Don't Lunge @ the Catch
A Parent and Athlete Guide to Rowing @ Simsbury
Welcome to the wonderful world of rowing, or "crew" as its crazed participants like to call it. You will no longer fail to answer correctly when someone asks you the famous trivia sports question: "In what sport do the participants cross the finish line while sitting down and going backwards?"
As a crew parent, you will be expected to absorb mysteriously the meaning of a whole new jargon. (What's so bad about a crab? Is first seat in the front or back? What's an "erg" besides a unit of energy?) You will be asked to drive great distances and spend major amounts of time in unpredictable weather to observe perhaps one minute of a race -- and that minute neither the start nor the finish! You will be asked to provide some modest financial support and lots of emotional support (and food!) for a sport that does not appear to be particularly difficult or demanding, or even that rewarding for the participants. What's it all about?
A Short History of Crew as a Sport
Rowing as a team sport developed in the 1800's, notably at Oxford and Cambridge in England and at Yale and Harvard in the United States. The Harvard/Yale race, first held in 1852, is the oldest inter-collegiate athletic event in America. The first amateur sports association in this country was a rowing organization -- Philadelphia's Schuylkill Navy, in 1858 -- and the first national governing body for a sport in America was the National Association for Amateur Oarsmen, founded in 1872.
Crew at Simsbury High School
Rowing at Simsbury began around 1971 when some enthusiasts bought a used eight and hung it from slings near the Chart House (Pettibone Tavern). As the sport grew in popularity and moved from the hobby to club to varsity sport stages, the parents group, the Friends of Simsbury Crew, was incorporated in 1977 to support the rowers both emotionally and financially. The Paine boathouse, a barn-like two bay structure, was built in 1977 through the hard work of Simsbury parents. In 1988, an addition added changing rooms, a workout bay, a larger coaches' office, and a launch bay. Paine boathouse provides a storage area for rowing shells and indoor practice space during inclement weather.
While the individual rower does not need any fancy equipment to row, no padding, helmets, spikes or sticks, the team's equipment is quite expensive. Because of that expense, and the need for water for practices, relatively few public high schools offer rowing as a sport.
The Simsbury High School crew has earned a fine record over the years. It has won several state, New England, and National championships. Simsbury has on four occasions, sent boats to England to participate in the Royal Henley Regatta, the oldest, largest, and most colorful rowing event in the world.
Simsbury Crew Traditions
Traditions are often born out of necessity. Some of ours are rooted in the financial necessity of supplementing the allocations from the Board of Education for our sport. Equipment that the athletes use and the building are funded by the Friends of Simsbury crew. This volunteer parent group provides financial and emotional support to the Simsbury varsity high school rowing program.
Rowing at Simsbury is offered in the fall and spring. Most athletes compete both seasons with the team. However, there are often athletes who join in the spring after doing another fall sport. There recently have been several athletes who compete for only one season.
Most fund-raising activities are reserved for the late-fall and winter. Besides raising money, these activities maintain team camaraderie.
The "erg-a-thon" is held in late September. Rowers solicit pledges for every so-many meters rowed. The erg-a-thon is held in conjunction with the family picnic. Ways and means sells team-related items. Sometimes new boats are christened at the erg-a-thon.
In November, the team operates a leaf-raking service. All team members are expected to participate. There is a waiting list for eager customers.
In the winter, the team holds an erg raffle with all proceeds returning back to the team
During the racing season, it is customary for rowers to get together at someone's house the night before a race and share a spaghetti dinner. In the spirit of team bonding, each member brings to the dinner a food or drink item. Early on in the season, novice team members exchange "psych-boxes" in preparation for the season’s first race. Boxes are decorated with school colors and contain treats of some kind.
Parents are welcome at all races, of course. It is traditional for parents attending races to bring both food and liquid (non-alcoholic) refreshment to share with other parents and especially the team. This meeting place is the "common table". At the table you will find water and snacks provided by the team's families, race times and results. Be prepared to receive an email prior to each race asking you to provide a food or beverage for the table. The purpose of the common table is NOT to provide breakfast or lunch, but a before and/or after race snack. Many times the bus must leave the boathouse so early, your child is quite hungry when he/she reaches the launch site. Please send with your child a water bottle and a bag lunch.
