Ready, set, row
Local rowing program offers students a nontraditional approach to varsity status
As students throughout the community lace up their soccer cleats and strap on football helmets and pads, a different type of athlete is preparing for a very different kind of sport. Theyre rowers with Lake Oswego Community Rowing, and they are just as competitive and just as athletic as the kids you see on the soccer and football fields around town.
Their field is the Willamette River, and their training takes them not on laps around a track or field but up and down the river from their home base near Roehr Park off Foothills Drive as far north as the Sellwood Bridge and as far south as the Willamette Falls in Oregon City. The rowers practice six days a week, Monday through Saturday, for two and a half hours at time. Training runs can take the team on eight miles of river.
Rowing is definitely a big commitment but its something you learn to love. Its part of your life, Rachel Miller said. She is a 13-year-old eighth-grader at St. Agatha Catholic School and a member of LOCRs varsity rowing team.
Students who participate in other sports throughout the school year are able to join LOCRs youth rowing team.
We do accommodate multiple sports, LOCR Administrative Director Kathryn Evans said. If theyre doing two sports in the same season, though, thats tough on the kid.
Be warned, however. Evans said that in the majority of cases, students who participate in other sports end up dropping that other sport in favor of rowing year round. Thats how much fun the program is, she said.
The best part is that students who row can earn a varsity letter from their home school. The program is accepted for varsity credit at West Linn and Lake Oswego high schools. Evans said that LOCR has never had trouble getting varsity letters for participants from other schools, even as far away as Vancouver.
Because we work with schools, its official when (students) go to apply for college, she said, adding that rowing tends to receive positive attention from colleges.
Varsity rowers Maya Miller, 14, a freshman at West Linn High School, and her teammate Marissa Thomas, 14, and a freshman at Riverdale, both are looking forward to earning their varsity letter in their first year of high school and their second year on LOCRs youth team. They said that even though few of their peers understand their sport, it compares favorably in rigor to other high school varsity sports. Rachel, Maya and Marissa agreed that when they talk to acquaintances about their sport, most people make an instant but incorrect assumption.
They think were dragon boats, Rachel said.
They dont know how hard it is, Maya said. Theres a lot of technique. You have to work hard.
Teamwork is an important part of the sport. Although some LOCR members row in single boats, the majority row in teams of two, four, six or eight.
Its definitely a community sport, where you have to work together, Marissa said.
You just need to keep in mind everybodys skills and just work together, Maya said. You just try and try until you get better, Rachel said.
The rowing team is unusual in that it brings together students from different high schools around the area. Students from some of those schools normally consider each other to be arch rivals in the sports arena. Thats not the case on the rowing team, however.
It doesnt matter. When you compete in a sport for your local high school, the other school is the rival. On our rowing club, the rival is the other club. Theres no inter-competition, Evans said. Its probably the only sport where its able to integrate like that.
LOCR is recruiting new youth rowers now, with learn-to-row classes offered through Lake Oswegos parks and recreation department. Even better, a rookie week is being offered Aug. 25 to 29, and its free. Sessions will be held 9 to 11 a.m. at the LOCR boathouse located at Charlie S. Brown Water Sports Center on the Willamette River in Roehr Park, 350 Oswego Pointe Drive, Lake Oswego.
We basically teach people who know nothing about rowing, Evans said. We teach them how to handle the boats, we teach them a bunch of rowing terminology and we teach them to row.
Rowers dont need to invest in special equipment or clothing for practices. Regular workout clothes will do, although rowers should avoid anything loose or baggy, because their seats move as they row and clothing could become caught in the mechanism.
Interested students of all types are encouraged to attend the rookie week
Rowing is not just a sport of strength. Its a sport of strategy and technique, Evans said.
Youth Coach Alex Cockerill emphasized that anyone can learn to row.
Youre just looking for someone whos interesting in being outdoors and being on a learning team, he said.
Both he and Evans said that height is an advantage but not a requirement. And unlike other sports, rowers spend just one year as rookies and then automatically advance to the varsity team.
Tall people definitely have an edge, but anyone can compete, Evans said. Thats a distinction with rowing. You advance to varsity and you will compete. We dont cut anyone. Theres a race for everyone.
That doesnt mean rowing is easy.
I dont know if other sports (have) practice every day, Maya said. In the school year we practice six days a week.
The practice location has advantages.
Its a lot more fun being on the water than on a rowing machine, Maya said. You can see a lot of different areas, and sometimes you can jump in.
Its definitely nice to come out after a long day of school. Its refreshing, and you make new friends, Marissa said.
Its just connections. Youre connecting with new friends and the river as youre seeing new areas on the river, Rachel said.
You just keep improving, Maya said.
It is absolutely a team sport. Theres no individual superstars. Everyone has to pull their absolute hardest, Evans said. The more you practice, the better your attendance and the more you show up, the better your technique. ... From a competitive standpoint, our objective is to win at races. We dont minimize that, by any stretch of the imagination. Were looking to put the fastest, strongest kids in the boat, to cross the finish line first.
In addition to the free rookie week, a parent orientation will be held 6 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at the boathouse. Parents of children who might be interested in joining the team are encouraged to attend. The fall season begins Sept. 2 with practice 3:45 to 6:15 p.m. Monday to Friday and 7:30 to 10 a.m. Saturdays. Students from ages 13 to 18 are eligible to participate, and no experience is necessary. LOCR also offers an adult rowing program. To sign up for the club or to learn more, visit lakeoswegorowing.com.