A Proud Tradition

Crew — A proud tradition at Washington-Lee High School since 1949

Washington-Lee is one of the most successful and long-running crew programs in the country, rowing from the beginning out of the historic Potomac Boat Club in Georgetown.  In 1949, the first year of existence under legendary Coach Charlie Butt, the Washington-Lee crew team won the two major rowing championships, the prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia and the Scholastic Nationals. In the 1950s and 1960s, Washington-Lee men’s crew was one of the dominant  programs in the country.

They earned national headlines for winning the Royal Henley Regatta in England in 1964 (the first year American schools participated) and 1969 and competed there most recently in 1989. In addition, they were the National Champions 12 times between 1949 and 1987. In 1965, the greatest single day in the Washington-Lee rowing history occurred when the boys won every sweep race at the Stotesbury Regatta in Philadelphia. More recently, the lightweight men were undefeated in their 2004 season, taking the Stotesbury Cup from long-reigning champions St. Joseph’s Prep.  In 2005 the lightweight men were National Champions.

In 1975, Washington-Lee’s proud crew tradition was expanded when with the establishment of the the Washington-Lee Women’s Crew Team The first coach was Tom Chisnell, a Washington-Lee alumni who rowed on the 1969 Henley championship boat.  The women’s team has been a strong program over the years.  From 1984 through 1986, their lightweight eight was nearly unbeatable and won consecutive National Championships.  In 1987, the junior eight took second place at Stotesbury and won the National Championship. In 2000, the girls’ midweight eight won third place in the Scholastic Rowing Association Nationals.

Perhaps even more impressive, Washington-Lee Crew has selflessly shared its rowing expertise with other Arlington and Washington area schools. Washington-Lee’s assistance has been instrumental in helping Yorktown, Wakefield and many other area schools begin their rowing programs.

Requirements for Participation in W-L Crew

Dues  Each rower and coxswain pays dues. The dues is determined by the Boosters Executive Board.  Dues must be paid by no later than the Season Kickoff  Dinner in February. Athletes are not allowed on the water until dues are paid.

Dues waivers or scholarships can be granted for financial need. If a scholarship is requested, then parents must contact the Booster President.  Again, no rower will be allowed on the water until dues have been paid, or a partial or full scholarship has been arranged.

Checks should be made payable to W-L Crew Boosters, Inc. and can be mailed to the Crew Booster Treasurer.  Full payment of dues is a critical component of our obligation to the crew program.

Fundraising – Crew is an expensive sport! Each returning rower has a fundraising obligation of $950. Novice rowers have a fundraising obligation of $500. All rowers must meet their fundraising commitments – there are no scholarships for fundraising credits. Fundraising requires only time and effort by students. If a rower does not meet his or her fund raising obligation, parents will be required to pay for the shortfall. No athlete will be allowed to participate in regattas unless all fund raising requirements have been met.  Fundraising activities include Mulch sales, Wreath sales,  Friend and Family Appeal, an Alumni Appeal, and summer car washes. Most of the fundraisers are organized by the parents.

Spring Break – Crew practices daily during spring break!

Swim Tests – The test consists of 3 laps of the W-L pool using any stroke with no time limit but the swim must be completed without stopping, and a 1 minute treading water. The swim test is done in full sweats. Rowers must pass a swim test in order to participate in the program. Rowers are required to pass the test only as novices.

Travel – Most years some members of W-L Crew travel to Philadelphia for the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and stay two nights.  Some years members also compete in the SRAA “Nationals.”

Regatta at a location in the Eastern half of the country.  Out-of-town regattas require additional expenses for each rower’s travel.

Uniforms – Rowers purchase their uniforms, or “unisuit.” (the only required clothing purchase).

Volunteering – Parents/guardians are required to volunteer to help out at local regattas. Volunteer sign-up will be set out at the February Season Kick-Off Dinner and throughout the season. Advanced training will be provided for some regatta volunteer positions. Most volunteer positions do not require special training, are fun, and help you to learn more about rowing.  If you should have questions about how parents/guardians can be involved in and support crew, contact any of the Crew Booster Executive Board members at any time. Names and contact information are on this web site.

Rowing Clothing Basics

This provides an overview of the clothing needed for rowing. It is important that you dress appropriately for safety, performance, and health, especially during the colder and wetter weather in February, March and early April.


The best clothing for rowing is soft, stretchy, breathable, and fairly form fitting. Loose shorts can get caught in the slides under the moving seats, so avoid basketball style shorts or warm-ups. Loose tops can get caught in the oar handles, so avoid bulky jackets or sweatshirts.  In general, you should dress as though you are going running in the elements, or Nordic skiing.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics such as Polypro, Cool Max, Under Armor and similar fabrics are best because they keep you relatively warm even when wet and they dry quickly. You will get wet from perspiration, rain, and splash. The key is that they have synthetic clothing that will keep you warm even when wet.


