Frequently Asked Questions

It is disorienting when your child starts participating in a new sport. The questions and answers listed below are ones
that many AJRA parents puzzled over when their child started rowing. Read them all, or just look up what you need to know.

Welcome to the world of rowing! And welcome to AJRA!

PRACTICE: GENERAL

If practice starts at 4:30, why does my child insist on getting there early?

Most AJRA teams are expected to already be set up and ready to go by the time practice starts. Most days this will involve getting out equipment such as oars, launches and/or ergs (rowing machines). This takes some time.

Why isn’t my child ready to go at the scheduled end time for practice?

Sometimes the coach will want to talk to the kids after practice as a group to discuss technique or prepare them for something coming up later in the week. Sometimes your child may have a question that he/she needs to talk to the coach about. When they are practicing on the water, unexpected delays getting a boat docked or onto a boat rack may delay not only the kids in that boat but anyone in a boat behind them in line. Most parents bring reading material or catch up on calls during those delays.

Why is it such a big deal to miss practice?

Unlike most sports that high school kids participate in, most kids are rowing for the first time and are trying to go from learning basic skills to being competitive at a regional and national level in a couple of years. Missing building blocks can cause a child to fall behind. Secondly, when the kids are on the water, coaches plan the line-ups in the boats carefully and one missing rower can mess up the line-up or in the worst case, keep the other rowers in a boat from being able to practice on the water.

My child is sick – who do I tell?

It is YOUR CHILD’S responsibility to let the coach know if he/she is missing practice – Your child will TEXT or EMAIL the coach as early as possible in the day (to give the coach time to adjust line-ups).

What should my child wear to practice?

Spandex shorts (women) & Trou (men: similar to spandex bike shorts without padding) on the lower half, comfortable tanks on top, and running shoes. Many novice men wear shorts over their spandex for running and/or weightlifting only mainly because some kids are self-conscious in the beginning about wearing trou.  Loose shorts are likely to get caught in the seat mechanism of the boat when they are rowing. Only trou will be allowed in the boats while rowing. If they do not have trou on, they will not row. Don’t worry – they get used to it quickly!

Rowing trou for both men and women is available online: JL Racing, Boathouse, or other vendors.

What else should they bring with them?

A large plastic water bottle (metal ones damage the boats), hat or visor, sunglasses, extra hair ties (if applicable), and any necessary medicine (inhalers, epi pens, etc.).

Why does my child start yelling at me if I drive only halfway through the parking lot?

Because the coaches will hold rowers responsible for where they are dropped off! We ask all drivers to pull all the way to the end of the parking lot so that there is room for other drivers trying to enter the parking lot at the same time. Your rower will survive having to walk a little further to get to the boathouse. We promise.

Is it okay to come in the boathouse to get my child after practice?

Not really. The coach is probably talking with him or her and your presence can be disruptive and/or embarrassing. Simply text your rower that you are in the parking lot and wait for them to come to you.

Is there a lost and found?

Yes, in behind the novice oars between middle & novice bays – and your child knows this. The seventh or eighth time you remind them, they may remember to look for their lost item(s).

Also, encourage your child to put his or her name on everything he/she wears to practice (especially AJRA gear which all looks alike) which will increase the chance of it being identified.

I need to talk to the coach – should I just grab a few minutes before or after practice to talk to him/her?

FIRST, you should ask yourself if whatever you want to talk about should be handled by your child and give him or her the chance to address it before you get involved. We aim for the rowers to lead 100% of the conversation with the coaches. Not the parents.

So much is going on at the end of practice and you will probably be waiting for a while before the coach is free – and he/she may or may not have much time. If your child can’t handle the question, it is usually best to e-mail the coach and ask when would be a good time to talk. Many questions can be answered via an experienced Board Member parent or by sending an email to contact@ajracrew.com.

PRACTICE: ON THE LAND

How can ROWING practice be on the LAND?

Rowing involves stamina, strength and technique. Running, weightlifting, and rowing on a rowing machine (called erging) help to build these skills. The work done on land helps to maximize the experience of being on the water. Also, a lot of the team bonding happens during these on-land activities.

Why do kids roll their eyes if I mimic rowing by moving my arms back and forth or comment on how they must be building up their arm muscles?

