Andrew Carter and Iowa Women's Rowing

By Sparks Editorial Staff | April 25, 2016

Head Coach Andrew Carter is in his third season at the helm of the University of Iowa Women’s Rowing Program.  He’s seen a great deal of progress since his arrival and is particularly proud of the advance of the past six months.  With a successful Head of the Charles and scrimmages against Big Ten and Big 12 teams, Carter is pleased with not only the team’s effort, but their improving ability to focus on each step along the way.  The 2014-2015 racing season was an important building block in this process, as Iowa achieved early success and built momentum towards the Big Ten Championships last May.  Iowa finished 6th in a very competitive conference and the promise of a much stronger 2016 campaign has motivated the athletes since.

Creating Team Culture

The University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa.  The school’s student population is the 2nd smallest in the Big Ten at just over 20,000, but its campus is the largest.  The core of undergraduate academic life centers around the historic Pentacrest area adjacent to the City Center, which gives it the feel of a much smaller college.  Iowa students involve themselves in a variety of clubs, sports, events, and activities offered by the school and surrounding community and the women of the rowing team are right there with them.  Success at Iowa is based on a student’s willingness to immerse themselves in the campus life and take advantage of all it has to offer.  In particular, the student body is very passionate about their athletic programs, and the athletes take “Hawkeye Pride” seriously.

This pride not only permeates the campus but the rowing program.  Coach Carter gives much of the credit to his athletes for creating such a positive team culture.  He sees how the team is a reflection of the upbeat, positive nature of the campus.  Student-athletes clearly take pride in their hard work in both the classroom and at practice and that ethic is part of the Iowa ethos.

With over 70 athletes on the Iowa Women’s Rowing team, Coach Carter encourages the rowers to manage themselves effectively and efficiently.

“It’s very important that they feel they can achieve success in everything that they do.  They need to sense that they’re supported in their ability to push themselves in practice but that they must be very active in creating that push,” said Carter.  “The women are critically involved and I’m more of a facilitator.”

Athletes get involved in the recruiting process a well.  The Iowa coaching staff seeks feedback from the team when evaluating prospects.  The interest from high-end recruits has grown with the success of the team, but value continues to be placed on making sure the new pieces “fit”.  The women have the pulse of the team, and they take ownership of the culture they know is important to continuing their growing success.

High Standards

At the University, the athletic department has a couple of important mantras.  “Win, Graduate, Do it Right,” and “Today’s Hawkeye’s, Tomorrow’s Leaders,” speak clearly to the values of the athletic program.  To ensure they’re not just words, the school provides high level support to student-athletes as they earn their degrees and compete.  That support includes important areas like sports medicine, strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology, and the academic unit known as the “Hawkeye Life” program.

Many members of the rowing team take challenging majors like Engineering, Business, and Speech and Hearing Science, which are all areas of strength at Iowa.  They also pursue disciplines like nursing that are often unavailable to rowers at other schools.  According to US News and World Report, Iowa ranks in the top-10 for Nursing Service Administration and top-20 for Geriatric Nursing.  Nursing majors as a whole have a very difficult course load and clinical schedule, yet these students are still able to find success in the Iowa rowing program.

“If you have committed to row for four years, it might not be possible to earn your degree in nursing at any other school.  It takes a lot of communication and cooperation from all involved, not to mention a special kind of student, but our athletes have been able to do it.  It makes us unique,” says Carter.

University of Iowa students also graduate with degrees in many of the 100+ available areas of study.  From Art History to Health and Human Physiology to Radiation Sciences to the World-renowned Creative Writing Program, the rowers represent a cross section of entire student body.

Achieving Success

The Iowa Women’s Rowing Team has a clear understanding of what is needed to win in the Big Ten.  With their recent #19 ranking in the USRowing Coaches Pre-Season Poll, that understanding has clearly been put into action.  Athletes put in extra work and give their sport the extra attention needed to ensure they continue to get faster.

Regattas takes the team around the country and, given the midwest region where they spend much of their time, they learn to expect the unexpected.  In the case of this upcoming weekend, their race was rescheduled due to weather.  To be able to effectively manage themselves and maximize their chances of success, timeliness of handling coursework is critical.  The schedule can be demanding but the support is there to keep them at the leading edge of school and rowing.

“For the amount of work they put into the classroom, finding spare time to train, making practice, and taking care of what they need for practice, it makes them a tough group to compete against,” says Carter.

The process has to be followed.  When Andrew Carter arrived at Iowa, he immediately began establishing the building blocks necessary for success.  Iowa is in a very competitive conference, yet Coach Carter believes that the desire and dedication of the athletes helps make them ready for competition.

“Those are the things that are difficult to teach,” says Carter, “Thank goodness I don’t have to around here.”

It all starts with pride.