What Prospective Rowers Want to Know

Do I need prior experience in rowing?

No!  One of the best things about rowing is “no experience necessary.”  All that is needed is a positive attitude, the ability to follow instructions, and a willingness to put forth your best effort. You will receive training and conditioning on land, as well as on the water.  Experienced rowing coaches will instruct you on the skills needed to be a rower.

What is expected of me as a rower?

Work hard to improve and strive to achieve goals.  Be supportive of the team.  Accept and support coaching decisions.  Seek feedback from coaches.  Attend practices and regattas.  Stay drug, tobacco, and alcohol-free. Represent HHSRC appropriately at all times.

Who are the coaches?

The club is fortunate to have dedicated, experienced and involved individuals on our coaching staff.  Coaching positions are determined by the number of rowers to ensure maximum attention and safety.  Biographies for the coaches are available here.

How do I join the rowing club?

Crew is open to all Hillsborough High School students, as well as virtual and homeschool students who are in Hillsborough County. All prospective rowers must also meet the requirements outlined in this handbook. To become a member, it is recommended that you start in the fall season, and complete the required registration forms.  The HHS rowing year includes two seasons, fall and spring.

All rowers and coxswains must know how to swim.

During the registration process, you will be required to affirm that your rower knows how to swim.  Specifically, the following skills need to be mastered by each rower and coxswain.

  • Rower knows how to swim for their safety and their teammates safety

If you can't swim, there are several options:

  • Practice in your own pool, community pool, with an adult nearby or preferably a certified lifeguard
  • Go to a YMCA or other City pool and request swim lessons
  • Talk to the head coach who can help arrange lessons
  • A personal floatation device can be worn. This is not provided by the club. Example here.

What are the best practice clothes?

Your workout wardrobe should include polypropylene or spandex shorts.  Avoid wearing baggy clothing in the shells as loose pants and long shirts can get caught in the equipment.  Don’t wear any clothing that you are unwilling to see ruined.  Anything you wear to the boathouse might come home ripped, grease-stained or otherwise damaged.  Label all of your clothing with your name, especially team clothing that everyone owns!

Dress Code: Athletes must wear appropriate rowing attire at all times, no underwear, items that look like underwear, sports bras, or bathing suits, items that look like bathing suits, are allowed at any time. Girls' shorts must be 3-inch inseam minimum.

What else should I know about practice?

  • Eat a snack in the afternoon that will sustain the energy level needed during practice (e.g. fruit, bagels, whole grain bread, power bars, granola bars)
  • Wear workout clothes to every practice
  • Bring good quality running shoes for land training
  • Bring a water bottle (only drink from your own!).   Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, every day.
  • Medical tape can be used to protect your hands from getting blisters until calluses are built up
  • If you are asthmatic, be sure to bring your inhaler
  • If you wear glasses, bring something to hold them on your head
  • Use sunscreen.  The sun reflecting off the water can result in burns, even on a cloudy day
  • Get enough sleep.  Everyone gets tired at first.   Strength and endurance come with practice
  • Do not bring car keys or cell phones on the boat

What about Athletic Scholarships for college?

Find information here

Eleven Insights into the Sport of Rowing adapted from the US Rowing website:

  1. Rowing is a total body workout. Rowing only looks like an upper body sport. Although upper body strength is important, the strength of the rowing stroke comes from the legs. Rowing is one of the few athletic activities that involve all of the body’s major muscle groups. It is a great aerobic workout, in the same vein as cross-country skiing, and is a low-impact sport on the joints.
  2. Rowing looks graceful, elegant and sometimes effortless when it is done well. Don’t be fooled. The sport demands endurance, strength, balance, mental discipline, and an ability to continue on when your body is demanding that you stop.
  3. Sweep (like a broom) and Sculling (with a “c”). There are two basic types of rowing: sweep rowing and sculling. In sweep rowing, athletes hold one oar with both hands. In sculling, the athletes have two oars, one in each hand.
  4. The boat. Although spectators will see hundreds of different races at a rowing event, there are only six basic boat configurations. Sweep rowers come in pairs (2s), fours (4s) and eights (8s). Scullers row in singles (1x), doubles (2x) and quads (4x). Sweep rowers may or may not carry a coxswain (cox-n), the person who steers the boat and serves as the on-the-water coach. All eights have coxswains, but pairs and fours may or may not. In all sculling boats and sweep boats without coxswains, a rower steers the boat by using a rudder moved with the foot.
  5. Rowers are categorized by sex, age and weight. Events are offered for men and women, as well as for mixed crews containing an equal number of men and women. There are junior events for rowers 18 or under or who spent the previous year in high school, and there are masters events for rowers 27 and older. There are two weight categories: lightweight and open weight.
  6. The equipment. Today’s rowing boats are called shells, and they’re made of lightweight carbon fiber. The smallest boat on the water is the single scull, which is only 27-30 feet long, a foot wide and approximately 30 pounds. Eights are the largest boats at 60 feet and a little over 200 pounds. Rowers use oars to propel their shells. Sweep oars are longer than sculling oars, typically with carbon fiber handles and rubber grips (although some sweepers still prefer wooden handles).  Sculling oars are almost never wood.
  7. The crew. Athletes are identified by their position in the boat. The athlete sitting in the bow, the part of the boat that crosses the finish line first, is the bow seat or No. 1 seat. The person in front of the bow is No. 2, then No. 3 and so on.  The rower closest to the stern that crosses the finish line last is known as the stroke. The stroke of the boat must be a strong rower with excellent technique, as the stroke is the person who sets the rhythm of the boat for the rest of the rowers.
  8. SPM not MPH. Rowers speak in terms of strokes per minute (SPM), literally the number of strokes the boat completes in a minute’s time. The stroke rate at the start is high – 30-40, even into the 40s for an eight – and then “settles” to a race cadence typically in the high 20s to low 30s. Crews sprint to the finish, taking the rate up once again. Crews may call for a “Power 10” during the race – a demand for the crew’s most intense 10 strokes.
  9. Regattas. The crew that’s making it look easy is most likely the one doing the best job. When watching a race, look for a continuous, fluid motion from the rowers; synchronization in the boat; clean catches, i.e. oars entering the water with little splash; and the boat with the most consistent speed.
  10. Teamwork is number one. Rowing isn’t a great sport for athletes looking for MVP status. It is, however, teamwork’s best teacher. The athlete trying to stand out in an eight will only make the boat slower. The crew made up of individuals willing to sacrifice their personal goals for the team will be on the medal stand together. Winning teammates successfully match their desire, talent and bladework with one another.
  11. Rowing is the ultimate walk-on sport. (It’s easier to get started than you think.) USRowing is a membership organization that serves rowers of every age and ability from the beginner to the experienced rower to the national team.  So, there’s definitely a place for you.


If you have any questions, please contact any board member by email at hhsrowingclub@gmail.com.  We welcome your input!

HHSRC is a non-profit 501(C)(3) tax-exempt organization.

Donations to the Club are tax-deductible under the IRS Code.