Most people who have tried rowing at Andover will tell you that there is something unique and special about our program. Some will talk about the intense competition and the challenging workouts, or the extraordinary camaraderie that develops among teammates, as eight rowers and their coxswain join together with one common goal—to achieve balance and cut through the water with the utmost speed. Still others will describe the beauty and grace that emerge when all eight oars move together in perfect unison and the boat seems to glide effortlessly across the water. One thing that everyone agrees upon is that members of the extended Andover crew family—our athletes, coaches, parents, and alumni—are an extremely caring, dedicated, and energetic group of people.
Crew has been offered at Phillips Academy since 1955, and a girls’ crew program was established when Andover became a co-educational institution in 1976. Our new boathouse sits about six miles from campus, located on the Merrimack River just off Lowell Street in Methuen, MA. Two school buses transport the team back and forth each day. In the fall, close to one hundred students participate in an instructional rowing program. During the spring term––our competitive season––we have approximately five boys’ and five girls’ eights on the water.
Some of our fall rowers aspire to make one of the varsity eights in the spring, while others just want to try something new. Either way, the fall season provides exciting, fun competition and instruction for those who are new to the sport. These new rowers benefit from the experience of more seasoned rowers, who also have the opportunity to row in fours and single shells during the instructional season. Fall athletes practice four afternoons a week, with no Saturday commitment. Our emphasis in the fall focuses on teaching novices the fundamentals of the rowing stroke, refining the skills of experienced rowers, increasing fitness levels, and having fun. On most Friday afternoons, we hold intramural races of some kind. On Family Weekend, rowers’ families are invited to the boathouse to watch their students row their hardest in friendly races past the dock.
In the spring, the emphasis is on racing. For each team, we fill two varsity-level eights and one junior varsity eight that race against other schools each weekend. Our fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and sometimes eighth eights focus primarily on instruction and training and have just three to five interscholastic racing opportunities. New England arguably boasts some of the fastest high school crews in the country, and the Andover boys’ and girls’ eights are always extremely competitive with the other top teams in our league (the NEIRA). Our crews typically qualify for the finals at the New England Championship Regatta each year, and we have won our fair share of medals over the years.
Competitive rowing requires discipline, dedication, and considerable physical and mental energy, but the personal rewards, the close friendships that develop, and the team victories prove well worth the effort and the time commitment. Andover Crew is a strong, competitive high school rowing program, and the young women and men who row here take great pride in our endeavor and success, working hard day-in and day-out to maintain the integrity and tradition of the team. As a result, the coaches of prominent collegiate rowing programs often recruit our athletes with enthusiasm. The Andover crew experience tends to live on for years and decades in the memories of those who were a part of it. Greeting the many familiar faces of alumni, and even parents of alumni, who gather along the shores of the Merrimack on race day persists as a comforting and affirming ritual for the coaches and current athletes of our program.
Rowing is not a familiar sport to many new high school students. Relatively few new Andover students have ever rowed prior to joining our program. Many have never even seen rowing before. However, hundreds of young men and women graduate from Andover with a lifelong commitment to this challenging and rewarding sport. The Andover crew program provides rowing opportunities for all kinds of students, and we welcome anyone who feels that he or she might have an interest in the sport.