FAQs for Athletes

Q: What makes a good rower?
A: A good rower demonstrates three things:

  • Good attitude (being coachable and listening)
  • Skillful technique (developed over many, many strokes)
  • Toughness and endurance (running, rowing, and erging help with this)

Q: What makes a good coxswain?
A: Because a coxswain does not row, smaller, lighter athletes are usually chosen for the position. A successful coxswain is bright, confident, and able to motivate others. The coxswain must be able to anticipate what lies ahead, whether in the boat while maneuvering to the starting line, navigating a race at top speed, or on land when directing rowers carrying a boat through a crowd.

Q: What is the swim test and who takes it?
A: Every new rower must pass a swim test. It is not hard—you have to wear sweat pants and a sweat shirt on top of a bathing suit, jump in the pool, swim from the deep end to the shallow end and back without touching the pool floor, and tread water for 60 seconds by the pool ladder. Once you are in the pool, the test takes 5 minutes. The hardest part is keeping your pants on—they do get heavy! As you can guess, this is to make sure that you could swim over to a launch if a shell swamped or tread water until a launch retrieved you.

Q: Is crew an easy sport to participate in?
A: No. Crew is not an easy sport — it requires endurance, strength, and a willingness to work hard. That said, being part of a boat and pulling your hardest with your teammates in a regatta may be among the most rewarding experiences of your life. Crew asks a lot of you, but it delivers much in return — overall fitness, top-notch competition, a strong bond with your team, school pride, and potentially a sport to continue with in college, among other benefits.

Q: I’m in 8th grade—can I row for Yorktown?
A: Yes.

Q: I’ve never rowed before. Can I still do crew?
A: Yorktown crew welcomes rowers of all levels of experience. Most of our rowers have never rowed before freshman year. Many upperclassmen (sophomores, juniors, and seniors) also join the crew every year—it is never too late to learn how to row. Depending on how quickly they acclimate to the sport, it is possible for certain novices to join the varsity in time for spring regattas.

Q: What are the time commitments for freshman or varsity rowers?
A:

  • November—Land practice starts and is usually held every day, M–F
  • Late January—Washington-Lee High School Triathlon (erging, running, weights)
  • Early February—Midatlantic Erg Sprints
  • Late February/Early March—On-water practice starts and is usually held M–S
  • Eventually, Saturday water practices will give way to Saturday regattas in late March.

Q: Are there cuts from the team?
A: Yes —  Due to coaching and equipment limitations, the coaching staff and the booster board of directors have decided to limit the size of the team to 100 athletes, 50 each on the boys’ and girls’ sides. Cuts, if necessary, will be made in January and February.

Q: Are there any height or weight requirements for rowers or coxswains?
A: No. The most important attributes of a rower are attitude, technique, and physical fitness. Rowers come in all shapes and sizes. Although being tall can be an advantage, not being tall does not mean you would not be a good rower. Rowers of all sizes are able to learn “boat-moving” skills and can train to improve their endurance. Because the coxswain does not row, smaller, lighter athletes are usually chosen for that position.

Q: How are rowing events divided?
A: Yorktown crew is fundamentally a co-ed team, but at high school regattas events are held for men and women. On the water, Yorktown generally rows eight-oared shells (nine people including the coxswain). The varsity consists of first, second, and sometimes third or fourth-string eights – the 1V, 2V (JV), 3V and so on. The novice coach will often select the best 9th graders for a specific category, the freshman eight, which has the opportunity to compete against other freshman eights at certain championship regattas. Otherwise, novice rowers will compete in novice eights and occasionally in the 3V or 4V with a mixture of novices and varsity.

Q: Can I letter in crew?
A: Yes. Starting in your sophomore year, all varsity athletes (rowers and coxswains) can receive a YHS varsity letter for their participation in certain regattas. In some cases, novices who are selected to row in varsity events will also receive a letter. If you earn a letter, you also can earn recognition as a student athlete and receive a VHSL honor roll certificate if you keep your GPA above 3.0 or a Northern Region honor roll certificate if you keep your GPA above 3.5.

Q: What are the team expectations of the athletes?
A: A Yorktown rower is expected to attend practice as much as is practically possible in the winter and every day in the spring. Beyond that, the most important thing is to have a positive attitude and a commitment to improvement of the team and self. Athletic ability, team commitment, discipline, time management skills, and leadership are also characteristics of Yorktown rowers and coxswains.

Q: Can I participate in other sports at Yorktown High School?
A: Absolutely. Crew is a spring sport (practices are usually Monday through Saturday), but many of our rowers participate in other sports at Yorktown in the fall and winter. Just let the coach know if you are participating in a fall or winter sport, as crew land practices start in November/December.

Q: What is seat racing?
A: Seat racing is the term used to describe the practice of switching one rower for another during a practice as a way to compare different boat lineups. Seat racing results along with other data are used by coaches to help select individuals for particular crews.

Q: What is an erg?
A: Short for “ergometer,” an erg is a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion. The verb “to erg” means to work out on an ergometer. An “erg piece” is a particular set of work on the ergometer, such as rowing 2,000 meters. Erg tests are used by coaches to determine a rower's aerobic and anaerobic endurance capabilities. Ergathons are fundraisers that involve the rowers getting pledges for every meter rowed.

Q: I have blisters on my hand — what can be done to speed up healing?
A: Blisters happen. First – as with any injury or physical problem – you should ALWAYS talk to your coach, who can recommend specific treatments that will help. Coaches can also teach you how to tape your hand to prevent irritating a blister in future practices.

