Strokes Provides Alternative to Campus Sports


Junior Julia Giovanni rows with her Oakland Strokes team.

Nikki Honda, Sports Editor

Campolindo is known for its athletic program. The campus boasts a state championship cross country squad, an NCS championship baseball program, and playoff contenders in volleyball, basketball and soccer. Yet some of the best athletes on campus may not wear the Cougar red and blue when they compete.

For instance, Junior Julia Giovanni completes for the Oakland Strokes year-round crew program.

Two years ago, before the start of her high school career, Giovanni suffered a severe concussion.  As a result, she wasn’t able to participate in some of the more traditional high school athletic programs.

“I couldn’t play soccer anymore and my cousins rowed so they told me to try it,” she said.

Giovanni said rowing is a good alternative to soccer because she is not as likely to experience head trauma. “It’s less likely to have a head injury because it’s not a contact sport,” she explained. However, there are still risks, including back injuries, sprained ankles, injured wrists, and knee problems.

Giovanni’s rowing teammate Sophomore Maddy Young entered the sport when her mother heard about the program and suggested she try it in 6th grade. Young said her favorite thing about being a part of the crew team is the people. “It’s like one big family,” she explained.

According to Young, the program divides athletes into categories by gender and levels of experience. Within each category there are a variety of different boats each person can row. There are “eights” in which 8 individuals row together, “fours” and “quads” each with 4 individuals, “doubles” and “pairs” each with 2 individuals, and “singles” where 1 person rows alone. Eights, fours, and doubles all row using a technique called sweeping, in which each rower uses 1 oar. Quads and pairs use a different technique called skulling in which each rower uses 2 oars.

A typical week for Giovanni on the novice team usually follows a consistent schedule. On Monday they use a land workout that includes “really hard cardio, a lot of erging on the erg machines, a lot of running and weight lifting,” she said.

Erging is simulating the action of rowing for the purpose of training. On Tuesdays, Giovanni and her team go out on the water. Thursdays they have another land workout, and Fridays they do more rowing on the water. Her team does both a land and water workout on Saturdays.

A typical week for Young differs in that she is a coxon and not a rower.

Young does not row on the water or erg on the machines, but instead records her teammates’ training activities. In addition, Young participates in circuits and weight training. Her team is similar to Giovanni’s in that they alternate water and land workouts each day.

According to Young, being a coxon can be difficult. “A coxon is more like a 2nd coach because you’re leading the whole practice for whichever boat you’re in,” she said.

“They’re like motivators. They try to get you pumped up when you’re tired, they steer the boat, and they make sure you don’t crash,” said Giovanni of Young’s role.

According to Giovanni, her team races most of the same teams at each regatta. Opposing teams include Newport and Long Beach.

Giovanni and Young’s teammates come from a range of locations, including Castro Valley, San Ramon, Danville, Alameda, San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. “Some people drive an hour and a half to practice every day,” said Giovanni.

Young enjoys the fact that it is not a school sport and likes to meet a “diverse group of people.”

Both Young and Giovanni are uncertain whether they want to pursue crew at college. Giovanni thinks she might but is concerned about the level of commitment. “I’m not sure if I want to commit my entire college career to that, but I’ll definitely consider it,” she said.

According to Young Oakland Strokes is open to freshmen and older. The Oakland Strokes practice at the Oakland Estuary and share the estuary with the Berkeley High rowing team and Artemis Rowing.

According to the Oakland Strokes website the program was formed in 1974 with the goal of building character and commitment among rowers. Many of their teams qualify and place at Regionals, National, and World Championships on a regular basis.