Are you interested in rowing for Great Bridge Crew (GBC)? Are you the parent(s) of a potential rower? Here are some frequently asked questions:
What is rowing?
It is a water sport that has been in existence since the late 1790s! It became an Olympic sport in 1896. It is often confused for canoeing or kayaking. While similar because they are all sports in boats, on the water, rowing is different in its demands on the entire body. There are two forms of rowing:
- In sweep or sweep-oar rowing, each rower has one oar, held with both hands. This can be done in pairs, fours, and eights. Each rower in a sweep boat is referred to either as port or starboard, depending on which side of the boat the rower’s oar extends to. Usually the port side is referred to as stroke side, and the starboard side as bow side; this applies even if the stroke oarsman is rowing on bow side and/or the bow oarsman on stroke side.
- In sculling each rower has two oars (or sculls), one in each hand. Sculling is usually done without a coxswain, in quads, doubles or singles. The oar in the sculler’s right hand extends to port (stroke side), and the oar in the left hand extends to starboard (bow side).
What are crew competitions called?
We compete in regattas. They can be small local events, like the Eastern Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (EVSRA) events that are held at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens or large National events like the Stotesbury Cup regatta held annually in Philadelphia. These are all day events. As a parent you’ll find it is comparable to tail-gating before a football game. When a GBC boat is on the water all the parents crowd up to watch and cheer. Then we sit back down.
What are the boats like?
Rowing boats are also sometimes called “shells” and as technology advances, the materials used continues to change. Currently many boats, shells, are made more of carbon-fiber or fiberglass. A shell for eight rowers, plus a cox’n, can be up to 65 feet long. A shell for a single sculler is around 20 feet long. Depending on the size, age, and maker of the boats, they cost between $5,000 and $40,000. GBC has boats made by Vespoli, Hudson, Fillippi, and other manufacturers. GBC has a fleet of shells that include a wide variety of sizes to accommodate the fluctuating membership.
What experience does one need to join?
None! We’ll teach you everything you need to know. In August of every year GBC hosts a Novice Camp. This is your chance to learn about the sport and the program to see if you want to become a part of the team.
Who can become a part of Great Bridge Crew?
We are able to train students starting the summer before their 8th grade year all the way through the 12th grade. Most rowers will be zoned to attend Great Bridge High School, but that is no longer a requisite. Competitions in the spring, in our league, require that a rower competes in a boat with all rowers attending the same school. Even with this stipulation we will work to accommodate student-athletes that do not have a rowing program at their school for the spring.
When is the crew season?
The short answer is: spring. In reality though, we row year-round. Beginning in mid-August we have Novice Camp to introduce new rowers to the sport & to our program. In the fall we work on technique and aerobic base. We usually attend at least two regattas in the fall. During the winter we spend our time conditioning in preparation for the spring. Rowers will compete in one, if not two, competitions in the winter. The spring is the “main event.” We train daily and we compete in regattas from mid-March through May. During the summer, experience rowers will attend camps and have the opportunity to attend open rows that the GBC coaches provide.
When are practices?
Practices depend on which season it is and coach availability. Practices can either be in the mornings from 5a-7a, or in the evenings from 4p-7p. While that 5a report time seems tough to handle, rowers get used to it and come to appreciate having their workout done in the morning so that their afternoons are free.
Where do you practice?
When we are outside, on the water, we practice on the Intracoastal Waterway. We have access to the water thanks to the Atlantic Yacht Basin. In the winter months (November to late-February) we condition at Great Bridge High School. We have access to one of the portable classrooms and we house our ergs (rowers’ version of a treadmill) there.
Where do you compete?
Much of where we compete depends on the season of competition. In general though we compete at venues in Norfolk, Mathews County, Northern Virginia, and Philadelphia. One of the championship regattas in May has a variable location but tends to be in northeastern US.
Why does it cost more than the other sports at GBHS?
While rowing is a sport & GBC has a connection with GBHS, we get no funding from the high school or Chesapeake Public Schools. We are a hybrid in that we are a club & a sports team. We are also both connected to the school & a community organization. The “club” aspect connects us to the school. The “program” aspect has us more as an independent athletic organization in the community, think AAU or other “juniors” teams. The crew has a large operating budget and capital purchases are usual more expensive than GBHS or CPS has the ability to fund. It is helpful though that we have a 501(3)(c) status making donations tax-deductible.
How much does it cost to row for GBC?
The per-rower cost varies from year to year, depending on the number of rowers that are on the team. The Board works to keep the cost as low as possible. Crew remains one of the most reasonably priced community athletic programs in the area. Dues pay for nearly all rower expenses (registration fees, regatta food, Spring Break Camp, and more) during the year, other than clothing items. There are annual fundraising events (working concerts, ODU sporting events, annual golf tournament, and more) that have been established to offset the costs of being a member of the program.
How much time are parents expected to contribute?
As a club sport, GBC is not supported by the school district but by the parents. Parents are encouraged to sign up for different committees to help the program run smoothly and provide a high quality experience for the rowers. There are many ways that parents can support the program based on their availability and skills. Parent support is an expectation, not an exception.