For help in callus formation and open blister protection/skin drying, here are some suggestions:

  • Wet tea bags can help, as can iodine or iodine swabs (available through CVS online). Hold tea bags in each hand over the blisters, they will sting at first (as liquid does with any blister) but the tea seems to act as a sort of anesthetic (the tannic acid) as well as hardener (especially for that really tender first day of a blister rip). Do not wash or wipe hands after application. Some staining will occur, but it will wash off eventually. Once the new layer of skin has formed under the blister, the top hard skin can be carefully cut off.
  • The best place to pop a blister is in the opposite direction of the searing force. (Looking at your hand with finger tips up, that place would be close to your fingers). That way the blisters are less likely to pull open. If it does tear open, let the top layer dry (again, tea bags), and tape up your blisters until the day comes when you touch the area and it doesn't make you squirm in pain.
  • Make sure to clean the blisters—there are many nasty bugs that grow on oar handles, in bodies of water, and even on your fellow rowers. Keep the blisters covered, and clean with Betadine, which is a much better antimicrobial than peroxide even though it doesn't give you the great bubbling action of peroxide that everyone loves to see.

Q: What is a boat party?
A: A boat party is a dinner party held on the Friday night before a regatta at a rower's house. A boat party usually is for the nine members of an individual boat. Parents take turns sponsoring the parties, and the rowers attending contribute the food. The meal usually includes a pasta dish provided by the sponsoring family, for the all-important carbohydrate loading.

Q: How does the point system work?
A: Because Yorktown crew is a club sport, the team receives minimal financial support from the county and must come up with the bulk of its operating budget by relying on the contributions of rowers, through dues, and the fundraising activities of the crew boosters. All crew families participate in fundraising and other activities throughout the year. Each family must earn a total of 50 points, if they have one rower, or 75 points, if they have two or more rowers. (Parents of first-year rowers are only required to earn 35 points.) Points are earned on the basis of the rower family’s participation in both mandatory fundraising activities, particularly the wreath sale and the Row for Humanity ergathon, as well as additional activities throughout the year.

Each crew activity has a coordinator, and one can sign up by phoning or e-mailing the activity coordinator or by using the sign-up rosters at the crew booster parents’ meetings held in October and February. Participation in an event will be recorded by each activity coordinator/supervisor, and earned points for each rower will be posted on the point tracker periodically.  Event/activity coordinators submit earned points to the points tracker, but it is important to keep track of your earned points. More information on volunteering and earning points can be found in the YHS Crew Handbook or in the FUNDRAISING section of the website.

Q: Do colleges offer competitive crew programs?
A: Yes, many colleges and universities do offer competitive crew programs. The NCAA compiles a list of women’s programs of all divisions. The men's side of college rowing is governed by a number of organizations, including the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC), the Dad Vail Association, Division III NCAA, and a variety of others. More than 100 colleges offer competitive rowing programs for men and women.

Q: Are there summer rowing camps?
A: Yes, there are. Links for many East Coast camps are provided in the Resources tab along the right sidebar. They are open to all high school-age rowers who want to further develop their technique and/or boat speed and racing skills. Programs vary by camp.

Q: Are there club (i.e. non-high school) rowing programs that I can row in out-of-season?
A: Yes, there are. Club rowing usually occurs in the summer and fall. There are several clubs whose membership includes rowers and coxswains from all the high school crews in the DC area. Rowing out-of-season is a great way to experience championship racing at the next level with other athletes who want to help their high school crew row faster in the spring. Thompson Boat Center, Old Dominion Boat Club, and Potomac Boat Club (sculling) are all excellent and only minutes from Yorktown High School. All of these programs have a proven track record of preparing top-notch rowers/coxswains for college, and many Yorktown coaches are involved in coaching these programs.

Q: What should I do with my stuff during practice?
A: If the coaches are holding land practice at YHS, you can bring your stuff downstairs with you and leave it in the erg room or in your PE locker – NOT in the hallway. If the coaches are holding water practice, you should leave all valuables and school books in your hall locker and retrieve them when you return. (The school will be unlocked after practice.) When going to the boathouse, you should bring a bag with warm clothing and other athletic equipment, which will be stowed in the boathouse while you are on the water. There is a lot of foot traffic on the paths along Rock Creek and the Potomac, so valuables should not be left in bags. Many rowers do take a chance and bring their cell phones.

Q: Are there Saturday or Sunday practices?
A: All teams will have Saturday practices once on-water practice starts in late February. Saturday practices stop once the regatta season begins in late March. There are no Sunday practices.

Q: Are there morning practices?
A: Generally, we practice as many squads as possible in the afternoons, in keeping with most Yorktown varsity sports. However, this is up to the discretion of the coach. Morning practices offer certain benefits in scheduling and training, but a decision to practice in the mornings will only be made in consultation with athletes and their families.

Q: What should I wear to practice?
A: Conditions on the water often are 10 degrees cooler, and the wind is frequently stronger, than on land, so the best advice is to wear layers that will do the best job of keeping you warm: a base layer, an insulating layer, and an outer layer. Synthetic fabrics, such as Polypro, CoolMax, and similar fabrics are best because they keep you relatively warm even when wet, and they dry quickly (UnderArmour, Nike, and REI, among others, make clothing of such materials in various weights). You will get wet from perspiration, rain, and splash. The key is to have synthetic clothing that will keep you warm even when wet. The best clothing for rowing is soft, stretchy, breathable, and fairly form-fitting.

One of the basic clothing requirements is spandex shorts/trou for wearing in the shell. Loose shorts can get caught in the slides under the moving seats, so avoid basketball-style shorts or warm-ups. Sweatpants when it is cooler will also work. Loose tops can get caught in the oar handles, so avoid bulky jackets or sweatshirts. In general, you should dress as though you are going running in the elements or Nordic skiing.

Coaches can provide advice about which garments will “make the grade” – it is a safety issue, and if you don’t wear the proper clothing, a coach MAY require you to stay on land while the rest of the team takes to the water!

Layering
Layering is important for keeping warm and maintaining the right temperature. Your needs will change during a practice depending on exertion and changing conditions. Having the appropriate layers enables you to regulate your insulation and protection. Sometimes a rower may mix 2 out of 3 layers, depending on conditions.

