If you’ve been to college, you may have seen sign-ups or classes for crew and wondered what the heck that was.
The word crew in sport simply refers to rowing. Interestingly, the term is only used in that context in American collegiate rowing clubs, rowing associations, and rowing competitions.
It can get confusing when you hear people talking about joining a crew team or being part of a crew team. Isn’t a crew the same as a team, you may have asked yourself.
Hi friends, this is Petra, and today, I want to talk about crew, what a team crew or sport crew refers to.
What Sport Is Called Crew?
The short answer here is rowing.
Somewhere, a couple of hundred years ago, the sport of rowing was called crew or crewing.
You can find examples in written literature as far back as 1898. I’ve found plenty of references from books in the early 1900s calling rowing crew.
This is an American term that is used especially in collegiate boat clubs and even by the United States rowing association.
You will find many teams calling themselves crew such as “Osprey Oars Crew” which in most other countries would be called Osprey Oars Rowing Team.
Do you know the old saying that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet? This is true with the sport of rowing as well.
Whether you call it crew or rowing, the sport is still the same.
Is Crew Team a Sport?
While it might sound redundant to the rest of the world, yes, crew team is the sport of rowing, especially racing.
This term can be confusing since many other countries call the people in the boat a crew, but in America, crew often refers to the sport of rowing itself.
While crew team may sound redundant (team team!), if you think of the word crew as synonymous with rowing, then you have a rowing team when you say the words crew team.
I’m not sure how this term came to be or why it is used only in American schools and rowing associations. What I’m certain is that, if you belong to a rowing club or rowing team, you will surely hear this term used to mean rowing.
- Related Post: What Is The Best Age To Start Rowing?
What Is Crew in High School?
Even in American high schools, the term crew is used for a rowing team and the varsity sport itself.
I believe that you will hear this term depending on where the person is from and where they went to school.
International sports federation use the word rowing team, sweep rowing, and/or sculling. However, any collegiate boat club or varsity sport in America will call it crew or crew races.
Most people understand that when you are watching a regatta and head races, the national governing body will determine which word is used.
For example, if you are watching the head race Henley Royal Regatta in England, you will hear them call it a rowing team, not a crew team.
It takes a bit to get used to these terms, but you do become accustomed to hearing both crew and rowing, crew team and rowing team, and after a while, you think nothing of it. Side Note: You might also like to read all about when did rowing start at the Olympic Games to get a better understanding of how great this sport is.
Is Crew a Real Sport?
You can link back modern rowing to as far as the 1600s when professional boatmen on the River Thames competed against one another.
Rowing is best described as the sport of propelling a boat through the water using oars. The oars they use differ depending on which type or category of rowing you do.
Rowing can either be sculling or sweep rowing.
- Sculling is when a rower holds two oars, one in each hand.
- Sweep rowing is when a rower holds one oar with both hands. The oar used in a sweep rowing shell is much longer than those used in sculling.
In America, the first collegiate boat club and races were organized at Yale University in 1843 and at Harvard the following year.
The first intercollegiate rowing contest in the United States was a race of eight-oared boats from Harvard and Yale on Lake Winnepesaukee in 1852.
So, yes, rowing is a real sport, and it’s older than you probably imagined.
How Old Is the Sport of Rowing
Very, very old!
Venetian festivals in the 13th century included boat racing events called regata.
However, the sport goes many centuries earlier. Archaeologists uncovered Egyptian inscriptions dating as early 1430 BC, suggesting that the warrior Amenhotep II was an oarsman. Even Virgil’s The Aeneid mentions boats race and rowing games.
There is also evidence that Roman Emperors Augustus and Claudius had more than 100 boats and 1900 oarsmen who participated in rowing regattas.
Rowing has been called one of the oldest sports in the world, and said accounts strengthen that claim.
What began as a means of transportation, and even warfare, is now a hugely popular sport around the world.
Why Is Crew Called Crew?
I’m not sure anyone has a real answer to this one.
We know that for centuries, the people who operated a boat, whether it was a row boat or sailboat, were called crew or crew members. How this term came to mean rowing itself isn’t clear.
It could be that at one time, someone wanted to identify rowing separately from other types of boat used so they used the word crew.
Others have suggested that Americans wanted to differentiate their rowing teams from others so someone began calling the sport crew.
We don’t really know when or why the word gained popularity in the US, but the fact remains that crew and rowing are one and the same.
Is Crew Hard?
Competitive rowing is extremely hard.
Some experts say that rowing 2,000 meters in a regatta is equal to playing two complete games of basketball back to back!
Crew is all about teamwork unless you are a single sculler.
When you train for crew, you are an athlete. Not just thin or “in shape” but a true athlete.
It is not uncommon for most sweep rowers and scullers to train 30 hours a week or more. You can’t win if you don’t practice!
Blisters on your hands and butt and sore elbows, knees, and abs are quite common. You learn to ignore them and keep going.
Why do people put themselves through this for crew? The training builds physical endurance and mental toughness. The self-confidence gained from the sport fuels your competitive nature and builds responsible, hard-working adults. Side Note: If you are interested in joining a rowing team, you might also like to learn what rowers wear so you look the biz when you rock up to your first training session!
Why Crew and Not Another Sport?
I suppose this answer is different for everyone.
I felt drawn to rowing ever since I was a young child. Something about being on the open water appealed to me.
If you feel a draw for a different sport, such as soccer, tennis, or marathon running, you should answer that call.
Not everyone likes the same thing, so it’s understandable that if you try crew and you don’t like it, you’ll drop out and try something else.
For those of us who had an early experience with crew and fell in love with the feeling, there is nothing else that can even come close to when our boat crosses the finish line.
Even if we don’t win, we gave it our best, and we are proud of our accomplishment at the end of the day.
The Bottom Line
If you just keep in mind that crew and rowing are the same words used interchangeably in the same way that money and dough are used, then you’ve got the world by the tail!
If you are interested in crew, join a boat club and see how it feels.
Or you could get an indoor rowing machine and give it a try.
No matter what you choose, you’re already a winner because you tried.
Start rowing now, it will change your life, promise!
Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.