OTTAWA, Ontario — While many students enter the university world in hopes of growing intellectually, the Ravens Rowing Novice Program offers students a way to grow athletically alongside their education. Rowing is characterized as a late-entry sport, meaning many of its athletes begin playing and training for other sports earlier in life and only take up rowing later on.
Austin Krystek is a second year Business student at Carleton, and member of the Ravens rowing team. Krystek’s journey into rowing is a common one, only beginning at the university level. “Unlike many other sports where coaches will assume athletes have a basic understanding of the sport and have had many years of experience,” he said, “in rowing, this is not the case, as few athletes are fortunate enough to have a rowing club near where they live.” This is part of the Novice Program’s benefit – the ability to train at a new sport with a university level team before facing competition.
A key feature of the Novice Program is that a general athletic background is all that’s required to participate. Athletes who have spent their lives playing other sports typically adapt well to rowing. “Those who’ve competed in swimming, cycling, or track and field will find it very comparable in terms of workout style.” The program is imperative to the growth and development of the Ravens team and sport of rowing in general. Krystek says that nearly half of the present Ravens squad has come up through the Novice program, himself included.
In addition to acclimating athletes to the technical nuances and physical demands of a new sport, the Novice Program offers an avenue for students to socialize and integrate themselves into the Carleton University community, particularly first year students and new arrivals to Ottawa.
“Rowing a sport of camaraderie and teamwork. Everyone must work as one for things to go well and have a chance at winning,” Krystek says of the sport, which quickly instills a bond among teammates in and out of the water. “Within a week of joining you’ve already made a whole new group of friends that you can go out and explore the city with. Most of the people joining the novice team are new to the city, so it provides the perfect group of people for you to learn the city and navigate your first year of university with.”
The Novice Program functions in several steps. Athletes are first taught correct rowing machine (erg) form and put through a baseline fitness assessment.
Next, athletes join the Ravens team at the Ottawa Rowing Club and are taught boat etiquette, safety instruction, and handling techniques before bringing a boat down to the water for a typical workout. “It’s a surreal experience for many athletes as it’s typically their first time sitting in a racing shell, which are pretty narrow,” Krystek adds.
The regular season is a commitment of six early morning workouts per week. Athletes will have the chance to attend a number of key races during the year, like the Head of the Rideau held in Ottawa, the Head of the Trent, and the OUA championships.
Like the rest of the sporting world, Ravens Rowing has adapted to COVID-19 restrictions, beginning predominantly with the outright cancellation of the fall sport season by the OUA. A typical season features several weeks of races in Ottawa and around the province, in addition to the regularly scheduled training sessions. Despite the hurdles, all Ravens varsity teams have presently returned to Stage 2 individual training and Krystek encourages new students to reach out to the team’s head coach for inquiries into joining the Novice Program.