Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Should Lightweights be Sculling?

Of the nine lightweight women who race in a world championship, all but 2 (LW2-, has that been raced since 2003?) scull. The two lightweight women who race at the Olympics (LW2x) scull. Should lightweight women be sculling in college?

Not every college rower has the desire to make the national team, and even fewer have the ability, but for those who do, their future lies in sculling. College students row for the glory of the sport and for the glory of their school, not because they are in a feeder system for the national team. In reality, however, they are. There are no LeBron Jameses in rowing and the national team relies on colleges to do their part in nurturing high potential rowers. Many of our best rowers don't even think about the national team until after they've graduated and their whole competitive experience until that point is college rowing, meaning sweep rowing. Because the United States gets thrashed year in and year out (my apologies to last summer's world silver medal winners in the lightweight 2x) in sculling, there has been much handwringing over the emphasis on sweep rowing in our scholastic and collegiate rowing programs. Given USRowing's new emphasis on small boats that hand wringing has become wails of lamentation. Of course, not much is being done about it because this country is in love with big boats. And why not? They're big, fast, and get a lot of people rowing. They're fun to watch. Nonetheless, in the Olympics they only count for one medal. In the past we've been happy winning one rowing medal as long as that medal is in the eight. No longer.

If you want to be an Olympian as a lightweight woman, you want to be a sculler. Chances are though, that you won't learn to scull until you are 21 or 22. The old saying is true - it's easier to teach a sculler to sweep than to teach a sweeper to scull - and our competition has been sculling for years longer than we have. Why not then, try to close the gap a bit and have lightweight collegiate sculling events? Sculling is better for the body, teaches better boat feel and boat handling skills, teaches sweep rowers to row on both sides, and quads go nearly as fast as eights. Just think how much more fun it would be if these big fields of fours at Dad Vails were big fields of quads! The A10 has made some efforts to bring sculling to its member schools and I believe a quad event is part of its conference championships. Maybe more conferences should do this, particularly for lightweight women. After all, sculling requires more skill so it should be perfect for lightweights!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

plus, in sculling you don't have to worry about coxswains ;)