Getting the Most Out of A 5 Day Summer Rowing Camp
The vast majority of rowing camps in the US - particularly summer rowing camps - last under a week, and the most common duration is 5 days. Though we estimate only a fraction of the junior rowing community choose to attend any camp, the likelihood that a junior will row in college is far higher for those who attend camps than those who do not purely based on their interest in the sport (i.e. it does not help juniors' recruiting process to attend a 5 day camp).
The majority of the popular 5 day camp programs are held at universities with top level collegiate rowing programs, though a number of private camps exist as well. The university camps hold advantage in that they enable students to experience the staff, boathouse, and feel of the campus (albeit without the student body and their culture present). The private camps tend to hire head or first assistant coaches from a large amount of institutions, and thus they tend to provide perspective on different coaching styles and potentially a higher level of staff depending on whether university camps utilize athletes and interns to coach their camps (mainly to pay said interns during the year).
Some junior coaches discourage attendance at 5 day camps given the lack of physiological or potential technical development available in such a short time span. While physiological benefit is impossible in such a short time span (you wouldn't expect to run a faster mile with 5 days training, would you?), technical benefit may be solid or inconsistent depending on factors outside campers' control - for example, a consistently assigned coach. However, 5 day camps are good for other reasons - particularly for athletes transitioning from their novice year. They provide perspective as juniors are combined with peers from all over the country, inspiration in that the sport will probably seem bigger than at home, and education both relative to that perspective as well as a benefit of a coaching perspective that may be different (not better or worse, sometimes) than what athletes receive at home.
As such, good 5 day camps are ones where there is a high degree of interaction between staff and students. And if you're reading this (and have gotten to this point in the article), you're probably serious enough about rowing for us to also tell you that you'll encounter a wide range of peers at these camps. It's perfectly OK to e-mail camps and ask which teams send a larger amount of athletes to camp to get a feel for who the other campers may be - we've worked on making this an easier task by creating a review site for rowing camps that also lists contact info for camps - however, an e-mail to the camp director is really all it takes.
Finally, if you're a serious rising junior or senior and considering camp and have rowed for more than two years, consider looking outside the 5 day camp market. Consider a multiple week camp, where your 2K erg score may benefit. It's ultimately a much more intense experience and it will give back physiologically, technically, and psychologically. See our thoughts on longer rowing camps for more.