BY LUKE REYNOLDS
PHOTO BY DAVE ADAMSON
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The first year of competitive rowing is crucial. The fundamentals of rowing—arms, body, legs, legs, body arms—are instilled in athletes the moment they cross the boathouse threshold.
For many, the novice year is also fun, memorable, and life-changing. My novice year was like that. Our novice coach was tough and could be intimidating to us unruly 14- to 16-year-olds (rightfully so!).
One practice, our coach put on his tennis shoes to join us for a workout. As we traveled along the river passing medicine balls down the line, we were filled with wonder. Could this be a break from seemingly endless tough workouts on the erg? Are we going to have a practice that’s fun?
The answer became clear as soon as we lanky rowers-in-training arrived at a park that soon transformed into a training ground. The monkey bars became pull-up bars; the grassy field, a place for ladder sprints; the park benches, props for jump squats. It was a challenging workout that will not leave my memory any time soon (the mere thought makes my legs sore).
Another practice began in a similar manner. On a brisk morning in late November, while we sat in our stretching circle hoping none of our teammates would be late, our revered coach emerged again in tennis shoes.
As we prepared for another trip to “hell park,” a football suddenly appeared. Instantly, the mood brightened, and what we thought would be a normal Saturday-morning practice became a fun practice. Relief and joy filled the air.
A soccer field a few miles from the boathouse served as our gridiron, and while the football we played was an embarrassment to the sport, it was a welcome break from our training that solidified the bonds our team had gained from learning a new sport together.
Good coaches will take the temperature of their teams and realize the need for rest, but great coaches will turn the occasion for rest into a memory that will make rowers fall further in love with the sport.
As coaches and athletes prepare for the winter break, let’s take a moment to bolster and enjoy the bonds among everyone in the boathouse. There’s a time for that 6K test but a time also for a game of football.
The number of ways to make practice fun is unlimited and includes erg relays and on-the-water challenges. If you want to take a day off the water and away from the erg, however, consider soccer, capture the flag, dodgeball, or some other activity that makes practice fun and funky before winter break.
2-mile jog away from the boathouse
1 to 2 hours of unabashed fun
2-mile jog back to HQ