  1. Base layer: Form-fitting and intended to wick moisture away from the skin, the best base layers (tops and bottoms) are made from fabrics such as Polypropylene and Capilene. JL workout shirts are great base layer tops—they are thin and similar to base layer garments worn when skiing. Multiple base layers can be worn for added warmth.
  2. Insulation layer: A synthetic fleece jacket should be worn on colder days when extra insulation is needed. The jacket should be thicker than the base layer but not bulky. Polartec or Polarfleece clothing products fall within this category. Some insulation layer fabrics also have built-in wind protection.
  3. Wind-block layer: Having a wind block that breathes helps the rower retain warmth while not getting too hot. Base and insulation layers are generally not designed to block the wind. Look for a jacket that is form-fitting so it does not interfere with the oars and has ventilation panels on the sides for breathing. Designed specifically for rowers, jackets such as the Yorktown crew Ultrex jacket are waterproof, breathable, and not bulky.

Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen
You can lose a lot of body heat through your head. On cold days, it's important that you wear an insulating hat to keep warm. On hotter days, a HeadSweats or CoolMax hat can help absorb sweat without it getting in your eyes. In all weather, a hat and sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun. In the warmer months, the amount of sunlight increases dramatically (it reflects off the water, too). Sunscreen (at least SPF 45) should be brought to every practice once we reach the water.

Hands
Hands can get cold while rowing. However, you will not see rowers using traditional cold-weather gloves. The reason for this is that rowing requires a tactile feel of the handle. You can bring gloves onto the water to wear when you are not actually rowing, or you can put your hands under your armpits to keep them warm. Some rowing manufacturers also sell “pogies,” which are knit hand-warmers that fit loosely around the ends of the oar handle and over your hands.

Socks
Socks should be synthetic or wool (SmartWool socks are good, for example) to help ensure that feet stay warm while wet. You should have a second pair on land. Good socks will help prevent blistering from the hull’s shoes. Change your socks every practice in order to prevent fungus or athlete’s foot.

Shoes
All rowers and coxswains should bring a pair of running shoes to every practice. Even when we are on the water, sometimes water conditions prevent us from taking to the water. In such circumstances, it is not uncommon that the team will run together. Shoes are also more safe and reliable when carrying the shell to the water, as opposed to flip-flops or Crocs. This is a perfect use for those ratty old sneakers that are no longer good for jogging!

Waterproof clothing
Waterproof clothing is not required for rowing. Many companies make water-resistant clothing which is more economical and provides close to the same amount of coverage on typical (non-extreme) days. If you do purchase waterproof clothing, ensure that it is highly breathable. Really waterproof clothing tends not to breathe as well, increasing body heat and sweating, and then holding the perspiration within the clothing instead of letting it evaporate. This can result in your getting too hot, taking off the waterproof clothing, and then getting really chilled.

No cotton
You should avoid cotton. Cotton does not keep you warm when it gets wet; instead, it makes you colder. Cotton should not be used as the base layer, because it does not wick moisture away from the skin.

Dry clothes on land
On especially wet days, you should have dry clothes to change into when you get back on land. These can be cotton or other heavy, bulky materials, since you won’t be working out in these.

No down
Down should never be worn on the water. When down gets wet, it will clump and get very heavy, and it has no insulating properties.

Label your clothing
We recommend that you write your name on all of your clothing.

Q: What should I wear to regattas?
A: To regattas, rowers must wear the team uniform. The team uniforms are ordered in January. A boat can be disqualified if any of its rowers are not in uniform, although the regatta director will often suspend the uniform rule on colder race days. Rowers may want to take a bag with extra layers and dry clothes (including extra socks), depending on the conditions on race day. Some rowers wear slip-on shoes (like Crocs or flip-flops), which can be removed quickly when they get into the boat. Sometimes coaches may schedule a run for warming up, so your rower may need to take running shoes, too.

Q: Where does the team practice?
A: During winter conditioning (land practice), the team practices within and around the school. Rowers use erg machines in the hallway and often run the halls and steps of Yorktown when it is too cold to be running outside. Once spring training (on-water practice) begins, the team practices on the Potomac out of Thompson Boat Center, where Yorktown stores its shells.

Q: When does the Yorktown crew practice?
A: Varsity rowers begin practices in November, and all rowers report to practice every day after school starting in December. When on-water practice begins, rowers practice every day after school and on Saturdays until the Saturday practices are replaced with regattas.

Q: How do the athletes get to the boathouse for weekday practices?
A: Bus transportation to practice is paid for by the Yorktown boosters. Arlington County provides buses back to school after practice.

Q: Do we practice at the boathouse on days with bad weather?
A: Normally, yes. Even when the weather is not favorable, we can still accomplish similar training at the boathouse. This is also a time when coaches may perform needed rigging or repairs on shells, and will need rowers to carry the shell in and out of racks.

Q: How will I know if we are practicing at YHS or at the boathouse?
A: Check the dry-erase board next to the Activities Office. There will be a note from the coaches by 3 PM if we are staying at YHS. (H-B students should establish a system to find this information out, e.g. text messages from one of their fellow rowers, so they know to take the activities bus to Yorktown.)

Q: How do I join the crew program?
A: Fill out the necessary forms, take the swim test, and contact a coach.

Q: Who should I contact for each of those items?
A: The forms are available on the website (www.yorktowncrew.org) under the Resources tab. Swim tests for new rowers are held in the late winter before we take to the water. Coaches' contact information can be found along the right side of the contact page.

Q: I have more questions — whom should I contact?
A: Potential rowers/coxswains should contact email the coaching staff with  any further questions. Parents may feel free to contact a boosters representative with their questions.