This cheer is the traditional cheer that is used at the launch, as a Simsbury High School boat pulls away from the dock and begins to row to the start of the race:
Give a yell, give a yell
Give a good old fashioned yell
And when we yell we yell like this and
This is what we yell:
Kiss my torcus
Shish boom bah
Shish boom bah
Simsbury Simsbury Rah Rah Rah!
What Crew Means for its Participants
There can be no "stars" on a successful crew; success or failure is the result of everyone working together or failing to do so. Commitment to something larger than yourself leads to personal growth. Rowing for Simsbury is a commitment to the team as a whole and during your time at the boathouse you will learn about rowing, as well as many important life skills.
Some rowers find pleasure in the coordinated and smooth movement of the boat through the water. Other athletes find that competition is necessary, with individual rowers transcending their own limitations in order to support the crew. For many, the feeling of comradeship that develops within a team that has strained so hard in practices together is a major selling point.
For nearly all rowers, however, the mystical feeling of "swing" seems to be the major reward of crew. Whether winning or losing a race, or even just in a practice session, when everyone is rowing together in perfectly synchronized timing, and the boat is balanced properly and just gliding through the water, individual rowers can lose themselves in the perfection of the moment. These few moments are enough to justify the hours of practice and the physical exhaustion needed to create them.
What Crew Means for the Parents
Crew means having your meals made for you on Super Bowl Sunday. It's an opportunity to experience weather you would never normally get to experience in person. It means family meal times spent learning a new language and being home with your loved ones over spring vacation.
It also means you'll have a son or daughter who is physically fit and self-disciplined. They will probably have higher grades than if they did not participate in such a challenging sport. Athletes learn set goals, budget their time, and expect more of themselves. They will certainly have an unusual and attractive activity to list on their resumes. They will be associating with a very fine peer group that will teach them an enormous amount about teamwork and their own capacity to strive and achieve excellence.
A Coach's Advice for the Parents
Prior to a race, the rowers are getting themselves mentally prepared for the physical effort soon to be required of them. Please try not to disrupt their concentration at this time.
If you would like to have the rowers pose for a picture, please do so after their race.
Please do not attend the coach's meetings with the team unless the coach has invited you.
All of our competitions are "away". Since this makes it hard for other students to support the team, your support is all the more important. Please try to attend at least some of the team's regattas. Also, remember that all rowers must travel both ways on the team bus unless the coach has a note from the parents authorizing alternative transportation. Unless there are specific reasons requiring early departure, we would appreciate all rowers staying around to support all boats throughout each regatta.
Rowing is one of the most physically demanding sports. It demands high effort from all the major muscle groups (arms, back, shoulders, and legs) and burns energy about twice as fast as running does. Naturally, the rowers need adequate rest and healthy diets, high in carbohydrates and low in fats. As with all sports at Simsbury High School, alcohol or other drug use is cause for being dropped from the team.
Selection of rowers for a particular boat is the coach's job; not the teams, not the strokes, not the coxswain's, and not the parents'. The decision about which boat any one rower is on is a complicated one, incorporating the rower's strength, personality, technique, which side he or she rows on (port or starboard), attitude, and the nature of the event. Sometimes a coach's decision is unpopular, especially if changes are made late in the season after a boat has gotten used to each other. Please credit the coaches with doing their best to make choices for the good of the overall team and the rowing program.
Finally, please support the Friends of Simsbury Crew. It seems there is never a time when budgets are not tight, and the Board of Education is only able to provide the minimum necessities for the program, such as coach's stipends and transportation for the team and the equipment. The money required for capital outlays and maintenance of the boathouse, shells, oars, and chase-boats for the coaches is all supplied by the Friends' organization, and without this support, the rowing program could not continue.