BY BILL MANNING
PHOTO BY ED MORAN
USRowing provides excellent coaching education with their Level 1, 2, and 3 programs. These are highly recommended for any coach looking to improve. That said, a few simple but essential traits of experienced, successful coaches don’t get discussed. Some are mundane, some are more nuanced, but all are important. So, in the spirit of David Letterman, here are my Top 10 things rowing coaches should always do:
1. Be clear on your practice time. Is the time “in house,” “hands on,” or “launch”? Regardless of how you define the start of practice, as the coach you should arrive earlier. Be there when the athletes turn up.
2. Check the rigging if the equipment hasn’t been used in a long time and/or has been shared. This may require only eyeballing the spreads, heights, and pitches and looking the shell over, but doing so can save a practice from being wasted.
3. If in doubt, use the restroom one last time before getting into the coaching launch. Do this or learn the hard way and never fail to do this again.
4. Check the gas before launching. Just pick up the tank or open it up and look inside. Assuming there is enough gas invites trouble.
5. Leave valuables (car keys, purse/wallet) securely on shore if possible. Nothing, absolutely nothing, good can occur when you bring your car keys on the water. If you must do so, then zip them into a pocket or clip them to the launch with a carabiner.
6. Be positive and honest around the athletes. The truth isn’t a problem if it’s delivered in a caring manner. Give twice as many compliments as criticisms.
7. When assessing comprehension, ask with genuine inquisitiveness, “Do you understand?” Be patient and allow the athletes time to respond. If you don’t seem sincere, they won’t provide feedback.
8. Praise in public and reprimand in private. Individual praise given publicly builds the athlete up and generates cooperation and goodwill. Singling out one person negatively in front of others does the opposite and can seriously damage the coach’s relationship with the athlete for a long time.
9. Try to speak the athlete’s name before giving instruction. This captures attention. It’s tough, but far more effective. We can do it with our dogs, so we can train ourselves to do it with our athletes.
10. Remember that the team needs more athletes than there are seats to race. However much you may want to focus on the more talented or more dedicated, it’s an axiom of rowing that you’ll need an additional body to race successfully. This is why veteran coaches belong to the OMGBC (One More Guy Boat Club; “If only I had one more guy, we’d be so much better.”)