Layering is important for keeping warm, and maintaining the right temperature. Your needs will change during a practice depending on exertion and changing conditions. Having the appropriate layers enables you to regulate your insulation and protection. Sometimes a rower may mix 2 out of 3 layers, depending on conditions.

1. Base layer: Form fitting and intended to wick moisture away from the skin. A long-sleeve Under Armor or similar brand is ideal.  These garments are thin, and similar to base layer garments worn when skiing. Multiple base layers can be worn for added warmth. On colder days, rowers may want to wear tights for leg warmth.

2. Insulation layer: A synthetic fleece garment worn on colder days where extra insulation is needed. Thicker than the base layer, but not bulky. Polartec or Polarfleece clothing products fall within this category. Some insulation layer fabrics also have wind protection built in.

3. Wind block and Waterproof Clothing: Having a wind block that breathes helps retain warmth while not getting too hot. Base and insulation layers are generally not designed to block the wind. A Gore-Tex Jacket (many members of the team have already purchased this) is designed for this purpose while also being form fitting so that it does not interfere with the oars, and has ventilation panels on the sides for breathing. Other wind blocking clothing can be worn, but ensure that it breathes and is form fitting.

Waterproof clothing is not required for rowing. If you do purchase waterproof clothing, ensure that it is highly breathable. Really waterproof clothing tends not to breathe as well, increasing body heat and sweating, and then holding the perspiration within the clothing instead of letting it evaporate. This can result in you getting too hot, taking off the waterproof clothing, and then getting really chilled.


All rowers will wear the W-L unisuit during their race.  Practice unisuits may also be purchased.



You can lose a lot of body heat through your head. On cold days, it is REQUIRED that your rower wears a stocking hat to keep warm.


Make sure to dress in layers as described above.  Check the forecast; if the forcast is calling for rain, pack extra layers your rower can change into after they get off the water.


Hands can get cold while rowing. However, rowers do not wear gloves. The reason for this is that rowing requires a tactile feel of the handle. You can bring gloves onto the water to wear when they are not actually rowing, or you can put your hands under their armpits to keep them warm.


Please do not wear basketball shorts on the water!  These shorts will get caught in the tracks of the seat and disrupt practice.  On cold days, rowers can wear long tights.  On warmer day, short tights are needed.


Socks should be synthetic or wool to help ensure that feet stay warm while wet. Rowers should always have second pair on land.


Rowers should always wear athletic shoes.  Non-athletic shoes are not acceptable for the physical activities including in practice such as running, erg workouts, stairs, and weightlifting.


No Cotton

You should avoid cotton. Cotton does not keep you warm when it gets wet; instead, it makes you colder. Cotton should not be used as the base layer, because it does not wick moisture away from the skin.

No Down

Down should never be worn on the water.  When down gets wet, it will clump, get very heavy, and will not keep your rower warm.


Dry Clothes on Land

On rainy days, all W-L rowers should have dry clothes to change into when they get back on land.

Label your clothing

Please label all of your rower’s clothing.  This will make it clear who it belongs to, and reduce the chance that you will lose your clothing at the boathouse or regattas.  Every year the coaches fill their trunks with unidentified articles of clothing which end up with Goodwill.

Duffle Bag

It’s a good idea for your rower to have a duffle bag that they can bring to practice and store their clothing in.  If you can find one with a waterproof pouch, that will keep dry and wet clothes separate on the cold and rainy days.

General Guidance on Behavior of Rowers (Hazing)

Rowers are expected to conduct themselves maturely and demonstrate good behavior and good sportsmanship while participating in the W-L Crew program. The W-L Crew Boosters recognize that the crew team may engage in various activities “off the water” to boost team spirit. These activities, while not intended to be harmful to rowers, may have an adverse effect on the students involved, if as a result of peer pressure, the rowers do things that they would not otherwise do. Of particular concern is the potential for misuse of power or influence by upperclassmen over lower classmen, however subtle the influence. Such a dynamic can be considered hazing.

Hazing is defined as any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or which willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in Washington-Lee Crew. Virginia State law states that any student found guilty of hazing will be charged with a Class 1 felony. The Boosters understand the importance of building team spirit but do not endorse any activity that could be deemed hazing. Outside of coach-supervised practices and regattas, rowers are encouraged to participate in team-related activities but are not required to do so. Coaches, team captains, and parents will work together to inform rowers about appropriate activities, to help monitor these activities and to prevent any activity that might be considered hazing.
Approved 9/04

Student Driver Guidelines

While transportation is provided for regular practice, there are some situations in which transportation is not provided (spring break, off-season practice, fall crew with other programs, etc.). In these situations it is important for parents to know that their child may ask another student for a ride.

Parents of the potential passenger(s) and the parents of the driver(s) should be aware of and in compliance with the following guidelines:

The driver must have a valid license and insurance.

The driver must follow all Virginia driving laws, including passenger limits for drivers under the age of 18.


The safety of team members is of primary importance to all who are associated with the W-L High School Crew Program. It is important that all crew parents, team members, and the school administration understand the decision-making process involved in helping assure the safety of our team members.

