2016 WCR-B Handbook

WCR-B Logo




Welcome!  We hope that this handbook will answer many of your questions about participating in WeCanRow-Boston’s rowing program.  If you have additional questions, PLEASE ASK

WeCanRow-Boston, Inc. is a wellness and recovery program for women who have been treated for breast cancer. Founded in 2002, by Olympic gold medalist Holly Metcalf, WeCanRow-Boston is the original WeCanRow program, which now has affiliates around the country.  In 2010 WCR-B was invited by Stacey Rippetoe, newly hired as the Head Coach of Women’s Rowing at Boston University, to make its home at BU.  WCR-B currently rows out of DeWolfe Boathouse, on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, and in the winter uses the tanks at the BU athletic center.  We are extremely fortunate in and greatly appreciative of our relationship with BU, Stacey, and all her staff and rowers.

WeCanRow is specifically designed to allow women treated for breast cancer to reorient themselves with their bodies. Our membership is diverse, including women ranging from their 30’s to their 70s, and from many walks of life, most of whom never rowed before joining WCR-B.  For all our members rowing helps re-build physical strength and mental focus, renew self-image, and develop the bond of teamwork with women who have had similar cancer experiences.



  1. Getting Started
  2. Tuesday Nights
  3. At the Boathouse
  4. On the Water
  5. Making WCR-B Work
  6. WCR-B Calendar
  7. The Greater World of Rowing 

1. Getting Started

Physical Readiness –    All women who have been treated for breast cancer are welcome at WCR-B regardless of their athletic experience or current physical fitness.  Rowing is, however, a strenuous physical sport, so for the safety of each rower as well as of those around her all participants must be screened by a physician prior to beginning the WCR-B program.  You should address any questions or concerns about your participation with your physician.  

Swim Skills – WCR-B requires each new member to provide evidence that she has passed a simple swim test.  This can be administered at any YMCA or similar athletic facility with a pool.  If you are not confident about your ability to cope with being in the water after an accident, please talk with the coach.

Paperwork – Check our website (www.wecanrowboston.org) for most updated WCR-B forms, including the Medical Consent form and Swim Test certificate, and links to USRowing Waivers.

Buddies –  Each new member of WCR-B is paired with a veteran member as her buddy, to help her navigate learning to row and getting involved in the group.  There is no question too small or silly to ask a buddy!

Meet the Tanks – New members are invited to a Tuesday night practice in the BU tanks in late February or March to meet each other, veteran members, and the coaches.  They will also learn some rowing basics and be able to row in the tanks.

Learn to Row – New members gather with veteran members at DeWolfe Boathouse on a Sunday in May for their first session on the water.  They will row in a stable practice barge, and review safety rules and procedures, with plenty of time to ask questions.

  1. Tuesday Nights

Attendance/Doodles – Rowing is a uniquely team sport, since an empty seat means a less than satisfactory row for everyone else in the boat.  The coaches spend large amounts of time planning lineups based not only on who can row on each side, but also on considerations such as rowers’ relative strength, experience, and rowing style.  If someone drops out at the last minute, the coaches typically have to reconsider all the seating assignments they worked so hard to arrange.

Rowing is not a drop-in sport, like a spin or yoga class.  It takes being there to learn and practice the stroke, and how to blend what you are doing with the other rowers in the boat.  WCR-B therefore encourages consistent attendance at practice while acknowledging, however, that everyone has other responsibilities which can sometimes pre-empt Tuesday night practice.  A link to an attendance Doodle will be circulated for each month during the season so members can indicate which weeks they will be able to be at practice, and which weeks not.  The coaches circulate each Sunday a list of the people signed up for the following Tuesday.  If you are on that list and subsequently find that you will not be able to be at practice, please notify the coaches as soon as possible, which will help minimize last-minute line-up changes for the coaches and avoid delays in getting on the water.

What to wear/bring to practice – Clothing should be comfortable for exercising, and fit close to the body (so it won’t get caught in the seat/slide).  Footwear should have rubber bottoms to reduce slipping on the dock.  Weather conditions can feel very different on the river than on land, so dressing in layers is useful, and avoid cotton clothing. We row rain or shine, so be prepared.  You should always bring a water bottle, and if it’s raining you will want dry clothes to change into after practice.

Schedule for Tuesday night practices – We have limited time together on the water, so it’s important to stay on schedule to the extent possible.

5:45 – Warm up on the rowing machine and stretch with a partner or individually.  Captains of the Week (COWs) are expected to get oars out, pump out the barge, if necessary, and put the seats in, and make sure everyone is warming up and stretching.

6:05 – Lineups closed and coaches’ overview of practice.  If you are not there and have not reached out to the coaches via phone/email/text  to confirm your attendance, coaches will assume you won’t be coming.  If you arrive after lineups have closed, you are welcome to take any open seat or ride in the launch.

6:20 – Hands on boats.
6:30 – Shove off.
7:30 – Off the water, boats away, stretching and announcements
7:50 – Leave Boathouse

Tuesday night meal – After Tuesday night practices some members go out to eat together at the Towne Diner in Watertown. All are welcome!

  1. At the Boathouse

Safety – Rowers’ safety is of top priority, and WCR-B has a written safety policy.  At Learn to Row newbies will watch the USRowing safety video together, with a chance to ask questions, and review the WCR-B safety policy.  Veteran members are encouraged to go over the policy and to review the video every spring before getting back on the water.

