Rowing for MTL

Scholastic Rowing

The popularity of high school rowing, also known as scholastic rowing, has exploded throughout the United States. Once the domain of exclusive prep schools, scholastic rowing teams now can be found in both public and private schools throughout the country. These teams race under the banners of high school and club teams sanctioned by regulatory rowing associations. Mt. Lebanon HS Rowing is a member of the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Association.

Novice rowers – those in their first year of rowing – may be surprised to find that there is almost no opportunity to become a competitive rower prior to high school. While there are some learn-to-row opportunities, rowing as a competitive sport does not really begin until maybe 8th grade. Therefore, unlike most other sports (which some kids may start playing even before kindergarten), rowers cannot really get a “head start” in this sport.

This is very much a positive aspect of the sport because nearly everyone rowing at the scholastic level starts at about the same age. New rowers can be assured that the coaches know this and plan the training accordingly. Because of this we structure the Novice year a little bit differently than the other years. You can learn more about the Novice Year here.

Rowing for Mt. Lebanon

Rowing at Mt. Lebanon requires a serious commitment. Joining the team is not something to do just so you have something to do after school. There is a lot to learn, so consistent attendance is mandatory.

We have two racing seasons (Fall & Spring) and strength & conditioning training during the winter months. Most of the team competes throughout the school year, but it is not required. Those who do not participate in both racing seasons usually miss the fall season then return after that. Our primary racing season is in the spring, so if there is a season that is not missed, it is that one.


Fall Season

The fall season is the season when the biggest jump in skill development happens. The river and weather are more consistent, so we get a lot of water time to work on the technical aspects of rowing.

As mentioned above, the fall is not mandatory. With other sports and activities there may not be enough time to add rowing to the schedule, so taking the fall off to do other things is perfectly ok. It is very highly encouraged to row in the fall if your schedule allows, though. The improvements you make during the fall season will show up on race days in the spring, so don’t skip the fall if you can actually fit it into your schedule.

Note for Novices:

In order to be eligible to race throughout the spring season, you must participate in the Fall season of your novice year. Rowers who have joined later in the year have almost always had to miss the first few regattas until we could get them up to speed enough to be able to race safely. Not participating in the fall does not mean you cannot race in the spring, it’s just that we cannot guarantee you will race at every regatta. It takes time to learn how to row well enough to be safe and our spring water time is variable, so we may not have enough of it to have you ready for our first regatta or two.


Spring Season

This is our primary racing season, the season we focus on. Even the work we do in the fall is in preparation for the spring. We do race in the fall, but our eye is always toward the spring.

The spring racing season actually kicks off in January when we begin our Strength & Conditioning workouts. Rowing is an endurance sport and there is often little time to prepare for racing if we start practicing in March after winter sports end, so we get our endurance built up over the winter months and get into race prep when we get back on the water. Because we are at the mercy of the river conditions it is impossible to say when we will be back on the water. It is after the start of Daylight Savings Time (we need that extra hour of daylight), but beyond that it is always a guessing game. Sometimes it is mid-March, sometimes it is late-April.

As with other sports that you know about, there is competition to earn a seat in the top boat and it can be intense. However, unlike most other sports, there is not really a “bench” in rowing.  Everyone on the team gets the same amount of coaching and practice time and races at every regatta we attend.  Of course there are times when this is not possible, but the coaches work hard to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to race as much as possible over the course of the season.

One aspect of rowing that is different from pretty much all other sports…it is not something that anyone has the opportunity to start doing at a very young age, so if you feel like you are too far behind, you aren’t! We find this to be a big positive because everyone is starting at the same level.

It also means there is a lot of teaching & learning that needs to happen to get everyone ready to race. Because of this we set up the first year (Novice year) a little bit differently than the subsequent years. Learn more about the Novice Year @ MtL.

