Rowing Into College Life: A Comprehensive Guide to College Crew

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of rowers working together.

Rowing Into College Life: A Comprehensive Guide to College Crew

Embarking on your college journey is a thrilling adventure filled with countless opportunities, including the chance to participate in unique and enriching extracurricular activities. One such opportunity is becoming part of a college crew team.

In this comprehensive guide, we will dive into the world of crew sport, exploring every aspect from understanding the sport’s basics to the life-altering benefits it can bring. This guide is designed to provide prospective students like you with valuable insights into this compelling sport, helping you row confidently into your college life.

What is Crew as a Sport?

What is crew as a sport? Crew, also known as rowing, is a unique and highly demanding sport that combines physical strength, endurance, coordination, and teamwork. It is a water-based sport where individuals or teams propel a boat, referred to as a shell, through the water using oars.

There are two primary forms of rowing: sweep rowing and sculling. In sweep rowing, each rower holds one oar with both hands and rows on one side of the shell. Teams can consist of two, four, or eight rowers, and sometimes include a coxswain who steers the boat and coordinates the rowing rhythm.

View of rowers in a competition.

Meanwhile, in sculling, each rower has two oars, one in each hand, and boats can be singles (one person), doubles (two people), or quads (four people).

Crew races, known as regattas, are highly competitive events ranging from 2,000-meter sprints to longer endurance races. The sport requires physical strength, aerobic stamina, precise technique, and synchronization among team members. The goal is to complete the course in the shortest time, working together as a cohesive unit.

One of the defining features of crew as a sport is its emphasis on teamwork. A crew team must operate as a single entity, with every member moving in perfect harmony. This level of coordination and mutual reliance creates a unique bond among teammates, making crew a truly distinctive and rewarding sport.

You will discover that this sport offers not only an opportunity for physical exercise, but also a chance to develop leadership skills, resilience, and a sense of camaraderie that can greatly enhance your college experience.

Is Crew a Hard Sport?

Is crew a hard sport? Crew is considered one of the most physically demanding sports. However, the complexity of the sport extends beyond just physical exertion.

Physically, crew demands a lot from its athletes. It is a full-body workout that requires a combination of strength, stamina, and endurance. Legs, core, arms, and back are all engaged during rowing, making it a comprehensive physical activity.

Furthermore, the distances rowed during races, particularly the standard 2,000-meter sprint, require a significant level of cardiovascular fitness. The rowers must maintain a high intensity of rowing for an extended period, which pushes the limits of their aerobic and anaerobic systems.

View of rowers in a competition.

In addition to the physical demands, crew is a mentally challenging sport. Rowers must be able to maintain focus and coordination, even under extreme physical stress. They also need to have a high level of mental resilience to cope with the physical discomfort of intense rowing and to stay motivated during early morning practices, rigorous training sessions, and tough races.

Moreover, crew is a sport where synchronization and teamwork are vital. A crew can only be successful if all its members are working perfectly in unison. This need for precision and harmony adds another layer of complexity to the sport.

But while crew is indeed a hard sport, it’s also important to remember that it’s a sport that rewards the effort you put into it. The physical and mental benefits gained, the sense of achievement, and the deep bonds formed with teammates make every drop of sweat worth it.

How Do You Get on a Crew Team?

Rowing into the world of college crew can be both exciting and challenging. One of the first hurdles you will encounter is the tryout process. Students who are interested in this sport often ask “How do you get on a crew team?”

Let’s explore how you can best prepare and make a lasting impression during tryouts.

Understanding the Tryout Process for College Crew

Understanding the tryout process for college crew is crucial to boost your chances of getting into one. There are generally two types of crew teams: varsity and club teams. Varsity teams are more competitive, often recruiting seasoned high school rowers, whereas club teams are more likely to welcome beginners.

The tryout process for each type of team can vary significantly. Varsity team tryouts involve a more rigorous and competitive process, including assessments of your rowing technique, strength, endurance, and overall fitness.

