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First session – the “Learn-to-Row”

  • First session – the “Learn-to-Row”

    Posted by Bruce on September 14, 2023 at 7:03 pm

    I am glad this session was recorded, as I was not able to join directly at the time (had a work-related emergency that popped up at the same time), but enjoyed the conversation immensely.

    I do not coach at my masters’ rowing club; I’ve been a sweep rower for 2 seasons and am currently in the middle of my second season as a sculler. Rather, I coach for a high school (I’m actually the head coach, varsity men’s and women’s coach, novice coach, etc., etc.). The school had a reasonably good-sized program prior to the COVID outbreak, but that collapsed. When I was hired, I had two students; their previous season’s regatta had been a “Erg during a Zoom video” race, so my introduction to them (and vice versa) was their first time actually rowing on the water! We elected to emphasize sculling, as I had another school’s coach lend me a pair of singles to train and race in. My school’s boats, especially the 8+ remained on the trailer.

    This season, I had 7 student-rowers and we continued to work in the sculling domain. I have a very nice Wintech 4X from 2009 and a couple of Wintech 2X’s from 2005, plus a very old single that was given to me by that other high school coach.

    The organization that manages and supports all high school crew programs in the county sponsors summer and fall learn-to-row camps. With 2 seasons of coaching under my belt, I was offered a job to coach the learn-to-row sweep classes. We recently also began to offer learn-to-scull programs for middle schoolers (6th, 7th, and 8th grade – roughly ages 11 through 14). Most of the larger high school programs, however, specialize in sweep — it’s easy for these schools who have 40+ kids on their crew teams to get a bunch of 8+’s loaded up. So, the program I coach feeds those schools directly.

    In my first fall session teaching sweep, the president of the org asked me if I felt good enough about the kids to field a team for a regatta; if so, he said he would pay all the fees and sponsor the team. I had 2 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 6 weeks, but I said I would do it. I found 9 kids – 8 rowers and a coxswain – who I felt had acquired sufficient skill to row a 5K head race. The oldest kid was 16; average age in the boat was 14. The young lady who volunteered to be the coxswain turned out to be a “natural” – I taught her the course, the bends in the river, how to get the rowers to help with steering and staying close to the best line through the curves and around the buoys. They did great, handing in a very respectable 28 minutes and change time for the 5K.

    Our masters’ club offers a learn-to-row camp — 3 weeks, 3 days per week, and it’s all in 8+ sweeps. People who do the camp get a nice discount on club membership fees if they elect to join the club afterwards. We have 105 members this year; 29 people who did the camp elected not to join, but we still grew total membership by another 20 or so.

    In the meantime, the sculling subset of the club has one coach and a cap of 12 rowers. I’ve been told there are a dozen on the “wait list” for sculling, but we just don’t have the coaching resources to support them. As I row and want to continue my own practice, I offered to be an assistant coach, but only if we could move the practice sessions for sculling to other days, so I would not lose my time actually rowing. Club leadership responded with a resounding “No!” as they did not want to see the club’s components fragment any further. The club is very sweep-intensive, and leadership already see sculling as a separate entity that requires more energy to manage.

    We field 2 men’s racing teams (8+’s), 2 women’s racing teams (usually an 8+ and a 4+), 3 intermediate boats and 2 novice boats (8+’s) during the typical practice session. Over on the sculling side, we had enough rowers to put an octuple (8-sculling plus a coxswain) in the water for our half-marathon last weekend. Usually, though, we will put out a 4x, a 2x, and a few singles. The coach gives out general instructions for what’s to be accomplished that session, and then we go off and row while she motors around trying to “herd cats” while still giving adequate feedback to each.

    So, future topic: How does someone who wants to row and row well (good enough to do our head race schedule) also help out from a coaching perspective? Or, to flip that, how does someone who coaches manage to wedge in enough time to keep improving their own rowing?

    PS – I’m sure there will be more of the people who were on the first zoom call joining in soon. Right now, it’s just Rebecca and me!

    Rebecca replied 10 months, 1 week ago 2 Members · 1 Reply
  • 1 Reply
  • Rebecca

    Organizer
    September 14, 2023 at 10:37 pm

    Bruce thanks for your suggestions for future group discussions.

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