The Scottish Rowing/GB Rowing Performance Development Academy is a UK-wide Talent ID programme that identifies, recruits, and develops athletes with no prior rowing experience but with enormous potential to be future Olympians!
The Performance Development Academy (previously World Class Start) was established in 2001 with funding from the National Lottery. It forms one of the most successful Olympic sport ‘talent ID’ programmes in Great Britain.
Who are we looking for? We are looking for females 5’10 and taller aged 14-22 years old, and males 6’2 and taller aged 14-20 (see above). You do not need any prior rowing experience; just the right frame and attitude to give rowing a go. The Performance Development Academy gives you the opportunity to push yourself to achieve more than you thought you could, expand your horizons, and develop into a high-performance athlete. Many graduates of our Performance Development Academies have gone on to win Olympic, World and European medals.
To apply please fill out our form.
Where is it? The Performance Development Academy is formally based at Strathclyde Park, this is where most scheduled training takes place, however, in some cases a satellite programme/athlete may be based elsewhere in Scotland.
How does it work? Succesful recruits will get to work directly with the SR Performance coaches to develop the attributes to become a successful international rower. They can expect regular direct coaching following a tried and tested syllabus of rowing skills. Athletes will form part of the larger Performance Development Academy programme (UK-wide) and are expected to attend the 6 Olympic Pathway Camps each season to have their sculling skills, boat speed, physical conditioning and fitness testing against other named athletes across the GB Rowing Performance Pathway, as well as the opportunity to row with similar athletes across the country and access to even more expert coaches and practitioners on the Performance Pathway.
Why is the Performance Development Academy such a good opportunity for people in Scotland? The Performance Development Academy provides the expertise and support of the GB Rowing Team directly into the Scottish club system and gives an opportunity for non-rowers to progress onto the Olympic pathway. Importantly, you don’t even need to have even rowed before to be accepted onto the programme – indeed, many of the successful graduates had never set foot in a rowing boat before joining.
What does the Performance Development Academy selection process involve? If you meet the initial criteria, then the Performance Development Academy team will be in touch to arrange further testing. This will involve some more anthropometric measurements to discover things like your height, weight, and arm-span, as well as a few more strength & endurance tests. We may also do a couple of rowing specific tests, to get a more specific view on a person’s strength & fitness. Once we have a potential athlete’s data, we review their attributes and provide feedback as to whether we think they are suitable to be taken into the programme. We are very selective with the athletes that we choose, but that doesn't mean that they can't take up rowing as part of another club in Scotland!
How long could it take these new rowers to reach a high level? We don’t like to set a time frame on developing Olympic athletes, but a rower with the right physical and mental characteristics could be competing internationally within a matter of years. Paris 2024 is now only one year away, so we’re really looking for people to represent Great Britain in 2028 and future Games.
Ideally what are you looking for in terms of physical attributes, mindset etc? We are looking for tall, strong and fit young people. Some will have done many different sports as a youngster, others not. One of the great things about rowing is that it’s very common to only start rowing quite ‘late’ – the simple nature of the sport means that you can master the skill in a relatively short space of time (that doesn’t mean it’s easy though!) It does also require some serious mental attributes too - you must be committed to training regularly and consistently and willing to work hard, both technically and physically to progress in the sport. If you are prepared to put in the work, we will support you to become the best rower you can.
What training do Performance Development Academy rowers do? Rowing is quite unique as it is a power endurance sport, so lots of our training looks like a traditional endurance sport with lots of long steady aerobic (fitness) training sessions, but we also must be strong and powerful, so we do lots of gym-based work too! When an athlete starts on the programme, we use their current fitness levels, age, and experience to design a training programme that is best suited for them to progress to the levels required. There's obviously lots of training on the water in the boat, where you will have to master the art of a single scull, as well as building fitness and developing an efficient technique. There is also a lot of gym work required, with sessions on rowing machines, strength training, core training, flexibility, mobility, and general cardiovascular training too.
I haven’t rowed before, how do I know if I’ll be good at it? Our screening and testing will only show us whether you have the potential to be an Olympian, but there’s many factor at play after that. Successful recruits will be taken onto ‘probation’ for a set number of months, this will allow the recruits themselves to decide whether the sport is for them, and for the coaches to evaluate the initial stages of development. Regular performance reviews are a key part of the programme – we want all athletes to feel supported in their journey and always striving to take their performance further!
What if I don’t meet the criteria or I’m not selected for the programme? Don’t worry! The Performance Development Academy is not the only way to get into rowing, or to develop into an international rower – there are many different avenues through the Performance Pathway. You can join your local, school or university club if you’re just looking to get rowing – you can see a list of SR clubs here:
We also have a number of other pathway programmes that can support athletes on their Performance Journey, such as:
For more information on the Performance Development Academy, please contact Tom Young, Lead Performance Pathway Coach email@example.com