Although it is not obvious when you are watching someone row, rowing is a pushing sport not a pulling sport. Most of the power comes from the rower’s legs (about 60%), followed by the core muscles (about 30%) and the arms (about 10%). Since only rowers know this, they feel much smarter than you when you talk about their arms (which ARE getting much stronger by the way!).

What is an erg?

An ergometer or “erg” is a rowing machine. “Erging” is rowing on a rowing machine. The rowing machine measures the time you rowed and how much power you generated and calculates a presumed distance rowed from that information.

Can you really learn to row on a machine?

You can’t learn everything, but you can learn a lot. The erg allows you to get a feel for how the parts of the stroke fit together without having to worry about the motion of the boat or coordinating your actions with another rower. Erging builds stamina and strength.

How come when I ask my child about practice, he/she starts spouting off random strings of numbers?

Honestly, many of us spend over a year just nodding our heads and trying to judge from our child’s expression whether we should look happy or sympathetic.

Your child probably says something like:

We did 2 times 3K and for the last 500 of the second piece I pulled a 2:15:8.” Or “we did 5 by 5’s and I broke 2.

When the kids practice on the erg, the coaches instruct them to do sets of exercises (called “pieces”) that are either to see how fast he/she can do a preset distance or how much distance he/she can cover in a given amount of time. Usually a piece is done multiple times in a single practice with short rests in between.

  • The first number is the number of times the piece is done.
  • When a number has a “K” in it – the piece is a test of how fast your child can row a certain number of kilometers (rowing always measures in kilometers or meters). So in the example above the kids rowed three thousand meters two times. Fall Erg tests are 6K and Spring Erg tests are 2K.
  • When there is not a K after the second number – the piece is a test of how far your child can row in a certain number of minutes. In the case above they are rowing for five times x five minutes.

The last number represents the time it takes to row 500 meters (also called a “split”). The time is measured in minutes, then seconds, then tenths of a second. In the first example, it took the rower 2 minutes, 15.8 seconds to row the last 500 meters. In the second example, the rower had some portion of the piece where s/he was rowing at a pace at which s/he would complete 500 meters in less than 2 minutes.

What is a 2K test and why is my child FREAKING out about it? What is a split?

A 2K test is the standard method of comparing the power of various rowers; it is sort of the SAT of rowing. It is a test of how fast a rower can go 2000 meters on a rowing machine. Although a good 2K time does not guarantee that someone will be a good rower on the water – it is indicative of their power which is a very critical element of rowing.

Erg Splits are the average time it took them to row each 500m section of the piece. Their split is going to be the number they focus on. After the first test, they will work with their coaches to set their goal split for the next test.

It is often dreaded by rowers because, first, it is HARD. Rowers are expected to give it everything they have – imagine sprinting for seven to ten minutes! Second, it is fairly public – your teammates know how well or poorly you do. Finally, it is a key element in how coaches evaluate rowers and is used by them to help determine what boats rowers will be placed in.

Again: Fall Erg tests are 6K and Spring Erg tests are 2K.

What’s a PR?

PR is an abbreviation for Personal Record. It refers to the best time a rower has gotten on the erg for a particular type of piece. A PR is always good news. A PR on a 2K or 6K is great news!

PRACTICE: ON THE WATER

Rowing shells (boats) are called by the number of rowers in the boat. Most novice rowers row in an eight person boat (“an eight”) so all the following answers refer to that size of boat.

*Some AJRA boats will be flip-flopped! The stroke seat (#8) will be on starboard, #7 on port, and so on down the boat. This is called “starboard-stroked”.

What does it mean that my child is a “starboard”? A “port”?

Starboard rowers row to their left. Port rowers row to their right.

Each rower uses one oar. This is called Sweep Rowing. Most rowers feel more comfortable on one side or another and usually settle into being a port or starboard rower. It is not uncommon for a coach to switch a rower from one side to the other – especially when the rower is a novice.

I was watching practice and only six of the rowers were rowing. Why?

The rowing stroke is a highly precise and technical set of movements and can be challenging to learn. It is more difficult to learn if the boat is leaning to one side or the other. For this reason, one or more pairs of rowers may be asked to sit out for a period of time to “set” the boat – i.e., help stabilize it – while the others work on their stroke. The people sitting out are rotated so everyone gets more or less the same amount of time rowing.

