So many of you ask me, "Can I do it?" You are referring to rowing in college. I actually think the correct question is "Do you WANT to do it?" There is absolutely a rowing program for everyone out there - no matter your size or your speed. What is common among all teams is that it will require you to dedicate time to the sport. How much time may vary widely depending on the program you select. Our first article details a Day in the Life of a College Rower.
After interviewing our first several college athletes, 100% of them row in the morning during the 20-Hour Season. Alarms go off between 4:50-5:30am five days a week and they all also practice on Saturdays (usually that alarm goes off around 7 or 7:30am). If you are not a morning person or can't possibly imagine getting up that early, you may want to think about this and find out if the programs you are looking at practice in the morning. I can't tell you, that you do get used to it, but you will have nights/mornings that test you.
All of the athletes also practice in the afternoon - some of them practice every day in the afternoon and some practice three times a week in the afternoon. Every athlete also described optional practices during the week or even on the weekends. Some athletes have a lifting practice right after a morning row and some have it in the afternoon in conjunction with an erg practice. Every athlete is rowing at least 6 times a week and erging at least 2 times a week during the 20-hour season. Some of those ergs may be on-your-own workouts or Captains' Practices.
Athletes are taking most of their classes in between the morning practice and the afternoon practice and some even reported finishing some homework during that time. Nearly every athlete commented on the immense time commitment and the need to balance your workload and execute time management skills. And although challenging, some reported that the required structure was resulting in greater efficiency and sometimes grades.
Athletes reported trying to get to bed by 10pm each night. Depending on your school, you may have to make special arrangements (study groups, office hours etc) to meet that bedtime. In the "off-season" for rowing the practices are optional and athletes are indoors erging and strength training. This often coincides with exams and most athletes are off the water from late November until early February unless their water is frozen... then you are off the water until it melts. Most teams take a spring/winter training trip in the second semester to get some water time.
I have heard several college coaches say something to the effect of: "There's academics, rowing and a social life. You can pick two." I actually think that is a fairly accurate statement. You can of course, have some amount of a social life, but the stereotypical party-social life that is portrayed in most TV shows is definitely not the life of a collegiate rower. Although these athletes described a strict and regimented schedule they all talked about the relationships they have made with their teammates and the satisfaction and fulfillment they find being a Varsity Athlete.
So the question isn't "Can you do it?" It's "Do YOU want to do it?"
Our College Rowing Series is based off interviews with several athletes currently rowing in college. We are not permitted to tell you who or where they are rowing, but all the athletes are rowing at DI or DIII programs across the United States.