The Two Major Types of Rowing Camps for Juniors

By Ryan Sparks | April 17, 2015

Shorter Rowing Camps

75% of rowing camps offered are generally less than 10 days long. The most popular length is 5 days, and can be found any number of places – from Ivy League camps to professionally run businesses to local skill and drill camps in your area. The point of these shorter camps is really to provide experiential value and focus on rowing, though the level of that value varies greatly.

The quick rule of thumb with a shorter camp is that “if it doesn’t sound like fun, it’s not going to help.” The psychological and didactic educational components are really the only things that can be affected in a shorter camp. Because rowing in the US is so fragmented in terms of different coaches’ opinions on what makes boats go faster, good training, and good mindset towards the sport, camps can be a wonderful place to experience a healthy diversity of successful viewpoints that allows athletes to form their own opinions and become better educated as a result.

Shorter rowing camps are generally good for juniors and masters looking to focus and develop their technique and open themselves to new thoughts on the sport. If participants can identify what they’re interested in accomplishing technically and educationally beforehand, these can be a real opportunity to finely tune that skill and knowledge set.

Coxswains gain differently from shorter camps, and if they wish to be competitive in the recruiting process they must be vastly more organized and thoughtful about camp selection than rowers (very little difference from what happens in the boat!). We cover more about this in the rowing camps for coxswains article, but suffices to say that the value is two fold for coxswains with shorter camps. First, the value of the ability to demonstrate skill sets in front of coaches in person is higher for coxswains than rowing athletes given the lack of objective measures (i.e. ergometer scores) for coxswain recruiting. Second, coxswains may learn nothing or drastically change their entire career based on 5 days’ learning given the value of intellectual, experiential, and process-oriented knowledge in the sport of coxing and the difficulty of the position insofar as the general lack of doctrine or educational protocol.

Longer Rowing Camps

25% of rowing camps tend to be much more dedicated affairs – weeks long, they do offer an opportunity to lower one’s erg and experience a different competitive culture. We would actually advocate not attending a camp held locally at your own club if you’re considering this as given the diversity of viewpoints in the sport and different coaching styles, it’s easier to maximize benefit when you leave your own club behind completely when pursuing this type of camp.

The majority of these camps are for junior and collegiate athletes during the summer. Given this, parents and athletes should carefully identify realistic goals in terms of erg score by the end of the camp and investigate the training during the camp. They also should consider the cultural implications of camp and what rowing in a different place may do for them personally over 6 weeks as the mindset will be different and more intense – guaranteed – than their scholastic teams, and can hurt or help their overall relationship with the sport based on coaching and the program’s past record with personnel outside of its win/loss percentage.

It’s also important to keep in mind that just attending Club Nationals or Canadian Henley is not sufficient to make an impact on recruiting, nor is it required. We refer you to our article on common misconceptions about rowing camps for more.

Colleges do prefer kids who can find the time to row over the summer, though it’s not a prerequisite as it can be too expensive for some families – and given the type of kids who are drawn to rowing – too time consuming to squeeze in with their other activities, like internships, time abroad, and extra classes. Given admissions officers favor these activities sometimes over a kid who’s only invested in rowing, it’s important to understand that sometimes academic activities should take precedent over summer rowing if you’d like to row in college.