Why does my child row in a different seat every day?

In rowing the idea is for all eight rowers to be rowing in perfect unison, with no motions that interfere with the forward motion of the boat. Picture a giant game of telephone, with every rower perfectly mimicing the person in front of them.

More than just being in unison, the different positions in the boat have slightly different roles to play. Although any rower should be able to row any position, the coaches will switch the rowers among seats to find out which rowers excel in which positions and which combination of rowers can move the boat fastest.

All the rowers need a combination of strengths: technique, rhythm, power, balance, and the ability to adapt to the motion of others. Each seat makes slightly different demands on the strengths of the individual:

  • Eight seat, also called “Stroke”, sits in the rear of the boat (or “stern”) nearest the coxswain. Since everyone sits backwards, this is the rower that all the other rowers must follow in order to row together. The stroke must have strong technique since the others are matching his or her motion and a good sense of rhythm since he/she is responsible for adjusting the stroke rate in response to instructions of the coxswain.
  • Seven seat rows on the opposite side of the boat as stroke (i.e., if the stroke is a port, seven seat will be a starboard) and, like stroke, needs strong technique plus the ability to mirror the motions of the stroke (but on the opposite side). All the rowers on who row on the same side as the seven seat mirror his or her actions. Stroke and seven seat together are called “Stern Pair”.
  • The four middle rowers (six, five, four and three seat), while still demonstrating the combination of strengths, are generally the most powerful rowers, with six and five the stronger pair. You will sometimes hear the middle rowers referred to as the “Engine Room“.
  • Bow Pair” is made up of two seat and bow seat (who is for some reason not called one seat) and amongst the pair’s other strengths, excel at “setting” or stabilizing the boat to ensure effective forward motion.

And, by the way, it’s pronounced bow (like “take a bow”).

How come my child is working out on land today and many of the others are on the water?

There are many reasons why a rower may not be on the water on any given day. First, there are only certain number of seats and not everyone can go out every day. Coaches try to be fair in making sure that everyone gets their share of time on the water. Second, for safety reasons, there needs to be a certain number of coaches out on the water per number of boats. With brand new novices, there are fewer rowers on the water per coach. Finally, the coaches will use their discretion regarding boat placement.

What does a coxswain do? It looks pretty easy.

It is NOT easy. The coxswain (pronounced “cox-in”) or “cox” is the person in charge of the boat and the rowers, who sits in the stern (back) of the boat and is the only person without an oar and the only person facing forward. Coxing is hard because there are so many varied responsibilities:

  • Steering – an eight person boat is almost 60 feet long – longer than anything most of us have ever driven. Now imagine driving something that long where there is a delay in the steering, may have more power on one side (which pushes your vehicle to the opposite side), is greatly affected by wind and current, and instead of an accelerator and brakes you have to control speed by telling your vehicle to speed up/slow down and use more/less power. Oh, and did we mention that you are probably short and can’t see the front of your vehicle over the heads of the eight people in front of you but must avoid hitting other boats, logs, sandbars, and other debris at all costs?
  • Running drills – At typical drill in a boat will be to have six rowers do one part of the stroke for X strokes, then add in another part of the stroke for X strokes, until the rowers are doing the full stroke. Pairs of rowers are switched in and out so that every rower does the drill three times and sets the boat one time. The cox (while still steering) has to keep track of the number of strokes and switch rowers in and out of the drill. Alternatively, a drill will be for rowers to row at a set rate (e.g., 20 strokes per minutes, and after X strokes increase the stroke rate to 22 strokes per minutes.) In this case the cox (still steering) is counting strokes and watching the monitor to keep track of the stroke rate.
  • “Coach in the Boat” – the coxswain is also responsible for giving feedback to the rowers. He/she can tell whether they are moving together, whether they are at the correct stroke rate, whether one side of the boat is rowing more powerfully, etc. Additionally, the coxswain is expected to be able to motivate the rowers – knowing what to say when they are ready to give up, or bringing them back into a unified motion when they lose focus. In a race, the coxswain is responsible for the execution of the race plan and for making adjustments to reflect the actions of his or her own rowers and that of the competitor boats.

