Today’s article is off the path of NCAA sports; the Club Crew at Ohio State. I’m collaborating on this article with OSU Crew Communications Officer Hallie Liu (www.osucrew.org).
Hallie, to get the readers and me squared away, can you briefly tell us about rowing at Ohio State?
There are two rowing communities at Ohio State. Ohio State Rowing is an NCAA-sanctioned, traditional varsity sport. They are an open weight women's team coached by Andy Teitelbaum and funded by the University. The Ohio State Crew Club is a competitive rowing club overseen by Ohio State Rec Sports. We offer rowing to both men and women. We currently row on O’Shaughnessy Reservoir in Dublin during the spring and the Olentangy River in the fall. The NCAA team rows on Grigg's Reservoir.
Ohio State has built a very competitive open weight women’s rowing team, but there are currently no university funded rowing programs for men and lightweight women at OSU. Our club seeks expand the rowing community at Ohio State by offering opportunities to both weight classes of men and women. Some of the other ways we differ from the NCAA team, aside from the sources of our funding, include our coaching, team structure, location, and competition. Because Ohio State Crew is a club sport, we have an Executive Board composed of elected student officers, and a Board of Directors. We hire and pay our own coaches, who are hired by the officers of the Executive Board. Our student officers handle the day-to-day
functioning of our team, which is composed of 50+ athletes. We typically compete against other club teams and even race against some smaller university-funded teams at our championship races. The Ohio State Crew Club has a rich history within the rowing community and has been around since 1976 (we’re celebrating our 35th anniversary next year!)
This year’s coaching staff is comprised entirely of Club Alumni – Director of Rowing Katie Salvator, Men’s Head Coach Brandon Walz, and Women’s Novice Coach Elena Reynolds. Our Captains are Sam Gaeth (Jr) and Adam Reckless (Sr) for the men, and Mallory Palmer (Jr) and Megan Scott (Sr) for the women. Members of the Officer Corps include
President Katie Kalbacher (Sr), Vice-President of Budgeting Jason Yung (So), Logistics Officer Mike Sgandurra (Jr), Accounts Officer Colin Richards (Sr), Communications Officer Hallie Liu (So), and Safety Officer Erik Meister (Sr).
Currently the responsibilities of Fundraising Officer are divided between President Katie Kalbacher and Communications Officer Hallie Liu.
Very good, thanks for the explanation Hallie. Now, on to rowing itself. I know there are different boat configurations. Can you please explain what they are?
There are two types of rowing, sweeping and sculling. In sweep rowing each rower has one 12-foot oar, and in
sculling each rower has two 9-foot oars. Sweep rowing is the focus of most collegiate programs. Occasionally, we have individual club members who scull (last year , our Club President won gold in the single sculls at our national championship race), but our focus is typically on sweep rowing.
Rowing boats are referred to as shells. A shell will have seats for 1-8 rowers depending on its length and rigging. Sweep shells also have a seat for a coxswain.
Boat terminology -
# rowers: Scull: Sweep:
1 single n/a
2 double pair
4 quadruple (quad) four
8 n/a eight
Thanks for menioning the coxswain. What exactly does a coxswain do?
A coxswain (pronounced‘cox-in’) is one of the most important members of a crew. They steer the boat and offer
direction and motivation during racing and training. A good coxswain with a fast crew can be the difference between first place and missing the medals dock entirely. Coxswains are also responsible for maintaining the safety of their
rowers as well as avoiding obstacles that may damage equipment. Most coxswains are smaller athletes weighing around 110 pounds for women and 120 pounds for men. We try to recruit coxswains that are assertive and smart. We think of them
as the in-boat coach.
How do you go about recruiting for a club team like Ohio State Crew?
As a club team we can’t offer admissions aid or scholarships, but we still look for athletic individuals wanting to compete in a college sport. Many of the men and women that we gather for our novice classes have been athletes in other sports; they use their athleticism and competitive drive to their advantage in rowing.
In the early fall you’ll find the recruitment flyers and information sessions you’d expect of any rowing team—even fully funded varsity programs rely on athletes with no previous rowing experience to fill their rosters. Our coaches are familiar with the many high school rowing teams in Ohio and often communicate with athletes before they even step foot on campus. Ohio State Crew has an excellent reputation for competitive men’s and lightweight women’s rowing and that attracts local talent.
Now that you have the crew candidates, let's talk about the training? How many days per week and what is a typical session like? I know it’s not casually punting down the Olentangy.
As far as training goes, we are styled similarly to cross country/track programs–longer distance training in the fall, and shorter distances in the spring. Our practice schedule varies from quarter to quarter, but we typically practice six days a week for about 2 hours each day, and a little longer in the spring. Our primary racing season is in the spring, where the races are 2,000 meters in length (approximately 6 to 7 minutes long).That being said, fall and winter are focused on training to prepare us to be our fastest come springtime. Fall is when we build a fitness baseline and iron out as many technical issues as possible and still have the ability to practice out on the water. Wintertime is all indoor training, primarily on rowing ergometers (ergs). Depending on the coach (we have 3) and their specific goals for the week, or month, the workout will vary from day to day.
Earlier in the column you stated that Ohio State Crew is self-funding. What do you do for fund-raising and how can the Buckeye Community help?
Most of our funds come primarily from membership dues. We have some fixed costs (equipment, space, coaches) and some variable costs (travel, number of regattas, etc.) so dues each year are broken down by quarter and depend on the size of the team.
Our primary fundraising is done through our Rent-A-Rower program where people in the community rent out team members for yard work and odd jobs. Each team member is required to complete a certain number of RAR’s each season, and the money we earn from that goes towards team expenses. Rates are $70 per 4-hr block of time, per rower.
Other fundraising efforts include hosting an indoor rowing competition every year (Midwest Championship Erg Sprints) and Row for Dimes, where rowers obtain donations from sponsors to support our team and the March of Dimes. (Ed: I have been involved in MoD activities in WNY, this is a worthy activity)
We are also fortunate to have some very dedicated alumni who contribute regularly to the team, through our Alumni-staffed 501c(3) organization. Anyone who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the team can do so through our website(osucrew.org). You can also schedule to Rent-a-Rower by firstname.lastname@example.org
Rowing is an expensive sport; we pay our coaches and own all of our equipment, so our annual budget is upwards of $200,000. We have an excellent Vice-President of Budgeting, as well as an Accounts Officer to track member dues. We also elect a Fundraising Officer to take charge of the Rent a Rowers, Row for Dimes, and any additional fund seeking. The entire officer corps works hard to keep rowing as affordable as possible for our student-athletes.
Hallie, I hope our readers enjoyed this interview. I know that I did, it has been a real pleasure to find out about rowing at Ohio State. One final question; when the rowers are practicing, do they really wear crew-necked sweaters/sweatshirts?
We row late into the fall and get back on the water early in the spring; it can get pretty chilly. Most rowers opt for less bulky apparel in the boat but back on land you’ll find rowers living in their OSU Crew hoodies (just like many other college students).