Aerial drone of rowers.

On the other hand, club team tryouts might be more accessible, focusing on general fitness and potential rather than current skill level.

Regardless of the type of team, be prepared for both on-water and off-water tests during tryouts. This could include ergometer (rowing machine) tests, running, strength exercises, and some form of on-water assessment.

Pre-Tryout Preparation: Fitness Training, Learning Basic Rowing Technique

Before tryouts, preparing yourself physically and mentally is crucial. If you are new to the sport, start by familiarizing yourself with the basics of rowing. This includes understanding the rowing stroke, the different positions in the boat, and common rowing terminology.

Fitness training is also an essential part of pre-tryout preparation. Crew requires a high level of cardiovascular endurance, so activities like running, swimming, or cycling can be beneficial. Strength training is equally important, focusing on the legs, core, and upper body.

Additionally, getting comfortable on an ergometer can give you a significant advantage. Ergometers are used extensively in rowing training and will likely feature in your tryouts. Learning proper erg techniques and building your endurance on the machine can help you stand out during the selection process.

Tips for Making a Good Impression During Tryouts

Impressing the coaches during tryouts goes beyond physical performance. Coaches are also looking for athletes who show potential, are coachable, and can work well within a team.

Demonstrate your willingness to learn and adapt. Be receptive to feedback and show that you can apply it effectively. A positive attitude, determination, and resilience can also make a strong impression.

View of a sole rower.

Remember, crew is a team sport, so your ability to work well with others is as important as your individual skills. Show your team spirit, support your fellow tryout attendees, and communicate effectively.

Lastly, remember to enjoy the process. Enthusiasm and passion for the sport can go a long way in convincing the coaches that you will be a valuable addition to the team.

Getting onto a college crew team can be a demanding process, but with proper understanding, preparation, and the right mindset, it can be a stepping stone to one of the most rewarding experiences of your college life.

The Benefits of Participating in College Crew

Participating in college crew is a unique experience that offers a multitude of benefits beyond the physical. From personal development to community building, rowing can greatly enhance your college experience and leave a lasting impact.

Let’s go over some of the benefits of participating in college crew and discover why joining a crew team can be one of the best decisions you make in college.

Physical Fitness

Rowing is a full-body workout, engaging all the major muscle groups. It combines cardiovascular training with strength and endurance, contributing to overall physical fitness. Regular training can enhance your strength, stamina, and flexibility, promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Teamwork and Cooperation

Crew is the ultimate team sport. A boat can only move smoothly when all rowers work together, maintaining perfect timing and rhythm. This need for synchronization fosters a deep sense of cooperation, teaching you the importance of teamwork, shared responsibility, and mutual support.

Leadership and Discipline

Being part of a crew team requires commitment and discipline, and often involves taking on leadership roles. Whether you are a team captain, a coxswain, or simply setting an example through hard work and dedication, you will develop leadership skills that are invaluable in life beyond college.


Mental Resilience

Rowing is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Enduring tough training sessions, pushing through physical discomfort, and staying focused during races can help build mental resilience. This ability to persevere in the face of adversity is a trait that can benefit all areas of your life.

Time Management

Balancing academic responsibilities with a demanding training schedule can be challenging. However, it also provides an opportunity to develop excellent time management skills. Many student-athletes find that the structure and discipline of rowing improve their academic performance.

A post it note with the word manage your time.

Community and Camaraderie

A crew team is more than just a group of athletes; it’s a community. The shared experiences, triumphs, and challenges create strong bonds of friendship. This sense of camaraderie and belonging can greatly enhance your college experience.

Career Opportunities

Participation in college sports like crew can open up various career opportunities. The skills you learn – teamwork, leadership, discipline, resilience – are all highly valued in the professional world. Furthermore, rowing can provide networking opportunities, as many alumni maintain close ties with their crew teams.