Safety of the Boat – the coxswain has overall responsibility for the safety of the boat when it is on the water, coming into dock and being moved on land. The cox is the person you will see walking by the boat when the other are carrying it, giving instructions to the rowers to make sure they are all moving together.

Why do I sometimes see the coxswain raising his or her hand while in the boat?

The coxswain raises his or her hand to signal to a coach or race official that they have heard an instruction and understand it. In races, the coxswain will raise a hand to let officials know that the boat is not ready to begin the race. After a race, a coxswain may raise his or her hand to indicate a problem with a crew member or to protest the results of a race.

Is the boat likely to tip over? Do they need to wear life jackets?

No. Most people go years (and perhaps their whole rowing career) without having a boat tip over. Also the eight is the most stable type of boat which is one of the reasons it is used for beginners. Although the boat is thin, the oars extending out on either side provide stability and make it fairly difficult to tip over an eight person boat.

I see some boats with 2 oars per rower and others with just one oar per rower. What’s the difference?

Sweep: Each rower only has one oar and rows either starboard or port. It is easy to remember if you think about a broom! When you sweep with a broom, you have two hands on the handle.

Scull: Each rower has 2 oars each. They remain centered in the boat and operate both oars simultaneously. This one is easy to remember if you think about a skull and crossbones – two oars!

My child has gotten terrible blisters. What should he/she do? Why does my child refuse to wear gloves?

Blisters are part of rowing and comparing blisters is a common rower activity. Rowers don’t wear gloves. Ever. Rowers need to keep a connection with the oar, and gloves would prevent that. We have found the best thing is to keep blisters clean and leave them uncovered during the school day so they dry out. Blisters turn into callouses and are not a frequent issue once your child has been rowing for a while.

My child said a teammate caught a crab today. Are there crabs in the Chattahoochee?

When a rower says that someone “caught a crab” they are describing a mis-stroke in which the rower is unable to release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat. Because the boat is still moving the handle of the oar tends to come back with force and the rower will often end up lying flat in the boat. It can be difficult for the rower to get the oar back into position until the boat has slowed sufficiently and reduced the pressure on the blade. Almost every new rower will catch a crab at some point in their learning process.

What is “seat-racing”?

Seat racing is one input that coaches use in figuring out the final line-up for a boat. By having two boats race during practice, then switching one rower at a time and racing again, the coach can see what impact a specific rower in a specific “seat” has on a boat and what combinations of rowers are most effective. Seat racing most often occurs in the lead up to a regatta.

REGATTAS

Why does my child have to ride the bus get to a regatta? Why do the buses depart the day before the regatta?

Before a race, there is a lot to do and we need every rower to make it happen. The boats have been brought to the race by a trailer and the kids need to unload the boats, reattach the riggers (the part that has the oar lock and that sticks out from side of the boat), check over the boats and make sure they are ready to go. The rowers will also get a practice run on the course, get final instructions from the coach and get into a racing frame of mind.

Only if there is an extreme, unavoidable conflict, rowers can turn in a change of transportation form prior to a regatta (due dates apply) to arrive or depart separate from the team. This option should rarely be used, if ever.

How do I know what time my child’s race is? Will every rower race?

Almost every rower will have at least 1 event. Your child’s coach will tell them what events they will compete in. Prior to the regatta, AJRA will send out an email with full regatta details including a website with the heat sheet and where you can find your child’s event. The heat sheets list the times of the races, as well as the lane assigned to each boat. Wait until the night before the regatta to print or screenshot the heat sheet because these can change.

My child says he’s racing in the Quad. What does that mean? What are the different types of boats?

SWEEP BOATS (1 oar/rower)
Eight (8+): Eight rowers plus a coxswain (that’s what the + means)
Four (4+): Four rowers plus a coxswain
Four (4-): Four rowers without a coxswain (hence the minus).
Pair (2-): Two rowers without a coxswain.

SCULLING BOATS (2 oars/rower)
Single (1x): 1 rower, 1 boat, 2 oars, no coxswain
Double (2x): 2 rowers, 2 oars per rower, no coxswain
Quad (4x): 4 rowers, 2 oars per rower, no coxswain
Coxed Quad (4x+): 4 rowers, 2 oars per rower

How early should I get to a regatta to see my child compete? Where should we sit?