The time commitment is big. Your best effort is expected at every practice. Teamwork can be hard work sometimes and this is the ultimate team sport. Coaches face difficult choices in deciding which rowers and coxswains will be in any boat in any given week. Becoming a good rower is not easy, but in the end, the hard work and sacrifices are worth it.


Varsity Letters

Although we are responsible for nearly all of our funding we compete at a varsity level, just like the other sports offered at MTLHS.  And like those other sports, we award Varsity Letters! You can read our Varsity Letter Policy here.

The Mt. Lebanon Rowing Team is an athletic program (Boys Team & Girls Team) that competes throughout the school year. For Varsity Letter purposes we are designated as a Spring Sport because that is our primary competitive season.

Club Sport vs Varsity Sport

You may see rowing listed as a club offered at Mt. Lebanon…that is not accurate. We are not part of the Activities Office; we are a member of the Athletics Department.

The policy of Mt. Lebanon HS is that only WPIAL sports are funded from the Athletics Budget. Rowing is not offered at enough high schools to be a WPIAL sport, so we must pay our own way. Because of this we are classified as a “Club Sport” at MTLHS. Hockey is also a Club Sport. Boys Lacrosse was as well until it became a WPIAL sport in 2009.

The only difference between us and the varsity sports is the source of the money we need. Our approach to practicing, training, and competing in our sport is no different than how the varsity sports approach their’s. 

We enjoy a great relationship with the school and Athletic Office, but outside of a small stipend from the Athletic Budget we do not have financial support from the school. We rely primarily on dues and fundraisers, but also donations and grants to meet day-to-day operations, boat & equipment needs, and racing & travel expenses.

What Do Dues Pay For?

We compete at two regattas + one or two tri-meets during the Fall season, an indoor erg race in the Winter, and four regattas + at least one tri-meet in the Spring. Our competitions are a mix of local and away regattas. We travel once in the fall (Buffalo) and three times in the Spring (Ohio twice and Erie); the other regattas are local.

What do the dues pay for?

  • Travel & Lodging (4 away regattas)
  • Meals when away
  • Regatta day food
  • Regatta registration fees
  • Insurances
  • Boat Storage
  • Coaches
  • Gas for coaching launches
  • Racing uniform*
  • Team Gore-Tex Jacket*
  • Truck rental & fuel costs (hauling boat trailer to regattas)
  • USRowing Organization Fee
  • Equipment Maintenance
  • Other misc. expenses
* Does not apply for new members who join after the Fall racing season. These will be additional costs.

It may be more helpful to see the list of items not included in dues:

  • Food stops when traveling for away regattas
  • Souvenir clothing bought at regattas

How Does This Compare To Other Sports?

If you have been part of a travel team or a club team you have likely paid thousands of dollars for a summer’s worth of tournament competition. Usually the program fees cover only team-specific costs while travel, lodging, and meals are an additional cost for each individual. Our cost covers pretty much everything.

Parents can spend a lot of money during tournament season (national averages):

Baseball/Softball – $3,000
Gymnastics – $4,000
Soccer/Hockey/Lacrosse – $5,000-$7,000
Rowing at Mt. Lebanon HS – $2,200 Fall + Spring / $1,500 if only doing the Spring Season

We are able to provide a great value based on the benefits the rowers receive.

Plus…we have a Fall and a Spring season. The full-year cost covers the entire school year, not just one season.



Compete & Have Fun!

We want everyone to enjoy their experience as part of the team and for us the “fun” comes in the form of setting aggressive goals and working hard every practice to achieve those goals. It’s not about playing around on the river for a couple of hours and having laughs with your friends. It’s about setting challenging goals, putting in the work, and achieving them.

It is expected that everyone on the team understand the level at which we practice & compete and approaches participation on the team accordingly. If practicing & competing at a varsity level is not something you are looking for, you will probably not enjoy your time on the rowing team.


If you have tried other sports, but have not found the right fit for you, rowing may be the sport you have been looking for all along. If you are ready to put in the effort everyday to become the best that you can be, we would love to have you join us!

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