Youth rowing camps: 5 tips to find the best one

As youth rowing grows in popularity, so do the number of rowing-related camps.

Parents can enroll their child in everything from introductory camps to intense international programs abroad.

But how does a parent determine which camp is the right fit for their child?

Start by asking what you want your child to get out of the program, said David Payne, camps director for Sparks Consulting.

Sparks Consulting is a rower recruitment and development consultant group. Their staff includes former Olympic rowers and college coaches. They also count Ivy League and Cambridge coaches among their associates.

When it comes to finding a camp that fits, “the big thing is you want to figure out what you are looking for in the camp,” said Payne. “Are you looking for intensive training? Are you looking to have fun? Are you looking to get different perspectives on the sport?”

Here are five tips that will make sure you spend your money and time wisely:

1. Find a purpose

Payne suggests parents ask questions about the camp’s leadership.

“What’s the philosophy of the camp? What’s the main goal of the camp? Those are important questions parents don’t ask enough,” said Payne. “They just kind of say, Oh, a rowing camp, that seems nice.  They should focus on what is the purpose of the camp? They should also be thinking about what they want their son or daughter to be getting out of it as well.”

2. Be realistic

Many rowers head into camp with the sole purpose of improving their 2K (2000 meters) erg times.

“You can’t go to a five-day camp and expect your 2K to drop,” said Payne. “It’s just not going to happen. They’re too short. Those are more geared toward exposing your child to different coaching styles.

Our big thing is getting rowers and coxswains excited about the sport and helping them figure out what they need to do to take it to the next level, whatever that next level is for them.

That could mean getting in the top boat in your program or doing what they need to do to get their 2K down so that college can recruit them. Or maybe they just really like the sport and just want to have fun. Then it’s, “What can we do to help you make the sport more fun for you?”

3. Branch out

Many local high schools and rowing clubs offer summer camps. Payne recommends branching out.

“I always recommend that you get outside your home base during the summer.  I’ve talked with a lot of rowers. You need to get a new perspective and get some variety. It makes camp more fun. Your coach may tell you the exact same thing every day.  It’s not until someone different tells you that same exact thing that it clicks. “

RELATED: Youth rowing: 6 good reasons to get your girl in a boat

4. Age considerations

Every child is different, says Payne, but he recommends holding off on overnight camps until the child is an older teen.

“It depends on the kid. You do have some pretty mature middle-schoolers. But I feel like rising high school freshmen, about 14-years-old is really the youngest you want to send them away overnight.”

Payne suggests younger kids that are new to the sport, enroll in learn-to-row type camps where they spend only a couple of hours on the water. “It lasts a week, but they are only there two hours a day. That’s a lot easier than being there all night and spending the day.”

5. The fun factor

Fun is fine, but Payne recommends that parents make sure the campers are getting more than a vacation.

“A kid might say, I’m having fun, I’m having fun. It’s like a little five-day, week-long vacation. That could masque the fact that they aren’t getting what they could out of it. They should have fun, but they should be getting something out of it.

Is there something they are gaining?  When they come home to their club or school does their regular coach notice improvement?”

What else should we be looking for? Let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook page

Additional rowing camp resources:

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett Follow

The bumper sticker on her car says it best: I don't have a life. My kid does crew. Besi... View Full Bio

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