 
 

Q: What makes a good rower?
A: A good rower demonstrates three things:

  • Good attitude (being coachable and listening)
  • Skillful technique (developed over many, many strokes)
  • Toughness and endurance (running, rowing, and erging help with this)

Q: What makes a good coxswain?
A: Because a coxswain does not row, smaller, lighter athletes are usually chosen for the position. A successful coxswain is bright, confident, and able to motivate others. The coxswain must be able to anticipate what lies ahead, whether in the boat while maneuvering to the starting line, navigating a race at top speed, or on land when directing rowers carrying a boat through a crowd.

Q: What is the swim test and who takes it?
A: Every new rower must pass a swim test. It is not hard—you have to wear sweat pants and a sweat shirt on top of a bathing suit, jump in the pool, swim from the deep end to the shallow end and back without touching the pool floor, and tread water for 60 seconds by the pool ladder. Once you are in the pool, the test takes 5 minutes. The hardest part is keeping your pants on—they do get heavy! As you can guess, this is to make sure that you could swim over to a launch if a shell swamped or tread water until a launch retrieved you.

Q: Is crew an easy sport to participate in?
A: No. Crew is not an easy sport — it requires endurance, strength, and a willingness to work hard. That said, being part of a boat and pulling your hardest with your teammates in a regatta may be among the most rewarding experiences of your life. Crew asks a lot of you, but it delivers much in return — overall fitness, top-notch competition, a strong bond with your team, school pride, and potentially a sport to continue with in college, among other benefits.

Q: I’m in 8th grade—can I row for Yorktown?
A: If you are an 8th grader at Williamsburg, Swanson, or HB, and your home school is Yorktown, you are eligible to row with Yorktown High School. The following scheduling information applies to incoming 8th-grade rowers:

  • Winter conditioning starts in early December and may be an option – contact your coach to find out if 8th graders should attend.
  • The spring season starts when winter sports end, usually by late January. Winter training is three days a week for 8th graders.
  • On-water practice will start in late February and will accommodate your middle school schedule. For most 8th graders, practice will only be held three days a week.
  • The novice coach may request certain rowers to attend more practices if their schedule allows.
  • You will be able to row in approximately half of the regattas, and your season will end in mid-May.

If you are interested, please use our contact form to get in touch.

Q: I’ve never rowed before. Can I still do crew?
A: Yorktown crew welcomes rowers of all levels of experience. Most of our rowers have never rowed before freshman year. Many upperclassmen (sophomores, juniors, and seniors) also join the crew every year—it is never too late to learn how to row. Depending on how quickly they acclimate to the sport, it is possible for certain novices to join the varsity in time for spring regattas.

Q: What are the time commitments for freshman or varsity rowers?
A:

  • November—Land practice starts and is usually held every day, M–F
  • Late January—Washington-Lee High School Triathlon (erging, running, weights)
  • Early February—Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints
  • Mid-February—Row for Humanity Ergathon
  • Late February/Early March—On-water practice starts and is usually held M–S
  • Eventually, Saturday water practices will give way to Saturday regattas in late March.

Q: Are there cuts from the team?
A: No — Yorktown crew does not have cuts. However, there may be times when 8th graders are deferred due to the large number of high school participants.

Q: Are there any height or weight requirements for rowers or coxswains?
A: No. The most important attributes of a rower are attitude, technique, and physical fitness. Rowers come in all shapes and sizes. Although being tall can be an advantage, not being tall does not mean you would not be a good rower. Rowers of all sizes are able to learn “boat-moving” skills and can train to improve their endurance. Because the coxswain does not row, smaller, lighter athletes are usually chosen for that position.

Q: How are rowing events divided?
A: Yorktown crew is fundamentally a co-ed team, but at high school regattas events are held for men and women. On the water, Yorktown generally rows eight-oared shells (nine people including the coxswain). The varsity consists of first, second, and sometimes third or fourth-string eights – the 1V, 2V (JV), 3V and so on. The novice coach will often select the best 9th graders for a specific category, the freshman eight, which has the opportunity to compete against other freshman eights at certain championship regattas. Otherwise, novice rowers will compete in novice eights and occasionally in the 3V or 4V with a mixture of novices and varsity.

Q: Can I letter in crew?
A: Yes. Starting in your sophomore year, all varsity athletes (rowers and coxswains) can receive a YHS varsity letter for their participation in certain regattas. In some cases, novices who are selected to row in varsity events will also receive a letter. If you earn a letter, you also can earn recognition as a student athlete and receive a VHSL honor roll certificate if you keep your GPA above 3.0 or a Northern Region honor roll certificate if you keep your GPA above 3.5.

Q: What are the team expectations of the athletes?
A: A Yorktown rower is expected to attend practice as much as is practically possible in the winter and every day in the spring. Beyond that, the most important thing is to have a positive attitude and a commitment to improvement of the team and self. Athletic ability, team commitment, discipline, time management skills, and leadership are also characteristics of Yorktown rowers and coxswains.

Q: Can I participate in other sports at Yorktown High School?
A: Absolutely. Crew is a spring sport (practices are usually Monday through Saturday), but many of our rowers participate in other sports at Yorktown in the fall and winter. Just let the coach know if you are participating in a fall or winter sport, as crew land practices start in November/December.

Q: What is seat racing?
A: Seat racing is the term used to describe the practice of switching one rower for another during a practice as a way to compare different boat lineups. Seat racing results along with other data are used by coaches to help select individuals for particular crews.

Q: What is an erg?
A: Short for “ergometer,” an erg is a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion. The verb “to erg” means to work out on an ergometer. An “erg piece” is a particular set of work on the ergometer, such as rowing 2,000 meters. Erg tests are used by coaches to determine a rower's aerobic and anaerobic endurance capabilities. Ergathons are fundraisers that involve the rowers getting pledges for every meter rowed.

Q: I have blisters on my hand — what can be done to speed up healing?
A: Blisters happen. First – as with any injury or physical problem – you should ALWAYS talk to your coach, who can recommend specific treatments that will help. Coaches can also teach you how to tape your hand to prevent irritating a blister in future practices.

