Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the crew program?
The crew program gives TJHSST students an opportunity to row in competition against teams from other public and private high schools in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC, and, occasionally, from other eastern states.
2. Is previous rowing experience necessary?
No. Few, if any, students entering TJHSST have had any rowing experience.
3. Does a student have to be a good athlete to row?
Crew demands endurance, strength and discipline, which we build through regular exercise throughout the spring season - and pre-season winter training. Most freshmen rowers have never tried rowing before, so everyone begins on equal footing – you don't need to be the world's best athlete walking onto the team – and the skills and discipline of crew can be learned.
4. Is rowing different from other sports?
Yes, in many respects it is. Rowing isn't a great choice for athletes looking for MVP status. It is, however, teamwork's best teacher. Rowers compete against other rowers at their level. Freshmen race other freshmen. Varsity boats race other varsity boats. As a result, everybody gets to row. One TJ rower describes the sport: “Rowing, like many other racing sports, requires intense physical training as well as dedication. Although it is challenging, the rewards are well worth the effort. Rowing is unique in that it requires all 8 rowers and the coxswain to work together, and in this way it is a team sport. There is a cycle of self-determination: a feeling of gratification upon reaching a goal, and then developing a new, more intense goal. This cycle can be very rewarding both mentally and physically. Rowing is a great way to get in shape. Very few sports require the use of every large muscle group in the body, and if you’re dedicated to the sport you will no doubt be in better shape than ever before. Although it is a big commitment, and it may not be for everyone, crew is definitely a rewarding activity.”
5. What is the racing distance?
High school crew races are typically 1500 meters in length.
6. When does the rowing season, begin and how long is it?
Crew is a spring sport. The rowing season begins in late February and concludes in late-May - during a traditional school year. Daily practices (Monday through Friday) take place on the Occoquan River (Sandy Run Regional Park) after school, although freshmen have no Tuesday practice. Saturday practices are in the morning. Rowers are strongly encouraged to take part in pre-season conditioning at the school, which begins in mid-November. During the 2020-21 school year, winter conditioning will most likely begin in mid-December.
7. Where are the regattas held?
Local regattas take place on the Occoquan River at Sandy Run Regional Park in Fairfax County. The address for the boathouse is 10450 Van Thompson Road, Fairfax Station VA 22039. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the river from TJ, and there is a charge for parking onsite. Information regarding other “away” regattas can be obtained from the TJ Crew website, under the “regatta info” tab.
8. How many regattas are there in a season?
Our crew team generally goes to three out-of-town regattas: St. Andrews Regatta in Delaware, the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in mid-May in Philadelphia, and the Scholastic Rowing Association (SRAA; also called Nationals) regatta over Memorial Day weekend. Only qualifying boats will be invited to attend Stotesbury and Nationals.
9. Why doesn't TJ Crew row on the Potomac River?
Several high schools and colleges do row on the Potomac River; however, the Occoquan is more placid and sheltered and provides a world-class training location. It also allows us to train at the venue where we compete.
10. How do the rowers get to the Occoquan for after school practices?
The TJ Crew Boosters arranges bus transportation from TJ to the Occoquan on weekdays through a private bus carrier. Last year, the cost to ride the bus was $500 per rider, and each bus rider's family must provide one chaperone on the bus. Using the bus is promoted for safety reasons. Rowers and their families must provide their own transportation home from practices, and to/from Saturday practices and regattas.
11. What does it cost to be a member of the crew team?
In the past few seasons, dues have been just over $1000. This amount includes the majority of costs associated with crew, but does not include freshman/novice bus costs (around $500-600), uniform costs ($80), parking at Sandy Run on regatta days ($20 per car with one person, $15 per car with two or more persons). The TJ Crew Boosters usually pay for bus service from a school parking lot close to Sandy Run, saving you the cost - and the hassle - of parking at the river. Travel to championship regattas cost around $600 in past years. Championship trips are for selected rowers.
The team offers special-order Gore-tex jackets ($235), pants ($125) and duffels ($40), which are not in any way required gear. Click the Store tab on the homepage of this website for more information.
12. Why does it cost so much? How is the money spent?
Rowing is a club sport because only select Fairfax County schools offer crew. As a result, we receive NO financial support from Fairfax County Public Schools or TJHSST. Rowing is supported by the dues paid by each rower's family, by fund-raising activities, and by donations. In addition, the TJ Crew Boosters has consistently helped to support our program. Income from these sources is used for coaches’ salaries, equipment purchase and maintenance, rack fees for our boats, regatta fees, insurance, and other administrative needs. The TJ Crew Boosters is an entirely volunteer organization.
