A change to the 2013 NCAA rules will give the Mason women’s rowing team an advantage when it comes to the selection process for the championship tournament.

Like basketball, the selection of the top 16 teams to vie for the championship will no longer be determined solely by the committees.

Next year, conference champions will automatically secure a spot in the championships.

“The new rules will really help us on the recruiting front,” said head coach Geoff Dillard, who has been with the team for seven years. “If we get the right people here, we can have the chance to go to NCAA championships. Our goal this year is to be in the top three teams for the CAA. It’s an attainable and achievable goal, and would be a major success for us.”

The team rows home races, also known as regattas, at the Occoquan reservoir and occasionally travels to compete on the Potomac and in Philadelphia.

Regattas are scored similar to a swimming or track meet. Individual boats are given weighted scores based on their ranking.

Each boat, or shell, seats eight rowers. The added point total of the boats determines the team score.

“We can have one boat be really successful in a regatta, but if the other two boats aren’t, then we probably won’t go to the NCAA. It’s the same way with the championship,” Dillard said.

During Welcome Week, the team attempts to recruit walk-ons for their novice team to train and, eventually, compete on the official team. The majority of athletes on the official team are walk-ons with no scholarship incentive.

“The girls on our team, they’re doing it for the right reasons,” Dillard said. “Most of the girls are not on scholarship, they’re doing it because they love to do it, because they’re motivated and want to be successful.”

Dillard cites the team’s limited resources for scholarships a weakness in their conference.

“We don’t use it as an excuse, we just work harder,” Dillard said.

The typical rower is tall and athletic. The longer your arms are, the longer your oar and stroke is.

However, natural build is not the only characteristic of a successful rower.

“We’re a racing sport. The bottom line is that the biggest thing we’re looking for is a competitive spirit,” Dillard said.

Many rowers, including Dillard and assistant coach Laura Mikels, don’t pick up the sport until college.

“Rowing is unique in that it gives college students a chance to try a sport for the first time and be successful at it,” Dillard said. “Once you learn the basic motion and how to repeat it, your success comes down to your work ethic.”

There are many misconceptions about rowing as a sport, which Dillard says most rowers find amusing.

“It’s common that people don’t know much about our sport,” Dillard said. “We’re not insulted.”

A usual misconception about rowing is that it is primarily an arm sport.

While the rowers look like they generate power from their upper bodies, 85 percent of the power actually comes from the legs.

“One common thing that we see is people who get on the rowing machine in the gym and do it all wrong,” said Dillard.

The machine, called an erg, helps rowers perfect their form and strengthen key leg muscles.

At the CAA Championships on April 29, Dillard and his team will christen a new boat in honor of President Alan Merten and his wife, Sally.

“Having a boat named after you is the highest honor in the rowing world,” Dillard said. “And we’d like to honor the Mertens for supporting our program.”