Novice Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

My coach has enlisted the help of the rowers who’ve finished their last season at school to help with a learn to row program for the new recruits. We’ll be taking them out in quads for a couple of weeks. Do you have any advice on how to teach them to get the basics down? My learn to row experience is just a big blur now!

Start small … and then back up from whatever you think “starting small” is and start even smaller. The first few times you go out, I would do nothing but catch placement from each position (just tapping down from the finish to start, moving to arms, arms and body, 1/2 slide, then all the way to the catch). Teaching them to tap down first and figure out what their hands have to do to in order to get the blade to respond will help you out a lot, and at the same time will demonstrate how important it is for the boat to be set. Make sure you spend some time going over that as soon as you get on the water, preferably before you even start rowing if you can. Have the ports push their hands all the way down, then have the starboards do the same. Make them figure out what they have to do in order to set it up instead of you telling them. I find that makes the concepts stick better, even if in the moment you feel like an asshole for not just telling them what to do. Once they understand that concept, move into tapping down, figuring out how the oars work, etc. Once they’ve got that figured out, start doing pause drills. Start with a double pause, then go down to a single, and then to straight rowing. I’d stick with just pairs for all of this to start until everyone is reasonably comfortable before you move on to having all four row.

Biggest suggestion is to just be patient. It’s what I have to remind myself every time I’m with novices because at this point, this stuff is so “auto-pilot” for me that I don’t even think about it anymore. You’re going to think that getting the hands away before the legs come up is like, “duh!”, but they don’t get that yet, so you’ve got to take the time to explain it while not going too crazy.

Have a plan of what you want to do before you get to the boathouse. Don’t be overly ambitious either. Think about their skill level and the amount of time you have. If you notice you’re not going to get through everything you had planned, don’t worry about it. Don’t suddenly start trying to rush through things because that’s when people get frustrated and accidents happen.

Crack a few jokes, throw in a few analogies and metaphors, and just make it fun. Obviously the environment in serious but you can still keep the mood light and relaxed. Have a good time with it and don’t take anything that happens too seriously.

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