Most people come early and spend the entire day and cheer on the entire AJRA team. If you have signed up to volunteer, be sure to arrive 30 minutes prior to your shift.  Each regatta site is different. Parking details will be sent out in the regatta summary email and most regattas involve many teams. Be prepared to walk a little way to get to the AJRA tent. Allow at least 30-60 minutes before your child’s scheduled start time. Parents sit in the adjacent areas to the left and right of the team tent – look for other parents with AJRA nametags! The covered areas next to the AJRA food tent are reserved for rowers only.

What should I bring to a regatta?

Regattas take a long time and you will most likely be there all day. Keep in mind that while a race is anywhere from 6 to 20 minutes, you will only see about 1 minute of the race in front of you! In cooler months, bring more layers than you think you need – you will be sitting there for a long time and it is easy to get cold. Bring whatever food and drink you would like to enjoy or money to purchase meals on site. The food tent is for rowers only. Most people bring folding chairs, binoculars and cameras. You may want to bring something to do (books, newspaper, work, etc.) since it can be a long time between races that include AJRA boats. Some people bring bicycles to enjoy the venue and to follow along the race route. Don’t forget to wear your AJRA team gear!

What should my child be wearing to a regatta? Is there a uniform? What do they wear on the bus?

Your child will wear their AJRA TRAVEL POLO and khaki shorts or pants on the bus (both leaving and arriving). During the regatta, they will wear their racing uniform. Novice wears an AJRA racing tank and navy trou. Varsity wear an AJRA Uni (one piece). Many kids pack sweats and comfortable layers to wear in between races.

What is a heat? What is a time trial? How do I know if my rower makes the finals?

HEAT: Most regattas have more teams racing in an event than they can fit on the course. This leads to “Heats”. There may be 3-4 heats of the same event. Before the race, ask your rower who is coxing their boat. The heats are listed by the last name of the coxswain of the boat (or the stroke of an uncoxed boat). The coaches will not send this out so make sure to ask your rower yourself. The boat’s performance in the heat will determine whether they make it to semi-finals or finals. The regatta heat sheet will usually post something like “Top 8 teams proceed to semi-finals”.

TIME TRIALS: Time trials are where boats are sent out in intervals on a slightly shorter distance than what the real races will be and are aiming to get a time good enough to make the heat, semi-finals, or finals. These are most common in larger regattas like regionals or nationals. The rowers need a good qualifying time without expending themselves too much before the real racing begins.

My child is done racing, can I take him/her home with me?

No. It is important that every race is supported by the whole team. In addition to cheering on their teammates, rowers are also responsible for breaking down tents, derigging the boats and loading the trailers. If you are taking your child home, you must wait until all kids are dismissed to the bus before taking them with you. You also must have a travel waiver filled out and turned in by the due date, and your child must tell a coach before they leave. The bus ride home, while it may make for a late night, allows for team bonding and is recommended.

Are races ever canceled due to inclement weather?

It is extremely rare for a regatta to be cancelled. We have all been at regattas in the rain and the cold – so remember, bring clothes appropriate to the weather and bring more layers than you think you will need.

What is a head race? Are regattas the same both in Spring & Fall?

There are two main types of races – sprints and head races. A sprint is what you think of as a race – everyone lines up at the start and the first one to cross the finish line wins. Sprints happen in the spring and are most often 2000 meters. Sprint races are what you see in the Olympics.

Head races happen in the fall and are about 5000 meters. A head race is a race in which the rowers all start at the same place but at staggered times. The first boat goes and then the next boat chases it down the course while in turn being chased by the third boat and so on. They are racing the clock instead of directly racing each other. You generally do not know who wins until the end when the times are announced. Head races are similar to road races, like 5K’s and 10K’s.

What is the difference between first, second and third boats?

The first boat is made up of the eight rowers (and the coxswain) that the coaches believe can together row faster than any other potential combination. Second boat is the made up of the eight rowers out of the remaining rowers that can row fastest together. Third boat is the next eight.

Is there a junior varsity (JV) boat?

Junior varsity is not really a common term in rowing. The novice teams are made up of boys and girls new to rowing, including Freshmen to Seniors in high school. At AJRA, our novice class graduates after the spring season. All graduated novice rowers are then eligible to try-out for the varsity squad in the fall.

