I’m a big proponent of venturing outside the rowing bubble when looking for reading material on coaching, training, etc. so below are some articles I’ve come across over the years that have a good message or solid info that I think is applicable to rowing even though majority are written by, for, or about athletes and coaches from other sports. This page will be a continual work in progress so check back often to see what’s new.

mental health

The Reality Behind Mental Health In Student Athletes // Odyssey

“Mental health is a serious issue, but we don’t treat it like it is because we can’t see it. We have trainers for all our other injuries whether it is a sprained ankle or a broken bone. Those injuries require some time off of practice because you can see the problem, but that’s not the same for mental illness because we can’t see that. With mental illness we’re just expected to put our problems and our emotions on hold in order to do our best in practice for a day, when all we really want to do is just throw in the towel and call it quits. It takes a lot to act like you want to be there and it’s difficult when you’re expected to always be positive when all you’re positive about is that you need a break.”

Let’s be frank about mental health – A letter to up and coming elite athletes (and retiring athletes) // LinkedIn

“Most significantly though, it is this ‘chase’ of the same feeling after sport that leads athletes to be at risk for lower levels of mental health and depression. In particular, the seeking of this same feeling but not actually experiencing the feeling causes both negative emotions and negative thinking. The negative thinking stems from the reduction in evidence that ‘I’m OK’ resulting in reduced feelings of self-efficacy.”

Split Image // ESPN

“It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to show people you’re not OK.”

“Freshman year of college can be like running an obstacle course wearing a blindfold. Nothing prepares you for how hard the workouts will be, how long they last, what each class will be like, which events are fun and which should be avoided.”

My Athletic Body Concealed A Crushing Eating Disorder // Refinery 29

“I made the varsity boat of my rowing club not long after I started throwing up. After that, my body was no longer just a body. It was the body of a rower who would lose her seat in the boat if she hit 130 pounds. It was also the body of a girl who had just discovered that she could consume limitless quantities of food without gaining weight, as long as she threw them up.”

When every time was The Last Time, though, every next time was failure. I wondered why I couldn’t cope with stress like a normal fucking person who stops putting food in her mouth when she’s full — why I had chosen overeating and not reading or knitting or punching things as my release. But, when I ate, I couldn’t stop, and nothing else mattered. Bingeing was my pressure valve, purging my damage control. I told very few people.”

Training + Nutrition

Who is the Fittest Olympic Athlete of Them All? // TIME

“Rowing is both an anaerobic and an aerobic sport. In a 2,000-m race, the initial 250 m is a flat-out sprint in which the rowers generate energy without much oxygen flowing to their muscles; the middle 1,500 m is aerobic as their hearts push the oxygen in their bloodstreams to their legs and arms. But as the boat nears the finish line, those sinews will no longer be able to clear the lactic acid that’s been building. The acid levels will peak at about 20 millimoles per 100 ml of blood. That’s when the painfest begins. “When you get to 20, you are in never-never land,” says Fritz Hagerman, the eminent exercise physiologist at Ohio University who started the first U.S. Olympic performance lab in 1977. “You wish you were dead, and you are afraid you won’t be.””

Training to live with pain: What we can learn from Olympic athletes // The Globe and Mail

“You can’t pace yourself, or win a race, without pain. So the gold medalist isn’t necessarily the athlete who suffers the most, after all. He or she is the one who uses the pain best.”

The Olympic Diet: Lightweight Rower Nick LaCava // Esquire

“Rowing is a sport that demands both sheer strength and endurance, and competitors in lightweight events — which require that each crew average 154 lbs per rower, with no single member exceeding 160 lbs — are tasked with the contradictory aims of building the strength and resilience of a Viking while maintaining a slender, fat-free body.”

How elite sportsmen get out of bed in the morning // The Telegraph

“The group aspect of rowing is also really important. I know I have to meet the other guys every morning for training and being in a competitive environment keeps you all motivated. Setting a clear goal for each morning session is a good idea – it means you know exactly what you’re getting yourself out of bed for, and what you’ll miss if you don’t. All these small things keep you on track and you will soon find getting up early for training is just part of your morning routine.”

Food Diaries: How Olympic Gold Medalist Esther Lofgren Eats // Washingtonian

“The rower relies on the most important meal of the day—twice.”

Sport psych + mental prep

Obsession is Natural // The Player’s Tribune

“I swore, from that point on, to approach every matchup as a matter of life and death. No one was going to have that kind of control over my focus ever again. I will choose who I want to target and lock in.”

How Olympians stay motivated // The Atlantic

“We can’t all be Olympic athletes. But we all face times when we really don’t want to do something that we, nonetheless, really have to do. Drawing from interviews with top athletes and their coaches, along with psychological studies of athletes, here are seven ways Olympians stay motivated through the training slog.”

Threat vs. Challenge in Sports: The Difference Between Victory and Failure // Huffington Post

“Where does threat come from? Most powerfully, from a fear of failure. That is the mountain lion that you see lying in the path toward your athletic goals. The threat is what will happen if you fail. Obviously you won’t die physically. But at a deep level, you feel as if some part of you will die, usually your self-esteem. The threat arises when you believe that there will be serious consequences for not achieving your goals, for example, you will embarrass yourself, let down your family and friends, feel that your sport has been a waste of time, or be devastated because you didn’t fulfill your sport dreams. The irony is that by responding with a threat reaction because of these worries, you actually cause the very thing that is most threatening to you, namely, failure.”

