Q:My son/daughter can already row/scull (and is using fine boats) so will the course still be suitable for them? What will they learn from it?
The Courses are unique in being able to accommodate students of ALL abilities, ranging from complete beginners aged 12, to top level junior athletes aged 17&18, some with experience of racing at an international level. Every student begins the week in a group of 9-10 participants of similar ability, and groups will change through the week depending on how individuals progress. The top groups obviously use better (faster) boats and focus on the more advanced aspects of technique and training than the beginners groups do, so that everyone can learn and improve during the week, whatever their ability.
Q: Will I be able to choose who I row with, and which boats I can row/scull in as well?
This will depend on the group that you are placed in, based on the results of the Sculling Head Race on the Monday. Those of similar ability will end up in the same groups, and the majority of rowing and sculling outings will take place within those groups (although there may be as many as 30 students in the so-called Top Group). The coaches of each group will do their best to accommodate the requests of their students for boat types and their chosen crew-mates, but everyone will be required to be flexible as the boats must be allocated fairly, and there may not always be enough of the best boats to go round! However, the fleet of boats available is so large that it is very unlikely that any student will go home disappointed.
Q: My son/daughter has never rowed before. Will he/she be OK on the course?
Of course! No previous rowing experience is required, and beginners are particularly welcome!” In fact, approximately 30% of the students attending the Courses each year have never done any rowing or sculling before (and most of these beginners are aged only 12-14yrs), but most of them finish the week as proficient and competent scullers/rowers. All that is asked of beginners is that they complete the swimming test on the first afternoon - for details please see Who can attend?. Eton College provides the very best environment for beginners in the sport, especially as the Rowing Lake at Dorney now offers such a safe still-water training environment – much more protected from the elements, and with none of the river traffic that used to make life more difficult for beginners on the Thames. All beginners start the week up at the Lake, and are taken through a capsize demonstration before the first sculling outing takes place. The chances of capsize can be greatly reduced with a few simple principles of technique borne in mind, but should it occur, students should have nothing to fear and are shown how to swim the boat to the bank and get back in safely. In all rowing/sculling activities a coach to student ratio of 1:4 (in many cases 1:3 for beginners) ensures that help is always close at hand.
Training & Coaching
Q: What is the proportion of training/ coaching/ racing in the rowing activities on the Courses?
The Aims of the Courses are to allow all participants to experience, to learn, and to enjoy all aspects of the sport of rowing. The Rowing Courses do not, therefore, focus only on racing. It is our view that racing successes can only result from the combination of correct technique, fitness and mental preparation, so all of these aspects are looked at in detail. Similarly, a week-long Rowing Course does not represent a boring training camp, either! The opportunity to listen to an Olympic Gold Medallist, to visit the River and Rowing Museum, to go on a dragon-boat trip up the Thames, and to take part in the Procession of Boats - all of these (and others) are experiences that consistently make the Courses so much fun for those that take part. While beginners start the week without knowing the difference between a scull and a rowing boat, by the end of the week they are able to paddle about happy as can be! At a higher level, the excellent standard of coaching on the Courses, combined with Eton's unparalleled facilities, allows for great improvements to be made over a very short time, and we hope that those who benefit from the experience will continue with their involvement in the sport thereafter.
Q: How much will I be able to improve during a week on the Courses?
The purpose of the Rowing Courses is to instruct participants in the theory and practice of sculling & rowing in such a way that they will leave satisfactorily equipped to pursue the sport successfully and enjoyably on their own. Not only is it possible for students to make huge strides in their rowing and sculling during the week, but it is also hoped that after the Course, students will return to their club or school boat club with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation for the season ahead.
Rapid progress is made possible by the intensive instruction given by qualified coaches and their assistants of British Rowing, and by the 2-3 outings that take place each day, using quality equipment ranging from Eton Phoenix single sculls to Racing VIIIs. Eton's excellent rowing facilities include the international standard 8-lane course at Dorney Lake, as well as 3 boathouses on the River Thames - all providing unparalleled opportunities for a rapid rate of progress. What's more, all participants are sent a report at the end of the Courses, completed by the Coach who instructs them during the week and monitors their progress.
Q: Who will be coaching me during the week?
From the first day of each Course, every student will be assigned to a mixed group of roughly 9 or 10 individuals of similar ability, all placed under the supervision of a Coach and a Course Assistant. The coaching team ranges in age from 20 to 60 and consists of both male and female instructors, drawn from experienced coaches from clubs and schools, and university students currently rowing for their university. Some of the coaches are actively competing on a regular basis, and many others have performed at the highest levels of the sport in the past. All Coaches are either British Rowing or full time members of Eton College staff, and roughly a third are former Etonian oarsmen. Many of the team have been involved on the Rowing Courses for many years, so they bring with them a considerable amount of knowledge and experience of how to ensure their students receive the maximum benefit from a week spent rowing at Eton.
