Take off those cleats, hang up the lacrosse sticks, and get out on the water this summer to row. Thanks to the Princeton National Rowing Association, no experience is required. Your seventh through twelfth grader can come out for any of three one-week novice sessions this summer. By the end of the week, they’ll be out on the water and have competed in their first race.

“The great thing about rowing is that everyone starts out from scratch,” says Sean McCourt, PNRA’s director of programming and events. Though most kids grow up playing sports like basketball and lacrosse, he notes, rowing is among the fastest-growing NCAA sports right now and is a great way to build fitness. The novice rowing camp is designed to give young people an idea of not only how the sport works but also an idea of what it is like to train daily on a high school rowing team.

The camp starts out with basic lessons on rowing technique and safety, and over the course of the week campers move from rowing machines, to testing the water, to finally rowing in unison in an eight-person boat. “We do everything from warm-up runs and stretching; we’ll do some work on the rowing machine, and we get out there and try to transfer it into the boat,” McCourt says. “By the end of the week we want to teach these kids to row all eight at a time.”

It’s all about “encouraging people to get out there and do something,” McCourt explains. “Our goal is to try to expose people to the sport so they have a good idea if this is an activity they want to pursue.”

PNRA is well suited to introduce kids to the fundamentals of rowing. It has offered its novice camp for beginning rowers since 2003, and a number of past campers have gone on to success on their high school rowing teams. PNRA’s high school program, the Mercer Junior Rowing Club, boasts a track record of 74 percent of its student athletes going on to compete at the college level.

And while they’re not coaching beginner campers, PNRA operates the Mercer Junior and Master Rowing Clubs and the United States Olympic Training Site on Mercer Lake. As the home of the U.S. national team, PNRA hosts many national and international rowing events and serves as a support structure to provide the best possible training environment for the professional rowers.

First-time rowers should take advantage of this opportunity to try something new while practicing alongside the best in the country. Reserve a space early! There is a limit of 24 campers per session. Camps run from 8 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, June 28 to July 2, July 12 to 16, and August 9 to 13. For registration or more information please visit www.rowpnra.org or call 609-799-7100.

Princeton National Rowing Association. 1 South Post Road, West Windsor. 609-799-7100. www.rowpnra.org

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