Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lay of the Lightweight Land

I often get emails from readers who are wondering just which schools row lightweight and how serious they are. This is always a difficult question to answer because the landscape shifts constantly. Nonetheless, there are some categories of programs and some schools in those categories that can serve as examples. I thought it might be useful to briefly lay out how I see these lightweight categories so that you can add your comments and we can see if we have a common view.

I see four types of programs:

1) Dedicated Programs
Schools with these programs have coaches and equipment dedicated to lightweights and recruit lightweight rowers. They race lightweight schedules when possible and the coaches actively support the growth of lightweight rowing. The rowers rarely, if ever, move between the lightweight and heavyweight squads. The lightweight squads are separate from the heavyweights and the coaches are considered varsity head coaches. Examples of dedicated programs are Wisconsin, Georgetown, Radcliffe, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford.

2) Focus Programs
Lightweights train separately and have their own coach, but rowers move back and forth between the lightweight and heavyweight squads. Sometimes rowers are recruited specifically as lightweights. The lightweight squad is considered an extension of the heavyweight squad and the coaches are considered assistant coaches. Examples of focus programs are UCF, Bucknell, and URI (at least last season).

3) Competitive Clubs
These programs are not varsity sports but are very competitive student run clubs. Usually the heavyweight women at these schools are varsity and the club is mostly, if not completely, lightweights. Examples of competitive clubs are Ohio State and California.

4) Boats of Opportunity
Boats of opportunity are not programs, but boats that are formed when a mostly heavyweight program finds that it happens to have some lightweight rowers who can form a reasonably competitive lightweight boat. These boats can come from almost any school except the large DI heavyweight programs which would almost never recruit a lightweight or find a lightweight walk-on who would be competitive in the program. Even when these schools do find themselves with a lightweight, there would never be enough for a boat.

I think any lightweight boat you would find in a four or eight race would fall into one of these categories. As you would expect, these are also generally ordered by speed, with dedicated programs the fastest and boats of opportunity the slowest (there are exceptions every year, but they tend to prove the rule).

Comments? Have I missed some obvious examples? Where do Dayton and Lehigh fall?


Anonymous said...

What about Bucknell? Where does Emory's sculling fit in?

JW Burk said...

I listed Bucknell under Focus Programs. I'm not familiar with Emory's sculling program - tell me more. Do they regularly race lightweights in sculling boats? At the moment I would consider them to race Boats of Opportunity, but perhaps I'm not as familiar with the program there as I should be.