Social & Free Time
Q: My son/daughter will be coming alone.... Will he/she have the opportunity to make friends?
A: If your son/daughter is coming alone, he or she will be in the same situation as the majority of students. For this reason, opportunities to make friends are deliberately created during the activities of the Courses. On the first afternoon, all students are placed into mixed groups of 9 or 10 based on age and previous experience. These groups head off to supper with their coach before the first sculling outing takes place on the Sunday evening, and this way everyone has a chance to get to know the others in their group from the outset. All rowing activities during the week are conducted in these groups, although some individuals may change groups after the second day if they show themselves to be worthy of promotion to a higher group. Aside from the rowing, other group activities include afternoon games, dragon boating trips (20 per boat), tug of war competitions. Furthermore, in the free time each day, students may choose to go to the outdoor pool together, or shopping in Windsor, or playing tennis etc. Although boys and girls are accommodated in separate houses, all students eat all meals together in the College Dining Hall, and the Social Room is open to everyone in the evenings.
Q: How much freedom will I be allowed on the Courses?
Almost all students spend a thoroughly enjoyable week at Eton, and since 2004 no less than 95% of all participants have said they'd like to return the following year - a good indicator by any standard! All students must participate in all of the rowing and coaching activities scheduled every day, but this leaves a great deal of other time to be enjoyed. With permission, students may go into Windsor (in groups of at least 3) during the afternoons, and everyone can spend their time as they wish when in the houses. However, for reasons of safety and the smooth running of the Courses, the course rules must be followed at all times. These are distributed in a booklet form to all students before the Courses begin, and the most important rules are outlined by the Course Director at the Welcome Meeting on the first afternoon. A copy of the rules may be seen here. Any serious disregard of these rules may lead the Course Director to contact a student's parents, or to arrange for their immediate return home. In particular, students must note that the usage of cigarettes, drugs, illegal or alcoholic substances of any kind is absolutely forbidden, and their possession alone will be enough to ensure a student's immediate return home.
Q: Can I have a good time if I am not a rowing enthusiast?
Yes, absolutely. Approximately 30% of the students attending the Courses each year have never done any rowing or sculling before, and so it would be unreasonable to expect all of them to enjoy every aspect of the sport from the outset. For this reason, every effort is provide all students with the chance to try their hand at every aspect of the sport, whether in small boats or large boats, whether rowing, sculling or coxing, whether on stroke side or bowside, whether racing or training, and even whether sitting down or standing up (as in the Procession of Boats!). It is no secret that when learning is fun it is so much more effective, and so we try to achieve this in the daily rowing activities, using our experience from previous Rowing Courses of knowing what works best. It must also be remembered that the rowing activities only occupy about 4 or 5 hours each day, and the rest of the time is spread between organized outdoor games (including frisbee, soccer, baseball, as well as team games like "It's a Knockout" etc), free time (for swimming, visiting Windsor, playing tennis/squash, watching dvds) and the time in the evenings for going to the Social Room with friends to listen/dance to music, or watching videos in the houses. Please see the COURSE CONTENT page for further details.
Q: My son/daughter is not a native English speaker. Can he/she still attend the Courses?
Approximately 10% of those attending the Rowing Courses each year come from overseas, and these students are especially welcome, even if English is not their first language. However, for safety reasons it is very important that all students can understand the proper procedures to be followed on the River and on the Lake during rowing and sculling activities, so parents are asked to bear this in mind before submitting an application. Some of the staff can speak French, German, Spanish, and Italian, but this does not eliminate the need for all students to have at least an intermediate grasp of the English language. It is equally important that all students ask if unsure of any of the safety procedures etc to be followed during rowing and sculling activities. If in doubt, please contact the Course Director.
Q: Can children with special needs participate on the Rowing Courses?
It is part of the ethos of Eton College that every effort should be made to accommodate students with special needs, and the Rowing Courses welcome all applications of this kind. The priority at all times must be safety, both of the student concerned as well as the others in the student's group. It is of course very difficult to know of a student's suitability for the Courses without fully understanding what they involve, and it may therefore be helpful to look at the COURSE CONTENT page of this site. Should any applicant with special needs be unsure of their suitability for the Course, please contact Mr P.Highy who will be happy to assist.
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