Clare Reilly Goes Crew

Five time National Volleyball Champion takes on Collegiate Rowing


Susan Reilly

A photo of Clare Reilly

Last March, Clare Reilly, who is no stranger to the volleyball courts, was made aware of an email sent to her CrossFit coaches. Reilly had been scouted by The University of Texas at Austin for their rowing team. This came as a shock to the volleyball veteran of 6 years, having never even picked up a set of oars. It was then that her journey of overhand serves became one of many oars.

“I was contacted by a college coach really unexpectedly,” Reilly said. “It was kind of strange. They [said], ‘You’re tall and heavy, so we like you because that’s a benefit,’ and then I checked out Texas’ facilities… The community was really kind to me when I showed up and welcomed me, and I could see myself there and becoming the person I wanted to become. The environment was upbeat and everyone’s attitude was amazing – I felt very uplifted. So I decided to go try it out.”

Although UT was only one among several universities that scouted Reilly before she committed, the decision to give up volleyball was not an easy one, considering It had been a part of Reilly’s life for so long.

“It’s not that I wanted to quit volleyball. I really loved it,” Reilly said. “I loved the people there. They’re like my family, but I had an opportunity come up that I couldn’t overlook because it was just very out of the blue. Because of that, I felt like it was necessary for me to go and just take it.”

But Reilly was confident and ready once she officially committed, letting go of any worries despite the challenges that came along with a new sport.

“When I verbally committed, I was almost relieved. I loved getting to know different programs with rowing but I have to admit, it was kinda stressful because I didn’t know where I was going,” Reilly said.  “Of course, having an athletic background was very helpful. I also did CrossFit for training so I would consider myself fit, but at the same time, I wasn’t ‘rowing fit’ because that requires a lot more cardio. Having to build it for an endurance sport was really difficult. I think I’m still adapting, but making progress.”

Because she is new to rowing, her work ethic is looked at by new mentors. Reilly’s coach, Mike Rosman from Parati Competitive Rowing in The Woodlands, shares how he views Clare’s work and her decision to commit.

“[I have] only been coaching Clare since late last spring, but I have rarely seen an athlete with the drive and work ethic [that] Clare has,” Rosman said. “She takes initiative to go the extra mile in her training and is a joy to coach. Her sense of humor has been a great addition to our team. In addition to focusing on her own training, she is a team player, willing to do anything I ask of her and is always open to constructive feedback. [She is] an exceptional athlete and person.”

Reilly’s mother, Susan Reilly, agrees with this statement. She believes that “rowing speaks to her [daughter’s] soul,” as she speaks on her self motivation and how proud she is of Clare for stepping out of her comfort zone and into a new path.

“She is a goal driven person who works very hard for everything that she has achieved athletically and academically,” Susan said. “It’s inspiring [to watch my daughter start this new sport]. The day Parati Competitive Rowing invited her to get in the boat and give it a try, she was hooked.  It is so different from volleyball, which is loud, fast-paced and requires split-second decisions. Rowing is rhythmic, quiet and requires great strength and stamina.”

Along with the support from her family and coaches, Reilly still experiences surprise when thinking about the fact that she is scholarship eligible.

“It was so unexpected,” Clare said. “I admit [that] I completely underestimated the difficulty of the sport, so I was slightly frustrated at first, but making progress feels so satisfying. Just improving was so exciting for me the first time I rowed.”

Rosman is thankful towards Clare’s desire to keep improving.

“Clare came to rowing late in her high school career, but she won’t let that hold her back,” Rosman said. “She will be an asset to any college program fortunate enough to have her, not only for her rowing but for her positive attitude and excellent example in all things. Clare should enjoy a lot of success this coming race season. I expect that to translate into a wonderful collegiate opportunity.”