How to Start a Rowing Club

Rowing is a full-body workout, so be prepared to get into amazing shape!

Rowing is a sport with a rich history and dedicated following. It boasts a culture that includes sponsorship by some of the most respected universities and nonprofit institutions in the U.S. It has its own distinct language, with unique and sometimes romantic terms to describe the form, function and process of rowing: A race is a "regatta," a boat is a "shell" and the two categories of rowing are "sweep" (one oar held in both hands) and "sculling" (one oar held in each hand). Clearly even the vocabulary of rowing engenders visions of a more leisurely and refined past.

Rowing is a core sport of the modern Olympics and currently comprises one of the largest U.S. delegations to the Olympic Games. Rowing is physically demanding, too, and rowers are widely considered among the most physically fit athletes in competitive sport. For a non-weight bearing activity, rowing still exercises all the main muscle groups, promotes cardiovascular health and improves endurance.


Rowing clubs will typically specialize in either indoor or outdoor rowing. Indoor rowing involves using rowing equipment rather than water boats. Conventional rowing clubs are probably most commonly associated with the outdoor sport of rowing on water. They're often not-for-profit organizations or affiliated with schools or universities. Some rowing clubs offer facilities and services for use by rowers that may include shell rental and storage, dock facilities and training. Many host rowing competitions sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee's recognized governing body for rowing, USRowing.

Rowing clubs and teams can be casual enthusiasts spending time outdoors while getting some exercise, or professional athletes participating in US Rowing national team qualifying events.

On the next page, we'll take a look at a few things to consider when starting a rowing club. From obtaining insurance to charging fees, there's more to rowing than just getting to the dock on time.


Tips for Starting a Rowing Club

Rowing can be an expensive enterprise, not the least of which is the rental or purchase of the shells (or boats) themselves. Once upon a time, shells were made of wood, but now they're constructed from composite materials using cutting-edge construction methods that make them light but strong -- and costly. If you're planning on starting your own rowing club, you probably need to have access to equipment and a boathouse where you can store it. You will also need access to a dock and transportation.

Once you have some of the important equipment-related specifics taken care of, start thinking about how you'll structure and manage your club. These tips will help:


Define your goals - Understanding the projected size of your club and its goals will make it easier for you to plot a strategy. If you just want to row for fun, keep it casual. Otherwise, you may want a more formal arrangement that will include becoming eligible to participate in nationally recognized regattas. You may even want your club to offer competitive as well as recreational rowing opportunities and training to members at a number of different skill levels.

Create a plan for the future - If you love the sport but don't like the idea of getting involved with details like choosing team uniforms and courting free advertising, consider electing club officers to help. Obtaining insurance and handling the accounting chores for your club are important details you'll want to handle right from the beginning. USRowing provides insurance through Roehrs & Company, Inc. as well as other benefits to participating members. There may be advantages to joining forces with any regional rowing groups in your area, too.

Money matters - Structuring your fees accurately and obtaining outside sponsors will help you pay the bills. You may also want to branch out by starting your own Web site and encouraging interested volunteers to spread the word. A dedicated group of volunteers can also help with meal prep, transportation and first aid for your scheduled events.

If you love the idea of starting a rowing club but think that going it alone may be too much for you, consider joining an existing club. There are programs across the country tailored to suit all skill levels. They typically offer equipment rentals and have the infrastructure in place to make it easy for you to concentrate on the most important aspect of the sport -- rowing.


Lots More Information

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  • Argonaut Rowing Club. "Club Rules." (7/19/11).
  • Connecticut Water Trails Association. "Starting A Paddling Club." (7/19/11).
  • Detroit Boat Club. "Detroit Boat Club Crew - About Us." (7/19/11).
  • May, Meredith. "New Rowing Team Forming for Oakland High School Girls." SFGate. 1/9/04. (7/19/11).
  • New Quay Community Rowing Club. "Sponsors and Supporters." (7/19/11).
  • New Quay Community Rowing Club. "Who Are We?" (7/19/11).
  • Oar Spotter. "Blades of the World." (7/19/11).
  • U.S. Rowing. "Rowing 101." (7/19/11).
  • U.S. Rowing. "Viewer's Guide." (7/19/11).
  • Water Coach. "About Training." (7/19/11).