Looking For Athletes 

Every year, the UO Crew Team searches across campus for young men and women willing to represent Oregon Rowing on the national stage. We look for students of all sizes and athletic backgrounds as it is impossible to determine one's true potential in rowing before they even try it. Most people on our team had never touched an oar prior to their novice year. This page will give a breakdown of everything a rower can expect throughout his novice year from early recruitment to competing for a national championship at the end of May.


Why YOU Should Row

This is one of the most frequent questions varsity rowers receive when trying to recruit a new class - why should I row? Why is it worth the time, the commitment, the effort, etc. Why shouldn't I spend my time at Oregon doing something else?


Any rower who as ever won a nail-biting, adrenaline pumping close race would quickly be able to tell you at least part of it - there is no greater feeling than beating another crew. Well of course, this could be said of any sport because most of our athletes have participated in other athletics- it's always great to win. However winning in rowing, especially in a close race, feels different. The races are approximately seven to eight minutes long yet are still considered a sprint. Within those seven or eight minutes, there is a constant ebb and flow of action. From the sidelines rowers look very calm, however in the boat the stroke becomes a balance of finesse and raw aggression. Taking a perfect stroke becomes euphoric, and chasing down another boat in perfect harmony with your teammates will often form your greatest memories.


One of the greatest aspects of rowing is that it, unlike almost any other sport, is a 100% direct result of how much work you put into it. It is such a complex and unique skill that sometimes the worst rowers the first time they sit down will be the best by the time they graduate. All of the work that is done throughout the year will be realized in the championship regattas, and the teams that win are not necessarily the most naturally talented, but the ones that put in the most work throughout the year.


Finally, often the greatest experience of rowing is the friendships you will form. What often starts off as getting dinner after practice or chatting in the boat (not while rowing of course) will almost certainly lead to lasting friendships down the line. It is an absolute guarantee that those who row together throughout the years become amazing friends. No one else will understand what you do and why you do it better than the group of people you row with.


Rowing may appear to be a large commitment, however if you have any interest we ask that you come out for at least the first week of practices. The worst thing that can be done is to never give it a shot.

Size Does NOT Matter

The old adage in rowing is that in order to be successful, you must be tall, lean, and athletic. Over the years our team has found this to not be the full truth. Many of our most impactful rowers are under 6 ft tall. It is also highly common to see novices gain tremendous amounts of muscle mass even over their first few months as their bodies adapt to the sport. Success in rowing is never measured by someone's physical stature. The best rowers are the ones who are mentally tough enough to make a difference, as well as those who are willing to put in the work to constantly improve.

What is a Coxswain?

You may have heard the term "coxswain" (pronounced "KOK-sen") before when learning about rowing. In simple terms, the coxswain, often on the smaller side in terms of athletes, is the pilot of the boat - they dictate the pace of the boat as well where the boat goes. However, the duties of a coxswain extend well beyond simply driving the boat, and the ability of a coxswain can often make or break a boat. A coxswain must be highly competitive and motivated in order to be successful in rowing.

A coxswain acts as a coach in the boat for the rowers. During practices, it is his or her responsibility to run drills and call out technical corrections that will lead to a more cohesive unit. A good coxswain will be able to point out the problems plaguing their boat and ultimately lead to a smooth boat by the end of practice. Over time, a coxswain will develop familiarity with their rowers and the skill set of their boat, and pinpointing technical calls will become second nature.

Where a coxswain really shines is during racing season. During the fall, many of the courses represent high degrees of steering difficulty. The ability of a coxswain to take turns, cut corners, and pass boats may ultimately decide the outcome of the race. Spring season however is a whole separate atmosphere. In the spring, the courses are straight lanes, so steering is no longer a deciding factor. The coxswain is the commander of the boat - they need to be sharp and highly competitive in order to adapt to the changing landscape of the race. A good coxswains knows how to both stay ahead of another crew, as well as how to call out power moves to get back his/her boat even when they fall behind.

Where We Row

The University of Oregon Rowing team has two main practice locations: McArthur Court (also referred to as "MAC") and Dexter Reservoir. McArthur Court is where novice rowers will experience their first few practices. Inside MAC, we use ergometers (rowing machines) and do body and weight circuits. MAC is located right behind the Student Rec Center on campus, and can be easily identified by the large green crane-like structure on the roof. Dexter Reservoir is where our racing shells (boats) and oars are located. This is where we go out on the water and develop integral skills in order to prepare for racing season. Dexter is located about 20 minutes off of campus, so a bus picks us up right outside of McArthur court approximately 40 minutes before our practice time. As you get off the bus at Dexter, it’ll likely be a little chilly and dark as the sun will be coming up soon. However once you get warmed up and are out on the water, I promise you there is no better way and place to watch the sun rise.

First Few Weeks

The first few weeks of rowing will be centered around learning the sport. Rowing is a highly technical sport that requires a unique skill-set. Many people find it easy to pick up, yet mastering it takes years. Many of the varsity members will tell you they still have a lot to learn, so it is important to develop a good base in the sport during your novice year. 

