We’ve all heard the statement, attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” All good coaches go through a period of reflection on what they did in the past year and think about doing something different. Even if you’ve had a good year, there’s always room for improvement. Doctor Rowing decided that this would be a good time to make some resolutions for 2017. Here they are:
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Take more video. The time is long past when it was a nuisance to take video. The bulky camera and the battery that always seemed to be about to run out of juice have been replaced by our phone cameras or iPads. It doesn’t matter anymore if it is raining; it is so easy to slip said device under your jacket. It isn’t important to film a lot of strokes. Most rowers do the same thing in five strokes that they do over the course of a practice. I’ve always been well-intentioned about this, like I am about most of these resolutions, but I have not done it systematically enough in the past.
Show and watch more video. How often have I not carved out time to show my rowers this valuable teaching tool? Yes, it’s hard to come in off the water early in order to spend the time, and it always takes more time than it should—they ask questions, don’t they? There are some people who don’t seem to get much out of seeing video, but there are others who make gigantic leaps forward in technique after a video session. When I coached the U.S. lightweight women, we used to film all the seat racing and then leave the tapes where athletes could peruse them on their own time. They loved that. In some years, I have emailed video to kids. With today’s technology, it is easy to do a voiceover pointing things out.
Give a physiology talk. The hours in between practices at our preseason are perfect for a chalk talk where you can present the fundamentals of physiology and what each type of workout is designed to do. An athlete who knows what the advantages of low-intensity are work will be better equipped to do a good job. Knowledge is power. The USRowing coaching manual has a very good chapter from Kris Korzeniowski on this. Present it to your athletes.
Mentor younger coaches. There never seems to be enough time to sit down and explain things to your assistants. But they are incredibly valuable to your program. Make sure that they understand what you are looking for and why you teach what you do. It’s also very important to listen; you will learn from them, too.
Ride in the launch with someone from another program. I’ll admit that I used to do this a lot more frequently when I was younger. I learned an awful lot from observing other coaches, including how to treat athletes. There are a lot of things that need to be part of your coaching persona: patience, positive or negative feedback, intensity, humor, fun, scolding, technical instruction, understanding of differences stemming from different body types. You can learn a lot by watching.
Do more erg tests. This is probably my biggest weakness. I hate spending the time on land that is necessary for an erg test. There’s so much to do on the water, and my goal is always to get a boat to move faster. But people can learn from an erg test, too. It’s a good idea to schedule follow-up meetings with your athletes to go over the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Coach the coxswains. A former coxswain myself, I’m as guilty as anyone about not spending enough time with them. I do evaluations, asking the rowers to write out what they like about each ‘swain and what each one needs to improve in, and I follow up two weeks later asking if they have seen improvement. I’m pretty good about coaching them on the water, paying attention to their steering and their command of a crew. But there’s an awful lot to the job that needs to be discussed, and coxswain/coach lunches are worth their weight in gold.
Keep a better log. I start out with the best of intentions, as is true of all New Year’s resolutions, but sometime around week three I end up abandoning my secretarial role. My long-time assistant reminds me that I don’t really have to write them down. She will often say, “Tuesday after the first race, work on bringing the rating up. Right on schedule. You do this every year.” Although there is certainly an element of luck to that, it’s what needs to be done, and that’s why I’m always on it. But what exactly was that great steady state practice the day the kids were so tired? I wish I knew.
Enjoy being out on the water with great motivated kids. The one thing I always do and never need a reminder. What an awesome job I have!