What’s in a Rowing Camp?

By Ryan Sparks | April 17, 2015

The number and economy of rowing camps in the US continues to grow with the sport. As little as 15 years ago, camps were mostly limited to select venues the Northeastern US. Today there are hundreds all over the US, from Boston to Colorado. We will explore the growth of rowing camps and the different types available.

Rowing is an expensive sport, and almost categorically underfunded outside of a select group of clubs and institutions. The cost of a nice boat with oars and all the technical implements is actually higher than the US median annual income, which says something about the sport’s demographics. However, costs also include coaching, travel logistics, and support equipment. Running an effective, nationally competitive program on almost any level requires budgets at minimum of $75,000-100,000 annually, and much more in assets.

This is somewhat different than your average field sport program, which is one reason why some institutions have adopted rowing programs to meet federal Title IX requirements. And as a result of well-funded, serious rowing programs blossoming at places like the Universities of Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas, high school rowing and collegiate club rowing has grown as well.

However, funding for many teams not associated with some of the largest athletic departments in collegiate athletics is almost comic in comparison. The average American rowing coach starts as a volunteer and hopes to receive a stipend for a number of years as a ranking assistant before they are able to receive a full-time salary with benefits. As a result, major collegiate programs without need for programmatic funding run camps to supplement salaries of both full time staff and assistants.

We see multiple camp types: collegiate, club, high-school, and camps run by businesses, such as the company responsible for this blog. Ultimately if athlete development is a concern, it’s important to be aware of the reasoning behind a camp and the returns it promises before blindly signing up. Given the number of choices available and reliance of the “industry” on running camps as a funding source, camp quality can go from fantastic to so terrible it creates attrition in the sport generally based on coaching, programmatic goals, organization, culture, and the athlete’s fit with those factors.

Despite it’s stereotypically “old-school” roots, rowing is a developing sport - and as such, the world of camps can be like the Wild West. From here, we will attempt to explore finding the best fit in a rowing camp for your experience and goal set, common myths and realities about rowing camps (hint: 2K Ergometer Improvement),  rowing camps for coxswains, American rowing camps for foreign athletes, and the specific differences between shorter and longer rowing camps.