While most high school sports teams are hitting the fields or the gym to train for their seasons, the Upper St Clair High School rowing team has been hitting the river-the Allegheny River to be exact.
The team, which was founded in 1989, started practicing for the 2014 fall season in late August and is expected to continue rowing until mid-October, when the fall season comes to a close. But that is not it for crew for the rest of the year: fall season is followed by a winter conditioning season, which typically lasts until March preceding a spring season, which concludes in May.
The team rows four-person and eight-person boats, including one double- a two-person boat that requires rowers to row with two oars each, as opposed to one oar per rower as the other boats do. Practices are held at Three Rivers Rowing on Washington’s Landing in Downtown Pittsburgh during the spring and fall and at the USC high school in the winter. Practices typically last two hours, but travel time to and from the boathouse adds another two hours to the rowers’ already busy day, making practice take up at least twenty hours per week.
To add on to the already strenuous time commitment, the rowers must also face intense winter training, as well as cold and rainy weather, uneven waters, and forceful winds when rowing on the river. Because of these factors, crew has proved to be a more difficult sport.
Novice rower Osa Wheeler’s expectations before joining the team were that it would be a “somewhat easy sport” that would still keep her in shape; however, those expectations changed quickly. Wheeler has since discovered that “getting the technique and power right” is a lot more complicated and requires a lot of concentration and perseverance.
“Rowing has a huge mental aspect to it,” states Women’s Coach Dan Craft. “A rower has to develop their own mental toughness to drive them to the end of the race no matter what.”
Given the year-round schedule, intense training conditions, and huge time commitment, crew is a very demanding engagement that would easily scare off any newcomer with a blooming curiosity for the sport. However, the students who do stick around tend to fall in love with the sport, making it nearly impossible for them to even consider quitting.
“There’s a lot to rowing that will suck you in for life,” claims Craft. Any rower on the team, including Wheeler will gladly say that their favorite part of being on the team is the camaraderie amongst the rowers.
By “working together to accomplish a goal such as winning a race” Wheeler and the other members of the team have all grown closer together and structured friendships with one another,
The crew team is currently finishing up its fall season before preparing for the tough winter conditioning. As one season draws to a close and another begins, there is always room for many more rowers to come. To any high school student at Upper St Clair interested in becoming a team member, the rowers are more than ready to take any newcomer under their wings to share with them their love for the sport because, as Wheeler puts it, “Crew is nothing like you have ever tried before.”