The hidden cost of Uni rowing

If you’re an avid reader of Rowing & Regatta magazine you may remember the feature in the Jan-Feb issue about university rowing.

Rowing Mag cover

It was a good read, well-researched with plenty of interviews from people in the know. However, there was very little mention of how much rowing costs.

As the parent of two rowers who have followed an elite rowing pathway through university my bank account is painfully aware of the cost of supporting student rowers – who are also paying handsomely to get a degree. For student rowers their chosen sport can quickly eat into student maintenance loans and those who don’t have parents able to fund them this could mean that rowing is given up in favour of a sport that won’t break the bank.

If you are going to university with the intention of rowing at any level then I advise going in with your eyes open! You will need to budget for rowing.

I calculated that my youngest son currently spends around £3,000 a year on his rowing. The rough breakdown is as follows:

  • Boat club membership: £280
  • Racking fee for single: £50
  • Travel from shared accommodation to the boathouse c. £10-20 per week (lives in London)
  • Accommodation and food costs for GB Trials, Henley Royal Regatta, BUCS events (remember, if you are staying in a hotel you have to eat out): £800-£900
  • Rowing camp Christmas: £600
  • Rowing camp Easter: £150
  • Training days at Dorney: £100
  • Travel costs to camps: £300-£500
  • Rowing kit: £200
  • We expect to add on another £800-£1,000 if he makes it through to U23s.

His rowing costs would be higher but they are subsided by his university and we are grateful that they are – there are no entry fees for events, the cost of camps is subsidised, and the coaching he is receiving is the very best. They will also be higher if he gets through to the end of the U23 trials process.

It’s worth adding that in our experience trying to get a UK University sports scholarship seem to be a little bit of a lottery, largely dependent upon being lucky enough to attend the right college and having the persistence to ask and apply. Don’t expect it to be easy.

Aiming to be an elite student rower won’t be cheap and those aiming for the top need to go in with their eyes open. Ask lots of questions of coaches and universities to see how they can help you with costs and talk to friends in the rowing world who can advise you.

It’s not all about money of course. Rowing graduates come out of university with some brilliant experiences, good friends, fond memories and hopefully a memorable win or two. But it helps to know what you are in for.

Rowing at intermediate or novice level may not be quite as expensive but students will still need to factor in membership fees, kit, rowing camps, entry fees, travel etc into their budget.

Rowing is a fantastic sport but let’s not kid ourselves that it is open to all when the annual cost of getting to the top is in the thousands. GB Rowing Team Performance Director, Sir David Tanner, in an interview with RowGlobal (Row Global interview with Sir David Tanner), bemoans the fact that many of our top junior rowers go to the US for their studies. Can you blame them when rowing in the UK costs so much?

For student rowers it appears that rowing will continue to be available only to those elites who can afford it on top of their student loans…





About rowinggeekdiaries

Head coach. Rowing parent. Occasional rower. Enough said. Views published here are very much my own.
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