Novice Year

One of the great aspects of competitive high school rowing is that very few rowers begin any earlier than 9th Grade.  This means that everyone is starting at essentially the same place when they join a team.  At Mt. Lebanon we are no different.

Because you are new to the sport, the first (novice) year is structured differently than subsequent years so we can set you up for the best chance for success.

Summer Head Start

One way to get a little bit of a head start is to participate in a summer Learn-to-Row program.  We have offered them over the years. Sometimes we partner up with another team to make sure we have enough participants to make the camp beneficial.

Attending a Learn-to-Row camp provides two big benefits:

1. A low-key introduction to the sport, so you can determine whether the sport is something that interests you.

2. Can help us move a little more quickly through the early part of the fall season.

Participating in the summer camp provides a great introduction to the sport of rowing, but it does not replace the novice year.  Those who go through the camp will still be a part of the novice squad for their first year on the team.  There is much to learn, much more than can be learned at a week long intro summer camp.

Fall Season

September to early-November

Because this sport is new to everyone, the Fall Season is focused on learning the basics of the sport.

  • Rowing Mechanics
  • Boat Handling
  • Equipment Care

Rowing Mechanics

When watching accomplished rowers from the shore, it looks like rowing is quite easy and effortless. The reality is that rowing is a very technical sport that takes time to master.  There are a lot of little things that go into being able to row well (and make it look easy).

Because this sport is new we spend a lot of time practicing the basics. As with many other sports, poor technique can lead to injury, so we want to make sure everyone is proficient enough to handle more advanced practices.

Generally the fall begins with time on the ergometer (rowing machines) then we venture out onto the river.

Boat Handling

We row out of the Groveton boathouse at Montour Marina.  We have a bay where our equipment is kept that is a short distance from the docks.  In order to get the shells onto the water, the rowers must carry them from the racks in our bay down to the dock and then place the shell in the water. Coming back in requires the same steps, simply done in the reverse order.

A new 8+ costs about $42,000 and a new 4+ costs about $25,000 and repairs can be costly, so we need to be sure the novices can move the shells without risking damage.  A practice or two is spent just in learning the commands and practicing going from the bay to the water then back into the bay and onto the racks.  Once they demonstrate proficiency moving the shells, we can then start going onto the river.

Equipment Care

As mentioned above, the shells are quite expensive.  Oars are not cheap either.  One new oar costs $330.  Replacement costs are high in rowing, so proper equipment care is critical, therefore we also spend time making sure everyone knows how to care for the equipment.  Well-maintained equipment can last 10 years or more, but poorly maintained equipment will need to be replaced much sooner.


Because this is such a new sport, novices do not participate in the larger fall regattas.  We have found that for long-term development spending time learning to row well is better than trying to rush race prep into the first two months.  We set up a novice scrimmage or two toward the end of the fall season so they do get a chance to race other teams. The novices will follow the race schedule with the rest of the team beginning with our indoor erg races during the winter months.

Spring Racing Prep

January to mid-March

The Fall Season wraps up following our last regatta and everyone gets a short break. We do some strength training from mid-November until the winter break, then start up again with our full schedule in January.  The winter months are part of the spring season, not a separate season.  These practices are spent indoors on the ergs and weight training. The winter is used for:

  • Cardiovascular Conditioning
  • Technical Skill Development
  • Strength Improvement

We usually compete at a couple of local indoor racing events.  These are 2000m sprints done on ergometers. 

The goal of the winter sessions is to be ready for Spring racing as soon as we are able to get back on the water. We do not usually have a lot of water time before racing starts and our start date depends on the river conditions, so we need to make sure the winter has us ready to get up to speed quickly.

For new rowers who missed the fall, starting in January is required in order to be eligible for spring racing.


Spring Racing

Mid-March to mid-May

Because the river conditions are hard to predict, the date we return to the water is always unknown until just before it happens. Typically we are back on the water around the third week in March. Due to having practice in the evening during the week, the earliest we an expect to be on the water is the day after Daylight Savings Time begins.

Sometimes we cannot get back on until April, sometimes it is in March. One year it was May before we got back on the water. Because we cannot predict when we will be back on the water the winter months are critical to being in race shape by the time we get back on the water so the time we have can be spent on race prep. This is especially important for those years that we do not get on the water until a couple of weeks before our first regatta.

Our racing season begins in April and runs until mid-May. Depending on how the season goes, we could have boats competing into June.

Our competitions consist of a one or two tri-meets at the boathouse, one large local regatta and three away regattas. Our away regattas are generally within a 3-hr. drive of Pittsburgh.

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