PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Team Sports: Crew And Rowing

You're gripping a long pole, using all your energy to keep moving forward, getting wet from the sweat of your effort and the water that's all around you.

Are you:

  • Skimming leaves off a swimming pool?
  • In a stilt race across a raging river?
  • Fighting a light saber duel in a thunderstorm?

NO! You're rowing as part of a crew team!

In some team sports, play often focuses on an individual player, like when a football quarterback throws for a touchdown or a soccer forward kicks for a goal. But in rowing (also called crew), it's always about the team working together as a single unit, like a perfectly tuned machine. If you value teamwork and cooperation above individual stardom, crew may be just the sport for you!

As long as there's a team or club in your area, rowing is one of the easiest sports to get started in because there are very few rules or techniques to get used to.

Athletes who row crew need upper and lower body strength, plus plenty of endurance for long races. Rowing also requires agility, grace, and the ability to get perfectly in sync with your teammates.

Crew Basics:

  • There are two types of rowing. In sculling, the rowers have an oar in each hand, while in sweep rowing, they have both hands on a single oar.

  • Team rowing is usually in teams of 2, 4, or 8. In teams of 4 or 8, there's often an extra person in the boat called a coxswain who coaches the rowers and steers the boat instead of rowing.

  • One of the most important terms in crew is SPM, or Strokes Per Minute. The more strokes a team can row in a minute, the faster the boat will move through the water.

Cool Crew and Rowing Facts:

  • Rowing is the oldest college sport in America.

  • In the U.S., one of the biggest events in rowing is the Harvard/Yale race, which was first held in 1852. In England, the big event is the Oxford/Cambridge race, first held in 1829.

  • Modern crew boats are called shells, and are constructed of a carbon fiber that's very light in weight. Shells used for teams of 8 are about 60 feet long!

  • Rowing gives an athlete a great workout on both the upper and lower body, and is a low-impact exercise. This is why rowing machines are so popular at the gym.

  • Many coxswains are girls or guys who are a little bit smaller or lighter than their teammates. So if you're worried that your lack of height or weight means you can't be involved in team sports, this may be the perfect position for you!

What Kids Are Saying About Crew and Rowing:

“I have an older brother who rows eights for his high-school team. I want to row eights or fours someday. It's the coolest school sport there is."
--Brian, 12

“Rowing is a really fun sport to do, and to watch! Every year we have a regatta, where all different schools come to race."
--Bryce, 11

“I know a girl who's a coxswain on a boy's rowing team! She tells them how fast to row, and is in charge of all the practices!"
--Veronica, 11

Get Involved!

Here's how to get involved with beach volleyball:

  • If you live near a lake or river where crew events are held, then there's probably a boathouse where the races are organized. Have an adult contact the boathouse and ask about crew team opportunities for kids.

  • Another great source of information is USRowing, the national governing body of rowing and crew. They have plenty of information about crew teams and clubs across the country, and you can reach them at (800) 314-4ROW. They also have a Web site at www.usrowing.org.

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