Rowing. A sport that demands ‘strength, toughness, conditioning and a Z-factor; where you just have to extract some inherit passion to push yourself beyond anything imaginable,’ said best by men’s Head Coach Dan Emrich.
Rowing is made up of teams called crews, that consists of eight oarsman/rowers and a coxswain. The coxswain’s job is to be the ‘eyes and ears of the boat,’ according to fourth-year coxswain and men’s team captain Scott Ritter. ‘You have to be patient and have to be organized enough to handle eight people.’
In the boat are small speakers that enable all the rowers to hear their coxswain’s commands. This is extremely important because the coxswain faces the team in the boat and is the only one who can see the finish line.
The coxswain takes on the role of a coach because the individual in this position is the only one who can motivate and push the team when racing and they in turn, need to trust the coxswain because they cannot see the finish line.
As mentioned earlier, the boat consists of nine people, the coxswain in the front followed by the stroke (seat eight), whose responsibility is to set the rhythm for everyone in the boat. The next rower is labeled seven followed by six, five, four, three, two and then the last seat, one, at the bow.
UC Irvine started it’s men’s rowing program in 1965 and the women’s program in 1992. But before anyone can be on the varsity or junior varsity teams, most athletes have to spend their first year at the novice level.
Novice coach Scott Charette heads the men’s and women’s novice teams. The team is made up of mostly walk-ons who were active athletes in high school but, according to Charette, no longer pursuing the sport that they did in high school and college. ‘But they still want to be involved. So that’s where crew, rowing, comes in,’ Charette said.
The fall season is dedicated to teaching the newcomers the basics of rowing. Both men and women row together in the same boats, but come winter and spring, they practice separately everyday as well as travel with the varsity and junior varsity teams to races.
Charette’s job is to ‘one, give novices a positive experience, a rewarding experience. Give them enough of a taste of the sport to get them hungry to make them want more so they come back and contribute to our varsity program.’
The men’s and women’s novice teams are proving to be more competitive than last year as they have not only more athletes but power. When the year is over, they will either decide to stay in the rowing program or leave. Those who do continue after Novice go on to the varsity and junior varsity teams.
The men’s varsity team is led by Emrich. The determination of who rows and the selection of the coxswain for both varsity and junior varsity boats is not determined until the season begins.
According to Emrich, who gets to be on which boat is determined by, ‘one, physical qualities and attributes. Two, technical ability and three, how well they make a boat move, relative to how well they pair up to other teammates.’
The men practice together at 6 a.m. and train on the water for two hours a day. To be able to move a boat is a team effort because everyone has to stroke simultaneously and have the same rhythm.
‘There are no individuals at all. If you try to pull harder or do anything different than anybody else in the boat, all you’re going to do is slow that boat down. Everything has to be in sync,’ said third-year rower Joseph Russo.
This year, the men’s rowing team is hoping to end in good standing at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships.
There is not a Big West Conference tournament in rowing. Instead, conference play rests at the WIRA where UC Irvine will compete with over 25 rowing teams from different colleges and universities at the end of April.
According to Emrich, the men’s team boasts confidence.
‘They are a completely dedicated crew to the cause of winning a championship,’ Emrich said.
The season opener for the men’s and women’s rowing teams will be on Feb. 28 against UC San Diego. On Jan. 31, they will compete in an all-day event, the Long Beach Ergometer Sprints at Long Beach.
The Ergometer is a rowing machine where each rower/coxswain will individually compete against nine other rowers/coxswains that all row at about the same speed. In front of them will be TV monitors that will show how fast they are going against the other rowers.
The women’s varsity and junior varsity teams are led by Head Coach Carrie Chamberlain-Parsons.
One of Chamberlain-Parsons’ goals for her team this season is to go into races ‘mentally prepared, physically prepared and come out of it feeling like they accomplished that.’
The women’s team has a lot of speed, strength and maturity this season.
They hope to be a competitive force against other racing teams when participating in the Parker Cup, San Diego Crew Classic and WIRA Championships. They will face over 20 teams in their conference during the WIRA Championships. The women’s rowing teams are considered an NCAA sport.
Third-year rower Rachel Sung agrees that this year’s team is ‘going to be faster than last year’s.’
Rowing is a technical sport that takes a huge amount of commitment, dedication, strength and teamwork but it has its many rewards.
‘Everyone can have the same general technique but tiny differences are what distinguishes a really great crew from a good crew,’ Sung said.