My child is in second boat but has a better erg time than a kid in first boat. Why? It doesn’t seem fair.

Erg score is only one of the considerations that a coach uses to determine the line-up in a boat. In order to be good, a rower needs not only strength and stamina, but good balance and the ability to move in unison with his or her teammates. Superior strength can make up for some weakness in form; the ability to follow the movements of teammates can make up for some degree of lesser strength – the ability to consider the strengths and weakness of each rower and put together the fastest boat possible is one of the core jobs of the coaches. This is where seat racing (see page 8) comes in. Additionally, the coaches are looking for kids that they and the child’s teammates can depend on. A child who misses practices or slacks off during practice may not get placed as highly as their skill level would otherwise warrant.

Is it okay to go over to the boat trailer to wish my child and the team good luck?

No. The boat trailer is for rowers and coaches only. No parents allowed. If you’re looking to congratulate the kids after a race – please wait for the kids to return to the food tent as soon as they are through with the post-race responsibilities.

Do I have to volunteer? If I don’t know what time my child is racing – how do I know what time to sign up for volunteer work?

Each parent is required to sign up for one 4-hour volunteer shift per season/per rower. Spots go early and are all fairly easy to do. The harder jobs are filled on a long-term basis by experienced parents (trailer driver, food tent manager, etc.). You can sign up for any job. There is almost always someone with more experience there to help show you the ropes and the volunteer coordinators will explain what you need to know.

No matter when your shift is, we all understand that you want to see your child race and are flexible about covering for you briefly if you need to step away to watch your child. Sign up for any shift, you’ll still be able to watch and cheer for your rower.

AJRA Sign-Up Genius       Access Code: AJRA

Can I bring wine or beer to the regatta?

No.

The boats are really far away – how can I tell which one is the AJRA boat?

Bring Binoculars! If you printed out the heat sheet from the regatta website prior to the race, you can check a specific race to see which lane AJRA is in. If you did not, there is usually a parent around who has it and will let you know. Second, every rowing team has their oars painted in a unique way and wears a unique team uniform. Generally, these designs can be seen from fairly far away.

Should I yell out my child’s name when they go past?

Rowing is a team sport and the kids learn to take pride in their accomplishments as a team. Generally, there will be groups of AJRA parents, siblings, grandparents and friends in groups along the shoreline, screaming, “A-J-R-A,” “Let’s go, ATLANTA” and similar sentiments. All of us cheer for all the kids, the idea is to be the loudest cheering section at the regatta!

OTHER

Do parents attend the end of season banquet?

Yes! You will not be sitting with your child, since the teams generally sit together at a table. It is an enjoyable evening – the kids get dressed up and it is always impressive to listen to the graduating seniors talk about what rowing has meant to them and to witness the camaraderie that has grown within the teams. Your child works hard all season – come celebrate with them.

This sport looks like so much fun! Can I try it?

Rowing is fun! If you want a small taste of rowing, come out for AJRA Parent Learn to Row Day, on October 28th. AJRA hosts this event and you will get to try the erg and get out on the water, giving you a new appreciation for what your child has been doing! Alternatively, if you want the full experience, Atlanta Rowing Club has Masters programs available.

What should my rower do between seasons? How about Summer Rowing Camps?

AJRA has winter and summer conditioning programs that are essential to keeping fit during the off-season. Winter conditioning will be slightly different for novice vs varsity. The session is less of a time commitment than the regular season and will often still involve getting on the water (weather permitting of course). Summer programs with AJRA introduce sculling and offer rowers the opportunity to practice up to 10x per week. Some sessions even offer regattas to places like Philadelphia.

Colleges across the US also offer summer rowing programs. Your coach will send out a list closer to the end of Spring season with suggestions of recommended programs. Feel free to chat up experienced AJRA parents during regattas and ask what their rowers have done in summers past.

What if I have more questions?

First, ask your child! You’ll be amazed what they know. More information can be found on the AJRA website or by sending an email to the appropriate mailbox:

General Info: contact@ajracrew.com
Regattas: regattas@ajracrew.com
Volunteer Positions: volunteers@ajracrew.com
Social Events: social@ajracrew.com

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245 Azalea Drive
Roswell, GA 30075

MAIL
PO Box 126
Roswell, GA 30077

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