For help in callus formation and open blister protection/skin drying, here are some suggestions:

  • Wet tea bags can help, as can iodine or iodine swabs (available through CVS online). Hold tea bags in each hand over the blisters, they will sting at first (as liquid does with any blister) but the tea seems to act as a sort of anesthetic (the tannic acid) as well as hardener (especially for that really tender first day of a blister rip). Do not wash or wipe hands after application. Some staining will occur, but it will wash off eventually. Once the new layer of skin has formed under the blister, the top hard skin can be carefully cut off.
  • The best place to pop a blister is in the opposite direction of the searing force. (Looking at your hand with finger tips up, that place would be close to your fingers). That way the blisters are less likely to pull open. If it does tear open, let the top layer dry (again, tea bags), and tape up your blisters until the day comes when you touch the area and it doesn't make you squirm in pain.
  • Make sure to clean the blisters—there are many nasty bugs that grow on oar handles, in bodies of water, and even on your fellow rowers. Keep the blisters covered, and clean with Betadine, which is a much better antimicrobial than peroxide even though it doesn't give you the great bubbling action of peroxide that everyone loves to see.

Q: What is a boat party?
A: A boat party is a dinner party held on the Friday night before a regatta at a rower's house. A boat party usually is for the nine members of an individual boat. Parents take turns sponsoring the parties, and the rowers attending contribute the food. The meal usually includes a pasta dish provided by the sponsoring family, for the all-important carbohydrate loading.

Q: How does the point system work?
A: Because Yorktown crew is a club sport, the team receives minimal financial support from the county but must come up with the bulk of its operating budget by relying on the contributions of rowers, through dues, and the fundraising activities of the crew boosters. All crew families participate in fundraising and other activities throughout the year. Each family must earn a total of 50 points, if they have one rower, or 75 points, if they have two or more rowers. (Parents of first-year rowers are only required to earn 25 points.) Points are earned on the basis of the rower family’s participation in both mandatory (washing cars, selling wreaths, participating in the Row for Humanity ergathon) and additional activities. Each crew activity has a coordinator, and one can sign up by phoning or e-mailing the activity coordinator or by using the sign-up rosters at crew boosters parents’ meetings. You may always let us know of your interest by emailing us at -email-. The best opportunities for signing up for volunteer activities are at the October new family and the February all rowers meetings.

Participation in an event will be recorded by each activity coordinator/supervisor, and earned points for each rower unit will be posted on the point tracker periodically.  Event/activity coordinators submit earned points to the points tracker, but it is important to keep track of your earned points. More information on volunteering and earning points can be found in the YHS Crew Handbook or in the FUNDRAISING section of the website.

Q: Do colleges offer competitive crew programs?
A: Yes, many colleges and universities do offer competitive crew programs. The NCAA compiles a list of women’s programs of all divisions. The men's side of college rowing is governed by a number of organizations that trace their roots back almost 100 years. These include the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC), the Dad Vail Association, Division III NCAA, and a variety of others. More than 100 colleges offer competitive rowing programs for men and women. You can also purchase the Rowing News College Rowing Recruiting Guide from the Rowing News website.

Q: Are there summer rowing camps?
A: Yes, there are. Most of the camps whose links are provided in the Resources tab along the right sidebar are on the East Coast. They are open to all high school-age rowers who want to further develop their technique and/or boat speed and racing skills. Programs vary by camp.

Q: Are there club (i.e. non-high school) rowing programs that I can row in out-of-season?
A: Yes, there are. Club rowing usually occurs in the summer and fall. There are several clubs whose membership includes rowers and coxswains from all the high school crews in the DC area. Rowing out-of-season is a great way to experience championship racing at the next level with other athletes who want to help their high school crew row faster in the spring. Thompson Boat Center, Old Dominion Boat Club, and Potomac Boat Club (sculling) are all excellent and only minutes from Yorktown High School. All of these programs have a proven track record of preparing top-notch rowers/coxswains for college, and many Yorktown coaches are involved in coaching these programs.

Q: What should I do with my stuff during practice?
A: If the coaches are holding land practice at YHS, you can bring your stuff downstairs with you and leave it in the erg room or in your PE locker – NOT in the hallway. If the coaches are holding water practice, you should leave all valuables and school books in your hall locker and retrieve them when you return. (The school will be unlocked after practice.) When going to the boathouse, you should bring a bag with warm clothing and other athletic equipment, which will be stowed in the boathouse while you are on the water. There is a lot of foot traffic on the paths along Rock Creek and the Potomac, so valuables should not be left in bags. Many rowers do take a chance and bring their cell phones.

Q: Are there Saturday or Sunday practices?
A: All teams will have Saturday practices once on-water practice starts in late February. Saturday practices stop once the regatta season begins in late March. There are not Sunday practices.

Q: Are there morning practices?
A: Generally, we practice as many squads as possible in the afternoons, in keeping with most Yorktown varsity sports. However, this is up to the discretion of the coach. Morning practices offer certain benefits in scheduling and training, but a decision to practice in the mornings will only be made in consultation with athletes and their families.

Q: What should I wear to practice?
A: Conditions on the water often are 10 degrees cooler, and the wind is frequently stronger, than on land, so the best advice is to wear layers that will do the best job of keeping you warm: a base layer, an insulating layer, and an outer layer. Synthetic fabrics, such as Polypro, CoolMax, and similar fabrics are best because they keep you relatively warm even when wet, and they dry quickly (UnderArmour, Nike, and REI, among others, make clothing of such materials in various weights). You will get wet from perspiration, rain, and splash. The key is to have synthetic clothing that will keep you warm even when wet. The best clothing for rowing is soft, stretchy, breathable, and fairly form-fitting.

One of the basic clothing requirements is spandex shorts/trou for wearing in the shell. Loose shorts can get caught in the slides under the moving seats, so avoid basketball-style shorts or warm-ups. Sweatpants when it is cooler will also work. Loose tops can get caught in the oar handles, so avoid bulky jackets or sweatshirts. In general, you should dress as though you are going running in the elements or Nordic skiing.

