NEIRA Sportsmanship Guidelines


There are endless opportunities for us as coaches to teach values and morals to the future generations. What we teach them on the water through endless hours and thousands of strokes will stay with them longer than any single win. When many of us as coaches feel the pressure to win or base their self value on the results of teenagers in boats then it is time to get a better perspective on life. Remember we are educators first and coaches second and one should never miss an opportunity to teach. When the pictures fade and the medals dull in color and get put away in drawers, it will be what you stood for as a coach and a mentor that will be remembered and respected by your athletes not their win- loss record.


            Two of the distinctive aspects of the sport of rowing are its "pure" or "amateur" status and the fact that athletes generally come to our sport much later than to others, and thus are less encumbered with parental investment. We are often the first models our athletes have for how to approach rowing; a healthy balance of passion and good humor; a value placed on honest effort, honestly evaluated;  a high regard for all who row—regardless of for whom; an appreciation for the fairness of our competitions.


Because of the shortness of our seasons and because high school age kids improve quickly, but at differing rates, a coach must look at her/his boats every week to evaluate whether they are still ordered according to the proper speeds.  It may very well be that when the boats were set on week two of the season the third boat was slower than the second boat.  But after another two weeks, this will very likely change.  The coach’s responsibility is to make sure that the boats are ordered correctly every week, including the final week for the NEIRA regatta.


In order to make sure that the racing at the NEIRA regatta and throughout the season is fair and competitive, the following principles of sportsmanship should be followed by all schools:


1.  A coach’s responsibility is to make sure that the 1st boat is the school’s fastest possible boat, that the 2nd boat is the second fastest boat, 3rd boat is the third fastest boat, etc.  Boatings should always be made based with an eye toward making the higher level boat as fast as possible.

            The following is an attempt to list some boating methods that may make racing unfair and are therefore NOT acceptable.  These examples could lead to unfair boatings:

Ø      Boats based simply on the year the rowers are in the school.  i.e. a senior boat or a freshman boat. 

Ø      Crews based simply on body types.  i.e., a boat of people who are all short, tall, etc.

Ø      Boating a crew simply because of its ability to attend races.  For example, if a competitor will need to miss a race because of a wedding, dance, or graduation, she/he should still be included in the crew where she/he belongs in subsequent races.  It is not fair to one’s competitors to put a first boat rower into the second boat because she/he missed one race if that move means that on race day, the second boat will be a faster crew.

Ø      Experience – our league does not include “novice” boats as a separate category.  If a fourth boat of beginners is faster than a third boat of experienced kids, it is the coach’s responsibility to make changes that would insure that the third boat is faster than the fourth, regardless of the level of experience.  Note: it is not necessary to move the whole boat up.  Indeed, often it may only be a few of the rowers who need to move up to insure that the higher boat is the faster boat.


On occasion using some of the above methods to boat crews may result in the correct speed of boats.  That, of course, is fine.  There is no problem to having an all senior second boat, as long as the first boat is faster and the third boat is slower.  The problem arises when week after week during the season, a lower level boat outperforms a higher boat.  It is the coach’s responsibility to make changes to try to have that program conform with the principle that the 1st boat is a school’s fastest, and the 2nd boat is the second fastest that the school can possibly put on the water, and on down the line.  In cases where the coaches simply cannot figure out who makes a boat fastest, they must at least show good faith by trying out new combinations in races each week.

            The lineups that we submit for the NEIRA program are not final.  More important than having the names appear correctly in the program is to make sure that the boats from each school are the appropriate speed.


It is important to remember that a coach’s obligation is to provide for fair racing.


Conduct of Athletes

            Competitors should treat each other with respect.  It is important that kids learn to compete vigorously and fairly.  It is inappropriate for them to badmouth their rivals.

            On the water we should not indulge in gamesmanship.  Deliberate false starts, snickering at a crew that is having trouble getting aligned, and yelling at the other crew are not acceptable behaviors. 

            After the races, if shirt bets have been agreed upon, the losing crew should find the winning crew and give up their shirts.  If no shirt bet has been made, it is still a good idea for the losing crew to go over and shake hands with the winners.  Athletes should be encouraged to spend a few moments talking with each other.  Winning crews should be respectful of their opponents.



Conduct in the Launch

            Our races have at least one launch that follows the race.  It will contain the starter/race official, who in many cases during the season will be the coach of the home program.  That launch needs to be under control at all times, never waking the racing crews or getting so close to the racing boats that they may feel threatened.

            It is also very important for sportsmanship reasons and so that the crews can hear any direction that the race official may need to give to them that there be no noise from the launches that follow the race. 

Frequently there is a second or a third launch containing assistant coaches and spectators.  These other launches must be behind the Official’s launch.  Spectators may not use their privileged position in launches to cheer for the crews.  The launch driver should make sure that all people on board understand that shouting from a launch is a serious lapse of sportsmanship.

            No coach should shout at his/her crew or at any opponent.

            Launches should always make sure when returning from the finish line that they come to a dead stop when passing other crews.  If they must pass through the starting zone, they must make sure that they do not wake crews racing or lining up to race.

            There is a procedure for expressing displeasure with the way a race has been conducted: a crew may protest the race to the official on the water.  A coach may also protest to the race official.  It is not appropriate to go beyond that, to badmouth the official or the other crew.



Spectators should be reminded that sportsmanship requires that they cheer for their own crew but do not jeer an opponent.  Although our races are often held in public places, we should all try to follow host/guest etiquette.