Most injuries happen on the dock or lifting boats.  If you are unsure whether you should be lifting the boat or not due to your personal restrictions, talk to Nancy Roberge, our physical therapist, or one of the coaches.  Use proper lifting technique when handling the boats – lift with your quads, not your back.

Role of the coxes – The cox (short for coxswain) provides the eyes, ears and steering for the shell. When it’s time to take a shell off the rack and out of the boathouse to the water, the cox will call “hands on!” and from that point on it is the cox who will give the rowers their instructions.

Rules/etiquette –  We are extremely privileged to have access to the DeWolfe Boathouse, a Division 1 facility, and the women’s team equipment.

  • If there is a BU team in the boathouse receiving coaching, respect the practice.  No chit chat/noise until they have completed their workout or meeting.
  • Treat the equipment and facilities with respect.  Boats are fragile and can be damaged without proper handling.
  • No running on the dock.  
  • Listen to instructions from the cox (especially when carrying a boat) and coaches.  
  • Those who are able should help to carry the boats, even if they are not rowing in them.  
  • Non-boat carriers help with oars and barge seats.  
  • Be quick on the dock – other boats may be launching/landing and waiting for us.
  • Avoid chit-chat on the dock and pay attention to what is going on around you; be particularly mindful when you are carrying oars.
  • “Heads-Up!”  If you hear this, it means a boat is coming through and may thwack you in the head if you are not paying attention.  Look around you right away, and move accordingly.
  • Help wipe the boat down once it has been replaced on the rack at the end of practice.
  • Keep the dock clear of obstacles especially where they might create a hazard for others carrying boats.  
  • After using an erg, wipe down the handles and seat.
  • WCR-B has a locker in the BU Women’s locker room, in which we can lock up valuables during practice.  WeCanRowers are also welcome to use any unused locker during practice.
  1. On the Water


  • Rowing requires concentration, so keep talking in the boat to a minimum.  
  • Pay attention to the cox’s commands.
  • If you have a question for the coach do ask, but please save it for when the boat is stopped, or you are back on the dock.
  • Pay attention to the coach’s comments and feedback even if you don’t think they are specifically addressed to you.

Rowing vocabulary – Rowing has its own specialized terms and expressions for parts of the boat, coaching instructions, and commands from the cox.  As with any unfamiliar vocabulary, this will likely be confusing for a while.  There is some variation in terms among crews from different parts of the US and from different countries, but these lists compiled by USRowing and by Concept2 are a good place to start.



  1. Making WCR-B Work

Dues – WCR-B is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation supported through member dues and fundraising.  New members may participate at no cost for their first season on the water.  Thereafter, separate fees apply for a season on the water and, for those who wish to row in the winter, a season in the tanks.  Ability to pay, however, should never be an obstacle for someone who wants to join WCR-B.  Sliding scale dues, and/or an individualized payment plan, can be arranged; requests should be submitted to the Treasurer, and will remain confidential.

Volunteering – WCR-B is a member-run organization, and all active members are expected to contribute non-monetarily in some way off the water.  There are many ways to do this:

  • Serving on the Board, a group of between 5 and 9 people elected by the general members
  • Serving as an officer – President, VP/President-elect, Secretary and Treasurer
  • Working on one or more committees, which typically include nominating, social, and fund-raising, and others that may be established from time to time
  • Working on WCR-B events other than practice, such as Learn to Row, fund-raising, or the Scarlet and Blue Row
  • Acting as Coach of the Week (COW),  to set up for practice, lead warm-ups and warm-downs, and keep everyone on schedule
  • Maintaining the WCR-B website, Facebook page and other digital media

In addition to participating in WCR-B activities, members often volunteer to help other organizations involved with rowing or with support of those affected by breast cancer, such as the PanMass Challenge; Head of the Charles; Score for a Cure; G-Row Boston; and the BU women’s crew program.

  1. WCR-B Calendar
  • Jan/Feb – Grace, Grit & Glory dinner (G-Row Boston)
  • Feb/March – Meet the Tanks
  • March – Score for a Cure tournament
  • April – Member meeting
  • April – First day on the water for veterans
  • May – Learn to Row
  • May or September – Scarlet and Blue Row (rowing with the BU women)
  • August – PanMass Challenge
  • July/August – Summer party
  • Sept – Annual Women’s Row (held at CRI; open to all women)
  • Oct – Head of the Charles Regatta
  • Oct/Nov – WCR-B Annual dinner, member meeting and auction
  • Nov-March – Winter tanks      
  1. The Greater World of Rowing

Boston is known throughout the world as one of the foremost cities for rowing, and we have many opportunities to watch elite rowers.  Olympic athletes train on our very own Charles River and we are fortunate to row on the same waters (and at times, to see them rowing past us).  Boston University and other colleges and universities with a boathouse on the river host regattas in the spring and fall.  

For those who are interested, there are opportunities to do more rowing beyond Tuesday night practices, such as:

  • Community Rowing, Inc., Brighton, MA – classes for all levels of sweeps and sculling during the outdoor season; erging and fitness classes designed for rowers during the winter
  • Winter tank sessions organized by Diane Cotting, held at Simmons College in Boston
  • Practices that may be arranged by members from time to time such as the Thursday night row out of MIT, coached by Holly Metcalf
  • Craftsbury (VT) Outdoor Center – sculling camps
  • Avalon Rowing Club – Virtual rowing team organized by former WCR-B coach Sally O’Connor.  Rowing clinics and racing opportunities. 

Other WCR organizations

Helpful and/or interesting links

Rowing-related reading