Coaches can provide advice about which garments will “make the grade” – it is a safety issue, and if you don’t wear the proper clothing, a coach MAY require you to stay on land while the rest of the team takes to the water!

Layering
Layering is important for keeping warm and maintaining the right temperature. Your needs will change during a practice depending on exertion and changing conditions. Having the appropriate layers enables you to regulate your insulation and protection. Sometimes a rower may mix 2 out of 3 layers, depending on conditions.

  1. Base layer: Form-fitting and intended to wick moisture away from the skin, the best base layers (tops and bottoms) are made from fabrics such as Polypropylene and Capilene. JL workout shirts are great base layer tops—they are thin and similar to base layer garments worn when skiing. Multiple base layers can be worn for added warmth.
  2. Insulation layer: A synthetic fleece jacket should be worn on colder days when extra insulation is needed. The jacket should be thicker than the base layer but not bulky. Polartec or Polarfleece clothing products fall within this category. Some insulation layer fabrics also have built-in wind protection.
  3. Wind-block layer: Having a wind block that breathes helps the rower retain warmth while not getting too hot. Base and insulation layers are generally not designed to block the wind. Look for a jacket that is form-fitting so it does not interfere with the oars and has ventilation panels on the sides for breathing. Designed specifically for rowers, jackets such as the Yorktown crew Ultrex jacket are waterproof, breathable, and not bulky.

Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen
You can lose a lot of body heat through your head. On cold days, it's important that you wear an insulating hat to keep warm. On hotter days, a HeadSweats or CoolMax hat can help absorb sweat without it getting in your eyes. In all weather, a hat and sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun. In the warmer months, the amount of sunlight increases dramatically (it reflects off the water, too). Sunscreen (at least SPF 45) should be brought to every practice once we reach the water.

Hands
Hands can get cold while rowing. However, you will not see rowers using traditional cold-weather gloves. The reason for this is that rowing requires a tactile feel of the handle. You can bring gloves onto the water to wear when you are not actually rowing, or you can put your hands under your armpits to keep them warm. Some rowing manufacturers also sell “pogies,” which are knit hand-warmers that fit loosely around the ends of the oar handle and over your hands.

Socks
Socks should be synthetic or wool (SmartWool socks are good, for example) to help ensure that feet stay warm while wet. You should have a second pair on land. Good socks will help prevent blistering from the hull’s shoes. Change your socks every practice in order to prevent fungus or athlete’s foot.

Shoes
All rowers and coxswains should bring a pair of running shoes to every practice. Even when we are on the water, sometimes water conditions prevent us from taking to the water. In such circumstances, it is not uncommon that the team will run together. Shoes are also more safe and reliable when carrying the shell to the water, as opposed to flip-flops or Crocs. This is a perfect use for those ratty old sneakers that are no longer good for jogging!

Waterproof clothing
Waterproof clothing is not required for rowing. Many companies make water-resistant clothing which is more economical and provides close to the same amount of coverage on typical (non-extreme) days. If you do purchase waterproof clothing, ensure that it is highly breathable. Really waterproof clothing tends not to breathe as well, increasing body heat and sweating, and then holding the perspiration within the clothing instead of letting it evaporate. This can result in your getting too hot, taking off the waterproof clothing, and then getting really chilled.

No cotton
You should avoid cotton. Cotton does not keep you warm when it gets wet; instead, it makes you colder. Cotton should not be used as the base layer, because it does not wick moisture away from the skin.

Dry clothes on land
On especially wet days, you should have dry clothes to change into when you get back on land. These can be cotton or other heavy, bulky materials, since you won’t be working out in these.

No down
Down should never be worn on the water. When down gets wet, it will clump and get very heavy, and it has no insulating properties.

Label your clothing
We recommend that you write your name on all of your clothing.

Q: What should I wear to regattas?
A: To regattas, rowers must wear the team uniform. The team uniforms are ordered in January. A boat can be disqualified if any of its rowers are not in uniform, although the regatta director will often suspend the uniform rule on colder race days. Rowers may want to take a bag with extra layers and dry clothes (including extra socks), depending on the conditions on race day. Some rowers wear slip-on shoes (like Crocs or flip-flops), which can be removed quickly when they get into the boat. Sometimes coaches may schedule a run for warming up, so your rower may need to take running shoes, too.

Q: Where does the team practice?
A: During winter conditioning (land practice), the team practices within and around the school. Rowers use erg machines in the hallway and often run the halls and steps of Yorktown when it is too cold to be running outside. Once spring training (on-water practice) begins, the team practices on the Potomac out of Thompson Boat Center, where Yorktown stores its shells.

Q: When does the Yorktown crew practice?
A: Varsity rowers begin practices in November, and all rowers report to practice every day after school starting in December. When on-water practice begins, rowers practice every day after school and on Saturdays until the Saturday practices are replaced with regattas.

Q: How do the athletes get to the boathouse for weekday practices?
A: Bus transportation to practice is paid for by the Yorktown boosters. Arlington County provides buses back to school after practice.

Q: Do we practice at the boathouse on days with bad weather?
A: Normally, yes. Even when the weather is not favorable, we can still accomplish similar training at the boathouse. This is also a time when coaches may perform needed rigging or repairs on shells, and will need rowers to carry the shell in and out of racks.

Q: How will I know if we are practicing at YHS or at the boathouse?
A: Check the dry-erase board next to the Activities Office. There will be a note from the coaches by 3 PM if we are staying at YHS. (H-B students should establish a system to find this information out, e.g. text messages from one of their fellow rowers, so they know to take the activities bus to Yorktown.)

Q: How do I join the crew program?
A: Fill out the necessary forms, take the swim test, and contact a coach.