13. Since rowing is a club sport, can rowers still earn varsity letters?
Yes, rowers and coxswains can earn letters. TJ crew athletes meet Virginia High School League and TJHHST requirements for participation in sports and therefore are eligible to earn varsity letters.
14. Are there any expenses in addition to the dues and the cost of bus transportation to and from practice?
Yes. There are additional expenses for required crew uniforms, parking at Sandy Run regattas, and travel to out-of-town regattas. The purchase of optional team apparel such as sweats, polo shirts, hats, visors, jackets, etc., is extra - and not mandatory.
15. Must parents do anything besides paying the bills?
Yes. All parents are required to volunteer for at least one VASRA position, and one TJ Crew position. Parents help plan and conduct the activities of the TJ Crew Boosters, including fund-raising activities, team pasta parties, volunteer assignments at the Occoquan, the annual end-of-season picnic, etc. Parents are also asked to serve as chaperones on the bus to the Occoquan for practice (if their child rides the bus). Support of, and participation in, fund-raising is especially important. These activities not only make it possible to have a crew program but also provide a way for parents to be involved in their children’s lives and get to know their children’s friends and other TJ parents. For more information, please see below and also our volunteer page.
16. What are the volunteer requirements? I am not familiar with the sport of rowing or how regattas work.
It takes a village to run a crew team, and every family must contribute volunteer hours. Luckily, there are many opportunities, both during the season and throughout the year, to contribute.
Each freshman/novice bus rider family must:
Chaperone the bus once
Provide a ride back to school for a bus chaperone once
All families must:
Volunteer for at least one TJ Crew Job
Volunteer for at least one VASRA Regatta assignment
For more information about what these Volunteering activities entail, check Volunteering
17. Who manages all these activities?
The TJ Crew Boosters has a board of directors elected annually for a one-year term. The election is held each year at the end-of-season crew picnic. The board meets on the third Wednesday of every month during the school year at 7 PM. All parents are welcome to attend!
18. How do I get to the river on regatta days?
Regatta days are hectic times at the Sandy Run boathouse, and there are a few ways to get there. Parents can drop off students at the boathouse, but be prepared to pay a fee (currently $15 for a car with two or more persons), which is refundable upon exiting the property immediately. The parking lots close to the boathouse fill up early in the morning and access can be limited. If you want to park near the river, you may have to park in the Loisvale Road lot, and walk on the gravel path through the woods to the boathouse, or you may have to park in the upper lot on Van Thompson near Hampton Road and take a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the boathouse. Finally, an off-site shuttle bus runs from Silverbrook Elementary School to the river on regatta days. The roads on the way to Sandy Run are always clogged with traffic, so if you plan on parking near the river or being dropped off, it’s a good idea to arrive early.
19. What is the Silverbrook shuttle bus?
On regatta days a shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes from Silverbrook Elementary School to the rowers' parking lot at the boathouse. The bus, paid for by TJ Crew Boosters and other area crew booster clubs, is entirely free to riders, and there is plenty of parking at the elementary school. The bus provides an easy and reliable alternative to driving to the boathouse on regatta days. If you plan on taking the shuttle bus, try to leave a few minutes early, as the bus leaves only every 15 minutes. Also, take into account that around lunch time buses will leave every 30 minutes, as the two drivers take separate lunch breaks.
20. At what time does practice end?
Although there is a time when the coaches try to end practices, the schedule is ultimately up to the workout, conditions, and boat traffic each day. During winter training, conditioning ends quite consistently around 6:15pm, but times may vary. When the rowing season officially starts, the crews have until dark to get off the water, but, especially at the start of the season, the end of practice can range anywhere from 6:00 pm to 6:40 pm. Different boats also get off at different times, so carpools across multiple boats should plan on waiting. Once daylight savings starts, practice is generally over by 7:00 pm. The times for Saturday practices can vary, so you should pay attention to the coaches and captains for Saturday practice times.
21. Where and what are the pasta parties?
Almost every Friday night before the regattas, the crew team holds a pasta party at a rower’s house. Everyone eats massive amounts of spaghetti and garlic bread to build up their carbs for the regatta the following day, and good times are had. When attending a pasta party keep in mind that each rower is assigned a food item based on their seat - and that everyone should be gone by 10:30 pm. Attendance is not mandatory.