The Five Fitness Mindsets: How to Stay Rational When You’re Discouraged // Lifehacker: Vitals

“Relying on motivation for fitness success is akin to betting that your favorite Game of Thrones character will be around at the end of the season: it’s probably not going to work out in your favor.”


Taking on the AI // The Harvard Crimson

“The Academic Index, or AI, is a combination of a student’s class rank and SAT scores typically calculated for seniors. Every prospective Ivy League student is assigned a number, which ranges from 60 to 240—a perfect score. The AI is divided into three categories. While the first two reflect SAT I and SAT II scores, the third is a combination of class rank and GPA adjusted on the same 20 to 80 scale to round out the score. Although the league does not disclose its data, the New York Times estimated that the average student at an Ivy League institution has an AI around 220, with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton boasting slightly higher averages than their other Ancient Eight counterparts.”

Teammates + Leadership

The most important person on a team isn’t its coach or best athlete // Business Insider

“”The most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.”


Craig Amerkhanian: The mayor of Saw Wood City // The Stanford Daily

“Saw Wood City references the location of the team’s practice, Redwood City, and the coach’s comparison of rowing to sawing wood. The expression is part of a larger collection of what the team calls the “Craig Files,” certain phrases, references, and traditions that Amerkhanian has embraced over the years and have come to define him. The Craig Files include everything from the coach’s condemnation of hydrogenated fats and sugar, to his search for double-fiber bread at Safeway for the team’s breakfast to the team’s annual trip Yosemite. … He will bring in current events, pop culture, or even the Stanford-Cal rivalry in an engaging or oftentimes ridiculous way to get the team ready for practice. And at the end of the year, the team makes T-shirts bearing the most outrageous or humorous thing he said.”

I Am an American Coach // The Player’s Tribune

“Coaching is a craft. You learn from playing, doing, experimenting, emulating, adjusting. You never stop learning. You learn from your players, from your experiences. You learn from the game.”

“As a coach you must understand that the one thing you cannot control is the result. You control the work. You control the message.”

The Life Lessons of Villanova’s Jay Wright, the Anti-Coach // GQ

““We’re not complex in what we do X-and-O-wise,” he tells me. “But we do spend a lot of time on how we react mentally to every situation.” The idea isn’t to draw up lots of plays but instead to give his guys the confidence and the freedom to make plays. And here is where Wright’s psychological approach feels unique. While just about every coach in America rallies his or her players with motivational verses or tries to summon an inner-dwelling Tony Robbins, Wright wants his players to feel as if they’re in control on the floor, admonishing them to play with a “free mind.””

Blood in the Water // Outside Magazine

“Teti never simply shouts, “Pull!” He yells things such as, “Pull like you’re the biggest, baddest motherfucker in a bar, and everybody in the bar knows it!” The strange thing is, it works.”

“Muscles burn, yes, but the mind games are even fiercer. He tells his rowers that he picks the eight largely based on ergometer scores and physiological potential. “How I pick the eight may look arbitrary to you,” he says. “And to a certain extent it is, and I may make mistakes. But I am the coach.””

“Everyone is feeling the competitive anxiety that Teti strives to foster and intensify by never formally setting the eight until he has to. This year, it will be on August 4th, the day his lineups for the Worlds are due. The way the rowers see it, it’s a sadistic but not uncommon way of exacerbating their discomfort so that in addition to two daily practices, the killing three-mile races, and the sessions at the rowing machine that leave their breakfasts spilled on the floor, they won’t know for weeks if they’ve made the goddamn boat. The way Teti sees it, if he leaves the door open for change, it injects a healthy paranoia into the camp; paranoia fuels competition, and competition makes for faster boats.”

“At this level of performance, Teti admitted, all the drills, the scores, the mind games, and manipulations can’t really help him to distinguish one athlete from the next. His choices, in the end, had to be instinctual, almost random. “When I get a group of guys this talented,” he said, “what winds up happening is, I get to the point where I go eeny, meeny, miney, moe.””

How Harry Trained Harvard // Rowing News

“Perhaps above all else, Harry believed in the value of opportunity. Though incredibly demanding, rarely did he verbalize his expectations for his athletes. Most coaches clearly state what they expect performance-wise of their athletes. Not Harry. He wouldn’t limit his athletes by imposing expectations on them. Rather, he challenged them to seize the opportunity at hand. Doing one’s best was what mattered, not an arbitrary standard defined by a coach.”

“On the water and in the tanks, Harry liked to do a lot of progressive pressure and progressive rate work. He would frequently do pieces starting at moderate pressure and build up to full pressure. This training didn’t improve physiology as much as other work did, but it helped solidify rowing skills. It allowed rowers to begin with their best skills. As the pressure and/or rate increased, each athlete would struggle to maintain their effectiveness. As they struggled, they would gradually learn to retain their technique and length despite the increased effort. This challenged his athletes to maintain their effectiveness as fatigue set in.”

“He stressed only the possibility of victory; never ever did he speak of it as a probability. He told his oarsmen to “have faith in yourself, your training, and your teammates…know in your gut…decide ahead of time that you will not be out-pulled.””

Image via // Ella pudney