During this time-period, you will be introduced to the outdoor, on-the-water portion of rowing (the boathouse, rowing shells, oars, etc) as well as the indoor, rowing machine focused aspect. Every rower picks up the rowing stroke at a different pace, so it may seem slow (or fast) at first. However, eventually the sport will increase in pace and the rows will begin to cover more distance.


Every rower has one year of eligibility as a novice as soon as they compete in their first race. This way, first-year rowers will compete against other first-year rowers at programs across the country in events separate from the Varsity events. Any sophomore, junior, or senior rowing for their first year in college will be on the novice team, not the varsity team. After your novice year, you will automatically be moved up to the varsity team.


So you've made it through the first month or so of rowing, and you feel like this sport is for you (which it is, I promise you). Now is when the REAL fun begins. In the fall, we race what are known as "head" races. The length of the course varies from approximately 5,000-6,000 meters, and takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes, depending on what type of boat you are in (4 vs. 8, etc). These races are held as time trials - each boat in the same event goes in order down the course, and a final time is taken at the end. Since it’s difficult to know your time, the goal of the race is to pass the boat in front of you while walking away from the boat behind you. The Oregon program typically goes to two or three races in the fall, usually in the surrounding Pacific Northwest area (Portland & Seattle).


The fall racing season is fairly short, and often only lasts about a month, beginning in late October and ending mid-November. During this time, the practices will get a little longer and the workouts will get a little more intense in order to prepare us to race. Attendance at practice will also become more critical as it is important to develop cohesiveness and chemistry within a boat.

Winter Training

Once fall season ends, the team moves inside to MAC for the winter. While you will gather some experience with the rowing machine, known as the "erg", early on, winter training will focus predominately on erging. Erging allows rowers to train strength and conditioning by providing a stable platform to row on. Success on the erg will translate to success in the boat, so it is important for all rowers to develop good erging habits and continues training throughout the winter.


In January and February, while the temperatures are low and the rain is heavy, you will be competing amongst your teammates on the erg. Now is your time to show your coach the physical and mental toughness that it takes to be a rower. Those that do well on the erg will often be rewarded with a seat in the top boat in the early spring, while those you do not show their best effort, be late to/miss practice regularly, or show signs of lacking coachability, will have to put in extra work to show that they deserve a spot.

Spring Season- Championship Season

When the rain slows down (a little), the sun creeps out, and spring break rolls around, we ditch the ergs and charge full-force into the spring season. We start the spring season off during spring break training camp, in which we dedicate a full week of our lives to rowing with our now best friends and great coaches. We spend the whole week at Dexter Lake, including the nights at a local facility to increase bonding time and cut out distractions. It is likely you will refer to this week as the best part of rowing at Oregon outside of the racing itself. Spring racing is immensely different from fall racing, and is the pinnacle of rowing. A spring race is a head-to-head, all out 2,000 meter sprint. Unlike Fall racing, now you line up directly alongside of your competition, so you will know exactly how you are doing in each race.


One of the greatest differences in spring racing is that now it is a sprint. The stroke rate increases, the race becomes more intense, and mistakes are much less forgivable. Every boat has to execute their own race plan to come out on top. Over time, rivalries will develop between clubs and you will begin to recognize the rowers you're up against.Another major change from the fall is that in the spring you often race at least twice, and potentially as much as four times over the course of two days. The racing often breaks down like this:

The first race is known as "heats." While some regattas use random assignment, most of the championship and well-respected regattas will use a seeding system to assign teams. Most boats will typically advance from heats, however placement determines the seeding in the next round.


Some regattas have a second wave of races known as "reps," which is short for repechage. Reps is a second opportunity for teams who failed to qualify for the semi-finals in heats by a small margin. When possible it is best to avoid reps in order to maximize rest time in preparation for the final rounds. The second (or third) races are the semi-finals. All the top qualifiers from heats and reps are seeded into semi-final rounds, with the obvious goal to advance to the final. Here, the competition is much greater than in heats, as each team has already proven themselves once in the regatta. It is easy to see how you stack up against your competition based on how fast each boat was in heats. Typically the top two or three crews will advance into the Grand Final and have a shot at a gold medal.


The Grand Final is the ultimate race of spring season. The top six crews will line up against one another in an all-out race to the finish. Every crew will execute their strongest race plan, and you can expect to see a significant increase in speed across the board. One of the most underrated aspects of being successful in a Grand Final is experience. Teams that have been to finals before and have had success are often much better at controlling nerves, and will be able to execute their plan at full force. Coming out tight and nervous can often be the downfall of less experienced  crews, and can often lead to them dropping from medal contention. In the end, only one crew can be a champion.

Ask any varsity rower, and they will tell you Spring season is the greatest 10 weeks of the year. All of the hard work from the beginning of October until the third weekend in May will be realized during championship season, in which we travel to 4-6 events over the 10 weeks, spanning from Oregon to California to Gainesville, Georgia for Nationals.