Alumni Share College Rowing Experience
This summer, I got a chance to catch up with two of our alumni to learn about their college rowing experience. Kelci is an Environmental Policy major at Union College in New York and Holly is majoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard College in Massachusetts. Both Kelci and Holly learned to row at Noank Rowing Club and participated in the Junior Racers program. Read about each of their experiences below.
Describe your college rowing team.
Kelci: My team is a Division III co-ed varsity sport (26 men & 29 women).
Holly: I’m on the women’s heavyweight team (a varsity team). There are about 45 girls on the team.
How did you become involved in your team?
Kelci: I reached out to the coach before the school year started to learn more about the program. The first week, practice was open to anyone who was interested in learning about rowing, and a lot of people that end up joining are walk-ons.
Holly: At the beginning of freshman year, I met a lightweight rower in my entryway and I mentioned that I had rowed in high school. She said that all the teams at Harvard all have novice programs that anyone can join and that I should go to the novice meeting and check it out! I decided I wanted to be a coxswain, so I went to both the women’s and men’s interest meetings and decided that I wanted to join the women’s team! In the fall, they teach all the novices how to row/cox and if you stick it out throughout the semester, you start practice with the varsity team in the winter! So all spring I raced on the varsity team in the 2V (2nd Varsity boat).
What does your typical practice schedule look like?
Kelci:In the fall and spring, two hours a day (usually the afternoons) five days a week at the boathouse on the water, along with lift in the weight room two days a week (usually early in the morning). During the winter we erged three days and lifted for two days.
Holly: My schedule includes mornings Tuesday (lift practice), Wednesday, Thursday (lift), and Saturday (usually a longer practice). We have afternoon practice Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Coxswains attend all our practices.
Describe a favorite memory or experience from rowing at your school.
Kelci: After every practice the freshmen would all get dinner together at the dining hall, and we became really close that way. The closest friends I have at school are on the team with me and those dinners really helped us get to know each other outside of rowing.
Holly: There are so many, so it’s hard to choose, but it’s probably when the 2V (the boat I coxed during the racing season) beat Yale in our race on the Charles. Because of the weather forecast, we raced at 6:12am. We were down about half a length for most of the race, but in our final sprint we just started flying past Yale, beating them by a length. It was incredible and everyone in my boat was so psyched and when we got back to the boathouse everyone was super happy for us.
How did rowing affect your first year in college?
Kelci: It added structure to my schedule which kept me from feeling lost. I was able to meet people across all areas of study and class year. It ensured that I was exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep—without which I wouldn’t have been able to perform to the best of my ability, in rowing and in my academics.
Holly: I’ve told everyone who asks me about school that joining crew was the best decision I made all year. It gave me a community I ate most meals with and saw everyday, a strict schedule (something I thrive under), and an activity to busy myself with outside of academics.
How did Noank Rowing Club prepare you for your experience rowing in college?
Kelci: Being a part of the Junior Racers prepared me for what regattas would be like so they weren’t as intimidating. It really taught me that rowers are some of the best people you will ever meet.
Holly: While I didn’t cox at NRC, knowing the basic terms and mechanics of rowing definitely helped me in the boat when talking to my rowers.
What advice do you have for high school athletes thinking about rowing in college?
Kelci: If rowing is something you want to pursue absolutely go for it. It will be a different experience than in high school but the familiarity of rowing will make the transition into college a lot easier. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the coach before the school year starts, get your foot in the door and they will remember you.
Holly: Do it! I didn’t know so many schools had novice programs before getting to Harvard so if you aren’t quite at the level to jump onto the varsity team, check if yours does or email a coach and start a conversation about rowing in college! There are so many ways to stay involved in the sport outside of college, whether that be intramurals, varsity, or even finding a club team in the area! It is not D1 or nothing, there are many levels of commitment and competition.