Building a women’s rowing program requires some outside-the-box thinking.
Unlike traditional collegiate teams, where coaches have thousands of high school athletes to pool from in recruiting, Division I rowing programs are cast from a different mold.
“The unique thing about women’s rowing,” assistant coach George Jenkins said, “is that there are actually more people rowing at the collegiate level in California than there are rowing at the high school level.“
“By the time you get to athletes who can really cut it at the Division I level, that’s not a huge group of people coming forward.“
Instead, the Aggies look to UC Davis‘ student body to step forward.
The women’s rowing team will hold informational meetings for those interested in joining the program next week on Oct. 1 and 2. The meetings will begin at 6 p.m. in Wellman Hall.
UC Davis‘ women’s rowing team wasted little time in making an impact at the Division I level. The Aggies earned team titles in the Cal Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic and the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia last season.
“We call [rowing] the ultimate team sport,” Jenkins said. “In rowing, there are no superstars. It’s impossible in a rowing race to say, ‘Well, we lost the race, but the No. 4 seat really had a good day.‘
“In other sports, you can talk about how the quarterback had a good game even though you didn’t win the game…. Not so much in rowing. You’re really all in this thing together.“
Jenkins said that those who are new to the sport are not thrust into the competitive fire. Instead, new participants become part of a separate novice program.
“Every team on the West Coast has a novice team,” he said. “We start from square one – this is an oar, this is how you hold it, this is how you carry the boat. We build people up slowly so that they really understand the technique and the fundamentals of the sport.“
As the athletes learn the fundamentals, they gain the opportunity to receive much more, as those on the novice teams are given the chance to work their way up to scholarship level.
“The interesting thing about rowing is that it has the second-highest scholarship limit in the NCAA,” Jenkins said. “There’s good opportunity to actually earn a scholarship or a partial scholarship.“
Jenkins hopes to see some new faces on the Aggies‘ roster prior to the start of their competitive season in early March.
“People who are interested in pursuing athletics should come and give this a try,” he said. “It’s such a neat opportunity.
“Rowing is the oldest intercollegiate sport in America. The very first time two universities got together and competed was in rowing in 1852. Women’s rowing isn’t as old, but is such a great opportunity for people looking to continue in athletics.“
ADAM LOBERSTEIN can be reached at email@example.com.