

The result is a culture sincerely committed to the power of rowing as a personally transformative experience built on vulnerability, thoughtfulness, responsibility, and initiative. 

This does not mean other camps are relatively inferior; in fact, we feel such a perspective is not helpful. The camp needs to fit the athlete. Our focus is on utilizing rowing to create self-awareness for our camp community.

Do you honor rooming requests? / What if I'm coming to camp alone?

Typically, we do not honor rooming requests unless there's a medical issue. Requests enable social cliques and don't allow camp to meet each camper on an individual level - a level of educational quality we're serious about providing. The requests also unintentionally disable the fun and according growth of meeting new people (everyone feels awkward at the start of camp) and gaining new perspective on the sport. That said, there's plenty of time to hang out and experience camp with one's friends (the ones from before camp) during the day at camp. 

What is/is there difference in the Sparks collegiate camps (BU, Penn, Columbia)?

The difference is in the coaching staff and location. We advise using the camp to get inspired insofar as collegiate environments, and as such it would be best to choose one that might be on your school list at some point. 

Beyond that, coaching staffs differ per camp and some students seek to connect with particular coaches. 

What should I seek from coaches at camp? Is recruiting a part of camp? 

Per NCAA rules, recruiting or speaking in specifics about institutional recruiting policies is not a part of camp. Campers may speak about the overall process (in fact, there will be a recruiting seminar and panel of coaches during camp) and ask coaches' opinions on specific steps of their journey (i.e. 2K development), but may not inquire as to their possibilities at the coaches' programs during camp. 

Coaches all have their own style of pedagogy. Part of camp should be to experience the differences in those styles such that campers may better understand the way coaching staff manage and connect with the sport for their own benefit. 

Tell me about safety at Sparks.

We employ safety and risk management practices from the adventure education industry, where some risk is inherent but must be quantified insofar as educational value. These practices are initially employed in program design and we work hard to train operations staff to seek to maintain an awareness of specific risks at all times. No outdoors programming can guarantee safety, however professional management of risk is key to the art of providing consistently excellent experiential education programming. 


Coxswains - Why Sparks? 

We've developed an internationally recognized coxswain curriculum in coordiation with American and foreign Olympic coxswains (amongst others, including a number of national team coxswains) and typically see over 100 coxswains through our camp system per year.  

The curriculum at base teaches coxswains to be aware enough of themselves to be able to evaluate current skils and structure expectations for improvment in three critical areas: steering, commands, and organization. This video covers the curriculum as provided at our coxswains only camps, though campers at our collegiate and international camps use the same curriculum. 

Who are your coxswain coaches and why are they qualified to teach coxswains?

Our coxswain coaches are either coxswains with elite-level experience (international or Olympics) or coaches with elite level experience (international or Olympics) - or both. 

Regardless of experience, they are trained to educate within the curriculum covered above and bring their own experience into perspective for coxswains as they do so. 

I’m a coxswain and can’t decide between camps - help?

This very much depends on where you are with coxing, your goals, and sometimes your college search.

The collegiate camps have their own coxswain coaching staff and coxswain curriculum off water, but are integrated with the rowing camp on-water and provide no specialized on-water coaching for coxswains.

At our coxswains only camps, the rowers are rented such that the on-water coaching is entirely devoted to the coxswains and this allows an extra amount of intensity and learning. This enables a much higher level of focus and intensity at camp than the collegiate camps. Typical participants have been coxing for more than two seasons and average around three.

Our international coxswain camp in Holland is a much smaller cohort of 6 with the same resources as coxswains only insofar as on-water time being devoted to coxswains; the program also enables coxswains to race in a large European regatta. Students must apply for this camp and show maturity and thoughtfulness.

Learn To Row

How does Learn To Row work at your camps? 

We reserve a small grouping of slots at each camp for the learn to row section. The group receives its own dedicated coach for the week and is oriented to the sport we love.

Ideal Learn To Row (LTR) athletes have prior athletic background. 

If I want to Learn To Cox without prior rowing experience, how should that work? 

You should sign up for LTR at camp and then be oriented to the fundamentals of the sport while you will also attend meetings with the coxswain section at camp. Beyond that, you will also have access to the coxswain coaches outside of your dedicated LTR coach.