Boat Selection

Boat selection is a difficult process for both coaches and athletes. Line-ups will likely change from week to week, especially early in the season. Selection is based on consistency over time in all of the following areas. Here is what the coaches will be looking at during the decision-making process (note: this list is in no particular order, all criteria are important).


  • Attitude/Teamwork

  • Dedication

  • Consistency

  • Attendance

  • Erg Scores/general fitness

  • Racing experience and past performance

  • Health

  • Seat racing results

  • Technique


  • Attitude/Teamwork

  • Dedication

  • Consistency

  • Attendance

  • Leadership and motivation

  • Racing experience and past performance

  • Technical knowledge of rowing

  • Steering

How will we look for these traits?

To help you to understand how the coaches select athletes and how individuals are selected for boats, please read about the following criteria that we use to make our decisions. We use all of this information to make our decisions; we don’t boat just because you have a great erg score, or just because you won a seat race, or just because you have great attitude. You need to be good at everything, yes stronger at some things than others, but you have to have it all. A great erg score and bad attitude won’t get you what you want. A great erg and a great attitude and bad technique won’t get you what you want. It’s everything put together, so work on your weaknesses and you’ll be on your way. Selection takes time and is ever changing as athletes improve or stop improving over the course of the year. No decision is final until hands-on!

Erg testing/Weight Lifting/Running

Erg tests, weight lifting, and running show fitness levels. The ergometer will show power output and mental resolve. Every rower on the planet has, at one time or another said, “I row harder on the water, I just can’t do it on the erg”. Well, yes you can and you will have to! In the Fall, which is our long head race season, the coaches will test athlete fitness in 4k, 5k, or 6k pieces, the range of duration of these pieces is from 15’-24’, in the sprint season we test 2k, the duration being 6:10-8:30. A great score for the heavyweight boys is 6:15, for the girls 7:15 but quite simply progress is the name of the game. We don’t care where you start; just keep improving as the training continues. We recognize that some people don’t erg test well and some do, this is why we don’t boat only by erg score. Coaches observe the athletes during weight training and while running. Strength and stamina are important in rowing and these activities are given consideration when it comes to boat selection.

Seat Racing

Seat racing is testing an athlete’s boat moving abilities. We seat race primarily in 4's and 8's, switching seats and racing 2 boats side by side. If you ‘win’ your seat race it means that the boat you were moved into went faster than it did with the previous rower. Seat racing is helpful but also has a lot of factors that can get in the way of it being fair, particularly for us on a river consisting of currents and bends. Coaches will seat race when we have a question about an athlete’s abilities and the conditions are right. It is quite rare that we allow athletes to ‘challenge’ someone else. We do not have time to run a seat racing matrix where everyone races everyone, nor is it necessary. The coaching staff has enough experience to know when to use it and an experienced eye can watch for boat moving abilities through the rower’s blade work. We recognize that some people don’t seat race well and some do, this is why we don’t boat only by seat racing results.


Similar to golf, technique is important in rowing in order to be effective. Coaches and athletes spend hours logging miles and doing drills simply to make you a better technical rower. Good technique and pulling hard are separate skills. We certainly hope to see some improvement in technique as we spend so much time coaching for that specifically, and it is rare that we will just look the other way and allow ‘pulling hard’ to take over. If a rower is not responding or improving, eventually we will move on to those that are and selections will be made from that experience. We have an outstanding indoor facility with tools and mirrors that give you immediate feedback and as long as you understand what you are looking at, you do not need a coach to practice and improve. Everybody selected to the top boats must row well, so though you will not make a boat only due to good rowing, you may well lose your seat if you don’t row well enough.

Work Ethic, Attitude, and Competitiveness

We look for drive, effort, intensity, desire, and humility. We want you to be a team player, to support, encourage and push your teammates. We want you to react well to difficult situations and work with your team to resolve them. We do not do drama and will not allow the team to be affected by individual issues. We want you to try hard, to work hard and to improve a little bit every day. We want you to love to race, to love to compete and to embrace sportsmanship in doing so. We expect these traits to emerge from everyone and it will affect your boat placement in time.

Parents: Supporting Your Athlete and Coach During Selections and the Season

Boat selections are an exciting, yet stressful, time for parents, coaches and student-athletes. It’s a time of great hope and of great disappointment. Our goal is to make this a respectful, positive and honest experience. Honesty can be hard to take sometimes, but it is the best way for us to handle this experience.

What parents can do to support their student-athlete through this experience

  1. Be honest. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. This is an opportunity to teach them how to improve on their weaknesses while succeeding at their strengths. Try to help them realize that just counting on their strengths and turning their back on the weaknesses won’t help them be better.

  2. Share your sports experience with them. Have you been through this process?

  3. Remind them that coaches respond to athletes who are present, attentive and participating. It shows that they are eager to learn.

  4. Talk with your son/daughter about being an athlete. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What qualities does an athlete bring to a team?

  5. Stress the fun parts. “Just go out and have fun and show them what you can do”.

  6. Offer encouragement when it is hard; help them feel good about themselves.

  7. Let them know that no one thing is going to put them on the team, and no one thing will take them off the team.

  8. Support your son/daughter, but also support the coach. We will be honest about what we see. Please talk to the coach in a friendly way when asking what he/she is thinking, and why she/he has made a decision. We don’t play favorites, but we are looking for lineups that will be successful.

We can make your son/daughter a stronger, more fit, and technically better rower, but we can’t make him/her want it. We are looking for athletes who are team players and understand that the team comes first. This is a demanding, yet highly rewarding, sport and the athletes won’t enjoy it without the passion to want to be their best.

Meetings with Coaches

The coaching staff at the Milwaukee Rowing Club has many years of experience in the rowing world. Between the two head coaches, there is over 20 years of rowing and coaching experience. They have the student-athlete’s best interests at heart. It is important that if you ever have a question or concern, that you go directly to the coach so that you can get the correct information. Rather than pull a coach aside while preoccupied at a regatta, calling them at a busy time, or unexpectedly keeping them after practice, please set up a time to meet. You can call your respective coach to arrange this discussion to work with both of your schedules. This sport can be very foreign to people. The coaches here at The MRC want to be able to work with you to answer any questions you may have. This meeting can be with parents only, athletes only, or both parents and athletes.

In addition, you often have information about your athlete that will help the coaches help your athlete so please feel free to share it! We do have time to talk to you and we do like to explain what is going on with your athlete. We will be honest and forthright with you and any communication that we have will not impact your athlete in a negative way. Educating yourself about what is going on is the most important way you can support both your athlete and the coach. This is a sport of great highs and lows and each of these feelings are important to the overall experience and education process. We will be consistent in our message and will always make decisions based on boat speed, not on individuals. It is important for you to know this so that the concerns of favorites, seniority, or drama do not come into play. This will be one of the best life learning experiences that your student-athlete can have.

In Summary

Athletes Are Expected To:

  1. Work hard.

  2. Seek feedback in an effort to improve.

  3. Be supportive of the team by accepting coaching decisions.

  4. Row as well as you can and do so with a positive attitude, no matter which seat you occupy. Be the teammate that everyone wants in their boat all the time.

Parents Are Expected To:

Respect the coaches as the final authorities on boat selection and rowing matters. Remember, coaches seek only to create the best possible team. While decisions are subjective, they are not personal.