As far as location goes, the pasta parties are traditionally held at a rower’s house that is close to the river, as this makes for convenient travel. For details like addresses and food assignments one should check Facebook or talk to the captains. Pasta parties are lots of fun, and they provide a nice big meal before regattas. Just be sure not to eat too much!
22. What is hosting a pasta party like?
The first (unofficial) requirement for hosting a pasta party is proximity to the river. Traditionally, the team likes to hold pasta parties at a rower’s house that is relatively close as this is generally most convenient for the rest of the team. As far as logistics go, the host only needs to provide a house and a space to cook lots of pasta. The rowers provide food, drinks, plates, and utensils, and they cook the food as well. The team is always good about cleaning up (it may be a good idea to have a few trash bags), and there is little reason to expect that anything of major consequence will occur. Rowers should start to trickle in during the hour after practice, and everyone is expected to leave by 10:30 pm. Expect anywhere from 30 to 75 rowers, especially with a team as big as ours. If you are interested in hosting a pasta party contact the student captains, and they will plan the date with you.
23. Is there a lost and found at the river?
If you’ve lost something at the river, it’s honestly tough to get it back. It’s always a good idea to put your name on all of your crew gear so that if you misplace it you can identify it. The first thing to do is ask around. Perhaps someone accidentally picked it up. The next place to check, especially if you leave your stuff inside the boathouse, is in a bin near the middle of the boathouse behind the Robinson boats. It is located towards the outhouse, and it’s very close to where everyone leaves bags during practice. Finally, there is a lost and found in the park ranger’s office. The ranger’s office is located adjacent to the erg room, and if he's there (knock on his door) you can ask him to look for whatever you lost in their giant pile of clothes and other items.
24. How do I get to the grandstands on regatta days?
For anyone who wants to view a race the grandstands are one of the best (and only) places to cheer for the team. The grandstands provide a great view of the last 500 meters of each race and there are refreshments there during regattas. On regatta days there are two ways to get to the grandstands. First, there is a gravel footpath that leads to the grandstands from the upper parking lot (Lot C). The walk is about ¾ of a mile and it can be a little steep at times but still by no means strenuous. The footpath runs along the side of the river. The second means of transportation to the grandstands is a shuttle bus that sometimes runs from Lot C to the grandstands. There are no official pick up or drop off times, and the bus just does a continuous loop. There is a $2 fee to ride the grandstand shuttle.
25. How can I get service hours?
The equipment we use for rowing requires a lot of maintenance, so the TJ Crew team requires that every novice and varsity team member perform five (5) hours of service work for the team. There are quite a few ways to get service hours, but the best way is at boathouse workdays. The TJ Crew team has a few of these every year, both in the fall and before/ during the season. Each workday is usually five hours long, so attending them is a great chance to fulfill your service hour requirement. Other offseason opportunities to complete service hours include TJ Crew car washes and random service opportunities that will be made known through the mailing lists.
If you find yourself struggling to complete your hours after the season starts (they must be complete for you to race), the easiest opportunities are arriving one hour early to Saturday practice as well as staying one hour afterwards. There are plenty of Saturday practices before the first regatta for you to complete service hours. Finally, limited opportunities are available to complete service hours on regatta days. Talk to Coach Jeff regarding any questions about completion of service hours.
26. How do I get information about traveling to “away” regattas?
Information about regattas held away from Sandy Run is available here.
Information about hotels rooms for families traveling to Stotesbury and SRAA Nationals should be available in spring. Eligible rowers will receive a travel packet outlining costs and other details from the TJ Crew travel coordinator.
27. What is winter training and where and when does it happen? Do I have to go?
Winter training is non-mandatory conditioning held at TJ during the regular winter sports season. Sessions are held at the school from 4 pm to 6:15 pm, five days per week. For fall 2020, winter training will likely start in mid-December. Although attendance is not a team requirement, it is HIGHLY recommended. Winter training gives teammates a chance to bond as they work out together - and builds fitness. In the spring season, fast rowers make fast boats!
28. Are there practices over spring break?
Yes! Spring break provides TJ boats the opportunity for daily practices. Rowers are responsible for their transportation to and from Sandy Run during spring break. Occasionally, freshmen parents make non-refundable plans well in advance of finding out about spring break practices, and these rowers should speak with their coach about their absence.
29. Who can answer other questions about the crew program?
If info isn't on the website, feel free to contact the men’s team captains at TJMenscaptains@gmail.com, the women’s team captains at TJWomenscaptains@gmail.com, the crew boosters president at email@example.com, or our head coach, Matt Shoop, at firstname.lastname@example.org.