BY RICH DAVIS
PHOTO BY ED MORAN
While much of rowing depends on automatic and unconscious actions, it is possible for rowers and coxswains to think themselves into a panic, which can lead to choke.
The best way to avoid this is through proper preparation. Have crews practice the various components of a race over and over again.
Also have them mentally work through worst-case scenarios, such as crabs or equipment issues. On race day, it is helpful to keep a checklist of things to work on to ensure their focus is on rowing well and not on the pressures of competition.
It is the job of the coach (on land) and the cox (on the water) to keep reminding the athletes of these points. Some researchers suggest that thinking too much during a competition has a negative impact on performance.
Crews I coached have clearly benefited by visualizing a number of different race scenarios where they had to overcome a problem to achieve the desired outcome. They have also benefited from real-world practice, too.
By learning how to get back to race pace following a boat-stopping crab or after another crew overtakes them, they learn to overcome anything, including choking.