Zach Johnson and UCSD Men's Rowing

By Sparks Editorial Staff | January 13, 2012

Zach Johnson heads up the University of California at San Diego's Men's Rowing team, one of the nation's few Division II men's rowing teams. "Division II rowing really functions the same as Division I; we abide by all the same rules and have all of the same privileges," says Johnson, who begins his 5th year as Head Coach of the Tritons. Johnson admits that his freedoms are largely a reflection of a very supportive athletic department at UCSD. "We have amazing support here. It makes a great place to work and a great place to coach."

Johnson began rowing at age 8, developing a love for the sport at an early age. He eventually found himself at cross-town rival San Diego State for his four years of college. "Rowing in San Diego is about as good as it gets… It's 72 degrees and sunny year round," says Johnson. "Combined with the up and coming crew we've got here, there isn't a better place in the country to coach."

The Tritons have been gaining steam for several years, jumpstarted by winning the Cal Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic in 2007. "5 or 6 years ago we rarely had recruits coming our way. This past year we had 20 incoming freshman and 11 more transfers that we worked with in the admissions process. Things have certainly changed for the better." Johnson is very excited about his young squad. "We've only got three seniors right now and a great freshman class. The next few years are going to be very exciting."

When asked about his ideal recruit, Johnson says "I love kids that are upfront and scrappy, real go-getters. I don't recruit erg scores or size. We've had kids come in who were 5'10 pulling a 6:45 who left pulling a 6:18 and rowing for the U23 Lightweight team. I've made my living boating fast rowers, not fast erg scores."

Johnson offers the following advice to anyone in the recruiting process: "Look at the whole picture. It sounds kind of dark, but the key is to picture yourself not rowing at a particular school. If you fall off your skateboard and break your arm, is it still the right school for you? If not, you should keep looking until you find a school where everything, including rowing, feels right."

Catch the UCSD men on 2/19 as they open their spring season against Orange Coast College.

- Andy Schneider