Many factors are taken into consideration before making the decision to launch shells. These factors include the experience of the coaches and crew members, the height and speed of the river, wind speed and direction, amount of debris in the river, direction of tidal flow, the temperature of both air and water, and forecasted weather.

When small craft warnings (15-34 MPH winds) are posted for our area or river levels rise above normal stages, our coaches weigh carefully all the conditions listed above prior to deciding which shells to launch, if any.

A W-L Crew coach normally arrives at the boathouse prior to launch time to check weather and water conditions, and decides which shells will be launched. The coach listens to weather forecasts and talks with the other coaches.

Based upon all of the information available, the W-L Crew coaches make their decision concerning practice that day based on their assessment of the above conditions. All of our coaches are aware of the unpredictability of the weather and realize that weather conditions and the river must be respected.

In addition to the decision-making process described, other precautions exist in the area of safety. All shells have positive buoyancy (water tight compartments at the bow and stern) and the oars can be used as flotation devices. All launches (motor boats) are equipped with life preservers for all rowers and a megaphone for use by the coach, “space blankets” to protect rowers from the cold should they get wet, and radios or cellular telephones to contact other coaches, the boathouse and the Harbor Police.

A parent volunteer Dock Sitter is available at most practices to help if any emergency arises. Finally, all students who row crew pass a swimming test. Additional water safety training is offered at the beginning of each season. Each crew member is expected to comply with team rules and Potomac Boat Club rules to maintain safe and proper behavior at all times.

Should on-water assistance be required, the D.C. Marine Police have jurisdiction. Once they arrive, they have authority over coaches and rowers. If the Police deem it necessary, some, or all, of the rowers involved in an emergency situation could be sent to a hospital for a check-up. At this point, our coaches have no say in the police decision process.

The Washington-Lee Crew Boosters and school administration have confidence in the abilities of our coaches to operate safely on and about the water.

Washington-Lee Crew and the Boosters welcome contributions that will help us to purchase new boats. Equipment is by far the largest expense category of the team. Without outside contributions, it would be very difficult for W-L Crew to buy new boats.

As a gesture of appreciation for large contributions intended for boat purchases, W-L Crew and the Boosters will consider donors’ preferences for names to be given to the new boats. Most appropriate are names of individuals or groups strongly identified with W-L Crew or Washington-Lee High School. Examples include past W-L Crew coaches and former athletes, W-L High School teachers and administrators, former W-L Crew parents, and other supporters of W-L Crew. Group names are also appropriate, such as “Class of 1959” or “Henley 1969”. Names of companies and other organizations not directly related to W-L Crew or High School will also be considered, upon request of the donors. A boat will retain its name for as long as it is part of the W-L Crew inventory.

In general, boat naming rights will require a donation to the W-L Crew Boosters of at least two-thirds of the cost of the boat to be named. Final decisions on boat naming will be made by the W-L Crew Boosters Executive Board, in consultation with the coaches and donors.

 adopted by the Washington-Lee Crew Boosters Board of Directors, 28 August 2008

Handling Complaints By Rowers And Their Parents

If a rower and/or his parent have a concern or complaint with any of the coaching staff, he or she is encouraged to discuss the concern directly with the coach.

If the concern is not resolved with the coach, the parent is advised to take the issue to the next higher level of authority until the issue is satisfactorily resolved by all involved.

The order of authority for the W-L crew program is as follows: Head Coach, Activities Director, School Principal, the County Education Department and then, the School Board.

Any member of the coaching staff with a concern should follow the same procedure.

On occasion the Crew Boosters, through their President or other Board members, may be able to help resolve issues that arise among the team, coaches, and parents,  the Crew Boosters have no formal role in personnel matters involving coaches.

Pasta Party or Boat Dinners

Pasta Parties or Boat Dinners, while a team related activity, not an official event, have been a long standing tradition of W-L Crew. Their goal is to promote team spirit. On the evening of a regatta (or on the evening of travel to the regatta), members of one or several boats get together for a dinner. The host parent provides sauce, pasta, plates, cups, and utensils. The rowers bring all side dishes, bread, juice, and desserts. These evenings should not go late into the evening as a big day is ahead of each rower.

Each parent host will cook the pasta and sauce, but more importantly make sure that host home rules are not abused or the party does not get “out of hand.” Each parent host and rower is encouraged to read the section of “General Guidance on Behavior of Rowers” in this handbook.

The rowers organize the boat dinners. Hint: Girls have done a better job of this in the past. Here are some suggested guidelines:

Captains and coxswains should start the organization process.

  1. Decide who will host the dinner, rowers to ask permission of parents early in the week.
  2. Assign who will bring what side dishes, such as salad, veggies, bread, juice, desserts.
  3. Host family to give out directions, time, phone number, to each member of the boat
  4. Have fun. Boat dinners are a great opportunity for both parents and athletes to get to know teammates better.