“Ninety-nine percent of collegiate rowing in the United States is sweep rowing,” said Melanie Borger, the OCU women's rowing coach. “It's just traditionally been done that way for 100 years.
“The problem with that is it doesn't train young adults to be the best rowers they can be. They really need to be well versed in both rowing disciplines.”
Universities choose to participate in sweep rowing because it accommodates more athletes, Borger said.
In addition, the NCAA championships do not offer sculling races, she said.
Races in sweep rowing are held in eight-, four- and two-person boats. Making the eight-person crew is considered the most prestigious in collegiate rowing.
Sculling events involve crews of four rowers, pairs or individual races. They are more common in international competitions.
“There are more sculling events at world championships and at the Olympics than there are sweep events,” Borger said.
That's a big reason OCU stresses sculling.
“We are committed to training our athletes so they can compete on the national and international level and not just the collegiate level,” she said.
Another reason is simply fewer athletes. OCU, an NAIA school, has fewer rowers than other universities with women's rowing programs such as Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma, which concentrate primarily on its eight-person boats.
“More schools are embracing it (sculling) but they still don't emphasize it like we do, because quite frankly, the NCAA doesn't field sculling events,” Borger said.
“Coaches and rowers believe in it, but the system is not set up for that yet.”