Personal Growth

Finally, perhaps the most significant benefit of participating in college crew is personal growth. Through the sport, you learn more about yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses, your limits, and your potential. It’s an experience that challenges you, shapes you, and helps you grow.

Being a crew athlete is a rewarding journey that offers far-reaching benefits. Crew is more than just a sport; it’s a transformative experience that can equip you with skills, memories, and friendships that last a lifetime.

The Life of a College Crew Athlete

Becoming a crew athlete is about embracing a lifestyle. It is an all-encompassing experience that involves not only rigorous training and competition but also camaraderie, personal growth, and a unique college journey.

Here, we’ll provide a comprehensive picture of what the life of a college crew athlete is like.

The Daily Grind

Crew athletes often start their days early, with practice sessions typically held in the morning when the water is calmest. This could mean getting up as early as 5 a.m. to hit the water or the ergs. Practices involve endurance training, strength training, technical drills, and race simulations.

Balancing Act

Alongside the athletic commitment comes the academic one. Crew athletes are, first and foremost, students. Balancing a demanding training schedule with classes, assignments, and exams requires excellent time management skills. Many athletes find that the discipline they learn from sports helps them excel academically.

Team Bonding

Crew is a sport that fosters close-knit teams. Athletes spend a lot of time together, not only training but also traveling to races, participating in team-building activities, and often studying together. This camaraderie is a defining feature of the crew experience.

Nutrition and Recovery

Proper nutrition and recovery are critical for college crew athletes. This involves eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet to fuel their intense training and ensure proper recovery. Athletes also need to prioritize rest, with adequate sleep being essential for performance and overall health.

Competition and Travel

Participating in regattas is a highlight of the crew season. These events can involve travel, sometimes across the country, providing an opportunity to compete against other schools and experience new places. Race days are intense but also exhilarating, filled with team spirit, adrenaline, and the satisfaction of seeing your hard work pay off.

Personal Growth

The life of a college crew athlete is filled with challenges that foster personal growth. It is about pushing your limits, stepping out of your comfort zone, and discovering what you are capable of. It is also about developing resilience, teamwork, leadership, and a strong work ethic – skills that will serve you well in life beyond college.


Being part of a crew team means being part of a larger rowing community. This community is supportive and tight-knit, with alumni often maintaining close ties with their teams. There are also opportunities to engage with the wider community through volunteering and outreach programs.


Despite the hard work and commitment involved, most crew athletes would agree that they love what they do. The sense of achievement, the thrill of racing, the beauty of being on the water, and the friendships formed make the experience enjoyable and rewarding.

The life of a crew athlete in college is demanding but also incredibly fulfilling. It’s a unique journey that offers not only athletic and academic opportunities but also life skills, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime.

In essence, college crew is more than just a sport; it is an immersive and transformative journey that shapes individuals both athletically and personally. It offers a unique blend of physical challenge, mental growth, and profound camaraderie.

Despite the early mornings, the grueling training, and the balancing act between athletics and academics, the rewards are immense. The sense of achievement, the life skills gained, the friendships formed, and the unforgettable memories make participating in a crew team a truly enriching experience.

Whether you are an experienced rower aiming for a varsity team or a novice looking to try something new, joining a college crew team can be one of the most impactful and rewarding aspects of your college life.

AdmissionSight, a leading college admission consulting company in the US, understands the unique demands and opportunities of being a prospective college student-athlete.

Suppose your dream is not only to attend a top-tier university like Princeton, Harvard, or Stanford but also to become part of their prestigious rowing teams. In that case, AdmissionSight is ready to help you navigate this complex journey.

Our expert team will guide you through the application process, helping you highlight your athletic and academic achievements in a way that resonates with admissions officers. We will also provide insights into effectively communicating with coaches and making a strong case for your recruitment.

With AdmissionSight by your side, your dreams of rowing with the best while receiving an unparalleled education can become a reality. Consult with our experts today to start your college admissions journey!




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