Q: Who should I contact for each of those items?
A: The forms are available on the website (www.yorktowncrew.org) under the Resources tab. Swim tests for new rowers are held in the late winter before we take to the water. Coaches' contact information can be found along the right side of the contact page.

Q: I have more questions — whom should I contact?
A: Potential rowers/coxswains should contact -email-with any further questions. Parents may feel free to contact a boosters representativewith any questions.

Q: What is Yorktown crew?
A: The expression “Yorktown crew” refers to all of the people on the rowing team — women, men, and coaches. Collectively, we are the crew. To be properly used, the words “crew” and “team” should not be used together. A “rowing team” is a “crew,” but you would not refer to Yorktown crew as a “crew team” – this would be redundant. The activity is rowing — the people who do it form a crew.

Sound complicated? It’s not, once you get used to it. Here are some further examples: One can say “I row on the crew,” “I row for Yorktown,” “I am on the crew,” or “I am on the rowing team.” It would be a mistake to say “I do crew,” “I am on the crew team,” or “I do crewing.”

Q: What is rowing all about?
A: Rowing is one of the few team-based racing sports. In fact, the earliest intercollegiate sporting events took place between several early crews. Crew is also a long-time Olympic sport dating back to the original 1896 Olympics in Athens. America has been a power in international rowing for more than a century. Since 1896, the United States has won the men's 8 gold medal more times than any other country, most recently in 2004. The U.S. women's eight is the defending Olympic gold medal winner, after having won silver medals both at the 2007 World championships and the 2004 Olympics. The upshot is American rowing overall is enjoying a renaissance in international competition after a tougher time in the 1970s and 1980s. The training for, and competition in, rowing is rigorous, but the camaraderie and personal development that comes from rowing is rarely, if ever, exceeded in any other sport.

Q: Why is Yorktown crew a club sport?
A: Rowing at Yorktown is actually a hybrid. Crew athletes earn YHS varsity letters like athletes in all other varsity sports, but unlike other Arlington County-sponsored sports, much of the crew budget comes from the parents of the athletes, and from fundraising activities of the rowers/coxswains themselves. The equipment and travel requirements for rowing make the sport a costly activity compared to something like basketball. Nonetheless, Yorktown rowers compete in a scholastic league, against other high schools all along the East Coast and Midwest. You will wear Yorktown uniforms at every regatta, and will be representing Yorktown and Arlington County at every regatta.

Q: How many rowers are on the team?
A: The team has had 100-110 athletes for the past couple of year. This total includes both varsity and novice men and women.

Q: How long is the crew season?
A: Crew is a spring sport that begins officially in late February and runs until late May or early June. We have optional winter training beginning in November for varsity athletes, with the novice winter training program beginning in December.  

Q: When does the crew season begin?
A: Winter conditioning (a.k.a. land practice or land training) begins in November for varsity rowers and in December for freshman/novice rowers. On-water practice begins in late February/early March, depending on when the ice has melted on the Potomac and Thompson Boat Center has put out the docks for the season.

Q: I notice that other crews row competitively in the fall—why doesn’t Yorktown?
A: Yorktown and the vast majority of high schools who row in the DC area are members of the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (VASRA), and as such limit their official season to the spring. Several schools in the area have chosen to leave VASRA primarily to row in the fall. We do not row against these schools during the regular season but do compete against them in the “postseason” regional and national championships. It is worth noting that Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, which follows the same spring-only rules as Yorktown, won the men’s senior eight national championship as recently as 2007. Further, the Yorktown men finished in the nation’s top ten in both 2009 and 2010, while the women did similarly well in 2010 and 2011. What matters is not whether you row in the fall, but the quality of the athletes who join the crew and how well they train and perform in the winter and spring.

Q: How are crews (or “boats”) selected?
A: Rowing is the consummate team sport and as such coaches are seeking the fastest combinations of eight rowers and one coxswain they can put together. Many factors go into this choice of people and their respective positions in a boat. In general, these factors include rowing skill, strength and power, endurance, experience as a racer, and an assortment of intangible factors that allow the individual to blend in and complement the other members of the crew. These factors are measured in a variety of different ways that include ergometer testing, weight lifting performance, running speed, height, weight, and observation over many days of practice.

Q: What is the difference between a freshman, novice, and varsity rower?
A: A freshman is any 9th grade rower or coxswain. A novice is any first-year rower; thus, a 10th grader in her or his first season is a novice. Someone who starts rowing as an 8th grader can still row in the freshman category in 9th grade. Anyone who is not a 9th grader who has rowed for Yorktown at least one spring season is considered a varsity rower.

Q: Do novice rowers practice with freshman or varsity rowers?
A: Generally 8th and 9th graders will practice together. Initially 10th and 11th grade novices will start out with the other novices but will most likely move up to varsity before the season is over.

Q: What are the positions in a boat?
A: There are nine positions in racing shell — eight rowers and one coxswain. The coxswain is usually the smallest and lightest and is the only person to face forward. The coxswain's job is steer from the stern (rear) of the shell, communicate with the crew, and strategize in racing situations. Just in front of the coxswain is the stroke or the rower in the number eight position. The stroke is the rower the other seven must follow. Strokes are usually highly skilled rowers with good rhythm and high levels of strength and fitness. Next is the seven seat, again a critical position as they will stroke the side of the shell opposite the stroke seat. Seven’s job is to translate the stroke as perfectly as possible and help the other six rowers find a comfortable rhythm to follow. The “engine room” of the boat lineup is in six, five, and four seats, and their job is to provide the most power possible to the rhythm set by the stern pair. Two and bow (the number one seat position) are, like the stern pair, often highly skilled rowers, but are often shorter than the other members of the crew. No individual rower can demonstrate just one of those characteristics. The best crews are made up of athletes who combine all of these elements, and train hard throughout the year to maximize their capacity in all facets of the sport.

For an amusing take on the personalities of the various seats in an eight, please click here.

