After competing in their first season since COVID-19, the Dalhousie University Rowing Club has its eyes set on re-establishing old programs that have yet to return since the pandemic began.
The competitive team wrapped up their season last November and are now preparing for the upcoming summer season. Members will race for their clubs in Halifax and elsewhere in the country.
“We’re back in the weight room,” said varsity program coach Andrew Todd. “We’re cross-training and we spend a lot of time training on the machines”
The competitive rowing season for Dalhousie is short, consisting of just two months in the fall. Regattas take place on most weekends, and training during the week. This structure means the rowing society is in the weight room for up to six months out of the year.
This offseason looks different than in years past, however, as the society is without its usual class of novice rowers.
In past years, the novice program provided a path for athletes with limited or no rowing experience to try the sport, train and compete. However, the program was paused after COVID-19 halted last year’s spring season.
This coming fall, the rowing society hopes to reintroduce the novice program.
“Hopefully, we’ll have something up and running this fall,” Todd said. “Normally what would happen is that during the first week of classes the team would be recruiting.”
In the past, new recruits would spend the fall season with the team in the novice program, learning the sport and getting a feel for rowing. Later, they become more integrated with the rest of the team during winter training through off-season activities and workouts, before hitting the water in the next fall as competitive rowers.
In addition to being an opportunity for athletes to learn a new sport, novice rowing programs also produce lots of varsity rowing talent.
“For most, if not all university programs in Canada, the novice program is actually a huge feeder for their varsity program,” said Todd. “I started rowing as a novice in university having never rowed before. A number of my teammates hadn’t either.”
New sport for most
Compared to other sports, rowers tend to be introduced to the sport later in life.
“Most people start rowing in university, it’s a very late starting sport,” team co-captain Becca Henderson said. “That’s why it’s so important to have our novice program up and running again.”
Many introductory programs contribute significantly to some of the most accomplished rowing programs in the country. “As much as the goal is to increase awareness and involvement in rowing, it’s also to try and develop athletes that will hopefully be able to contribute top-level performances at competitions in subsequent years,” Todd said.
Many new recruits are former high school athletes who are looking for an outlet to train and compete at a high level again, something that rowing provides quickly without too steep of a learning curve.
“Rowing is a pretty simple sport,” said Todd. “The more work you’re willing to put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it.”
In addition to being a competitive outlet for new and experienced rowers, the rowing society provides a sense of camaraderie that some athletes find themselves missing after their career comes to an end.
“The Dal rowing team is a really welcoming environment,” said Henderson. “I remember when I joined, I was very nervous and everybody was so nice and like so much fun.”
Co-captain Chloe Cyr agreed with Henderson’s observation.
“Rowing is definitely a sport where if you have rowing together, you are going to have other things together as well,” she said.
The club is discussing how to relaunch the novice program with Mic Mac Rowing Club in Dartmouth, and hopefully, novice rowing programs will be an option for Dalhousie students looking for an athletic and social outlet in the fall.