BY OLIVIA COFFEY
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
I didn’t think I had the potential to try for a spot on the national team until the summer after my freshman year of college. In high school, I tried out for the junior national team, but didn’t make it, and though I had been in the first varsity boat for Radcliffe the entire spring, I didn’t really have the erg scores to indicate that I had a future in rowing beyond college. That all changed, however, after I attended the Freshman Camp, a development program hosted by USRowing, in the summer of 2008.
The Freshman Camp was held at Cornell University and intended for athletes who had potential but needed more development before trying for an under-23 team. The camp was about two weeks long, and most athletes lived, ate, and rowed out of the Cornell Boathouse. Fortunately, I lived close enough that I could drive back and forth to practice from home every day, so the experience felt a little like I was back at the YMCA day camps of my youth.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. I knew there would be an erg-test portion to the camp. I wasn’t always the most diligent when it came to training on my own and, since it had been a couple weeks since the end of the collegiate season, I dreaded the possibility of a 2K or a 6K. To my surprise, however, the test was only a minute long.
If you’ve never done a minute test before, it’s like all the emotions of a 2K wrapped up into a compact little package. You feel the free speed in the first few strokes, the buildup of lactate and burning lungs throughout the middle, and the desperation and need for damage control by the end. It’s surprisingly hard for such a short burst of effort, and you can feel the effects of it for days.
What the minute test can tell you that a lot of other tests can’t is the potential of an athlete who might have an underdeveloped cardiovascular system. In my experience, most athletes who produce strong power scores eventually notch 2K or 6K ergs that reflect that power, though the process can take years. As a college rower who hadn’t yet broken seven minutes on her 2K, I was really encouraged to see the excitement on the coaches’ faces after I finished my first one-minute test.
A lot of opportunities opened up for me after I attended that camp, and I owe it all to the minute test. If you’ve never done it before or are a coach looking for a new way to challenge your athletes, I recommend giving it a shot. Worst-case scenario: It hurts for only one minute.
1 Minute – Maximum effort, no stroke-rate cap (set drag factor to 120).