Q: Can a rower switch from port to starboard side?
A: Yes. This is an important skill to have, but most people do develop a preferred side and often will row most of a season on one side or the other.

Q: What are the responsibilities of a captain?
A: Captains for the coming year are announced at the end-of-the-year banquet in June and start work that night through the end of the next season. Captains assist the coaches, delegate authority to other team members, remain impartial, lead by example, encourage all fellow rowers, inspire fellow rowers to push themselves, and enforce proper behavior.

Other responsibilities include assisting with all carwashes, attending booster board meetings as needed, and setting an example with wreath sales.

Winter season responsibilities include assisting with winter conditioning and supporting fundraising efforts, including the ergathon.

Spring season responsibilities include daily practice oversight, such as the set-up and take-down of launches, making sure all other equipment is ready to use, leading rowers on warm-up runs and stretching as directed, helping keep rowers organized during workouts on land and bringing mail or messages from school to the coaches at the boathouse.

Q: Do all rowers participate in on-water practice?
A: Yes, all rowers participate in on-water practice. At times rowers will be rotated into and out of boats or be assigned to land practice depending on the number of rowers, coaches, and boats on the water on a given day.

Q: What commitment is expected during the “mandatory” practice season?
A: Families must understand that rowing lineups are a meritocracy–seats in a boat must be earned and maintained, and coming to practice every day is one key component in that effort. Coaches will be fair in offering numerous chances for rowers to move up, but likewise, if a rower misses even one practice, there is no guarantee that their seat will still be theirs at the next practice.

Given the large number of athletes on the team, parents and rowers may think that coaches will always have ``enough’’ bodies to complete their boat lineups. However, the overall number of rowers on the team is deceptive since individual boats practice as a unit or “in lineup.” Thus, when one rower is missing it can leave a coach with a tough decision – keep the rest of that boat on land, or remove a rower from another boat’s lineup in order to fill the hole.

For this reason, it is also important to have extra rowers who continue to train at the rest of the crew’s level, even if they are not boated as consistently as they would like. The commitment and dedication shown by attending practices faithfully is one of factors that coaches use when determining lineups.

Coaches are understanding about other commitments that occur during the year. It is possible to work out an “arrangement” for school-related activities, such as a weekly tutor session, musical instrument lessons, band and Model UN trips, to name several common examples. In all cases, identifying possible conflicts and communicating these with the coach is the best idea – just as you will be required to do in college, and during your working career as an adult.

Q: Does a freshman boat have a freshman coxswain?
A: Yes, a freshman boat has a freshman coxswain.

Q: I have more questions — whom should I contact?
A: Potential rowers/coxswains should submit our contact form with any further questions. Parents may feel free to contact a boosters representative (a fellow parent) by submitting our contact form with any questions. You may also contact a booster board member directly. Names and contact information can be found online.

Q: What is normal distance of a high school race?
A: There are two types of races: head races and sprints. Head races are usually held in the fall. Yorktown crew does not compete in the fall season, but there are several rowing clubs with junior crews that do. These events are generally 2.5-3 miles long and follow a time trial format over a course with many turns. Yorktown crew only competes under our blades (oar design) during sprints in the spring. Sprints are 1,500 meters for high school crews and 2,000 meters for college crews. They are held on a straight course often with buoyed lane markings. As many as six shells begin at the same time and sprint to the finish line, with awards given to the crews that finish first, second and third.

Q: Where are regattas held?
A: Many of the regattas Yorktown participates in are held around the area in Georgetown, the Occoquan and Anacostia. However, Yorktown attends some out-of-town regattas as well. Regattas are usually held on Saturdays and last most of the day. Rowers generally leave before 7 AM on the bus and return before 5 PM. The regatta schedules are usually available a night or two before a race and will be posted on this website. Rowers will be notified of their race schedule on the day before the event. Despite the length of the day, a regatta is not complete until the trailer has returned to the boathouse and the shells have been returned to their racks! In some extraordinary circumstances, rowers may request permission to leave with their family before the bus returns to YHS.

Q: What is Stotesbury?
A: The Stotesbury Cup Regatta, held each year on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, is billed as the largest high school regatta in the world with upward of 3,000 athletes and almost 100 high schools attending for two days of racing.

Q: Who goes to Stotesbury?
A: Not all Yorktown boats participate in the regatta. The Stotesbury Cup Regatta is a highly competitive event, and Yorktown coaches evaluate each boat’s season to make a determination of which boat(s) will participate.

Q: What is Nationals?
A: Each year, the Scholastic Rowing Association of America sponsors the Scholastic National Championship Regatta (a.k.a. “Nationals”). The regatta site moves each year and is said to determine the North American scholastic champions. Recent regattas have been held in Princeton, NJ, Saratoga Springs, NY, Cooper River, NJ, and Oak Ridge, TN.

Q: Who goes to Nationals?
A: Like the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, Nationals is highly competitive, and not all Yorktown boats participate. Boats qualify for Nationals on the basis of their success at the Virginia state rowing championship held in early May. Unlike other varsity sports at Yorktown, the opportunity to compete for a true national championship is a highly privileged event! Yorktown has enjoyed some degree of success on the national stage, and will continue to promote this tradition by only bringing the fastest crews to compete at this regatta.

Q: Whom does Yorktown crew compete against?
A: Our primary “circuit” consists of all the DC-area member schools of VASRA, including Washington-Lee, TC Williams, Thomas Jefferson, McLean, Robinson, Oakton, Westfield, St. Albans and Bishop O'Connell, to name just a few. Other schools in the region are from Maryland and Tidewater Virginia, many of whom will race at “regular season” regattas that we attend. At the largest regattas, scholastic crews from Florida, New York, Chicago, and sometimes California will vie for medals. This spectrum of high school-aged talent is one of the unique aspects of our sport.

Q: How do I learn more about the Yorktown crew program?
A: Potential rowers/coxswains should submit our contact form with any further questions. Parents may feel free to contact a boosters representative with questions.