Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interview with Christian Felkel, High Performance Director, RowSA

Interview with Christian Felkel, High Performance Director, RowSA

1. What is your rowing & coaching background? (no. of years, crews coached, responsibilities, results etc)

I started coaching in 1983 in Germany as assistant coach in women’s rowing club in Frankfurt/GER. Every year we had people in the German National Team at various levels.

The highlights:
Year Boat class Event Result
1984 LW 4- FISA Championships Gold
1985 LW 4- Worlds Gold
1986 W 2- Nations Cup Gold

In 1992 I took over the lightweight men in Frankfurt/GER
Year Boat class Event Result
1993 LM 4- Nations Cup Gold
1993 LM 2x Nations Cup Silver

In 1995 I went to South Africa where I started to coach the women. They managed to qualify for the Atlanta Olympics and came 11th at the Olympics.Since 1997 I looked after the whole South African team. In 1998 we started the men’s pair. The women’s pair went to the 2000 Olympics.

Year Boat class Event Result
1998 W1x Worlds 11th
1998 M2- Worlds 10th
1999 W2- Worlds 9th
1999 M2- Worlds 7th
1999 LM 4- Worlds 10th
2000 W2- Olympics 5th
2000 M2- Olympics 6th
2000 LM 4- Olympics 5th
2001 M2- Worlds Bronze Medal
2002 M2- Worlds Silver Medal
2002 W2- Worlds 5th
2002 LM 4- Nations Cup Silver Medal
2003 M2- Worlds Bronze Medal
2004 M2- Olympics Bronze Medal
2005 M2- Worlds Silver Medal
2006 M2- World 7th
2007 M2- Worlds 5th

2. Who taught you how to coach/where did you learn how to coach?

I joined a rowing club and I worked under the coach at the club for the first few years. I also completed coach’s courses from the German Federation. In addition I went to take part in the FISA Coaches Academy in 2001.

3. Who has influenced your coaching method the most and why?

Without a doubt on the technical side it is Harry Mahon. I have never met a person with such good understanding on how to move a boat. In other aspects of coaching I am influenced by the German approach. Hard work. Long hours.

4. What advice do you have for young or novice coaches?

Listen to people to pick up on information. Share knowledge, then the other will be more open. Listen to your rowers; they are a good source of information. They way they feel when doing your programme.

5. What do you think is the most important element to get right with regards to technique?

Connection, I think without that the rower will not feel anything. So the focus should be on finding the boat and connecting to it.

6. Describe 2 drills/exercises that you think are the most important

The catch exercise to feel the connection, it is approach to the catch and entry. Start from 3/4 slide, come forward and take the stroke and feel the hang on the handle. Watch the timing of seat and spoon to optimize the exercise.Legs only, and with this attention on the hanging, that means that the bodyweight has to be off the seat. Try to use the legs just for the first 1/4 and see if you can connect and hang. Then push longer and longer. Most importantly is the connection through the back. It must not give but the shoulders should be relaxed.

7. What session do you think is your most important in your training programs?

Since good performance comes from a variety of sessions not one is more important then the other. Having said that I do believe that PowerStrokes are a great session to do, it is important to look out for poor execution but it is a powerful session. Make sure that the resistance is not too great. You need some fluid movement of the boat. Don't do more than 40 strokes at the time. I have seen that the quality of execution is suffering if it goes over 40 strokes.Example: (6 x 30) x 3

8. What is the most important thing that you think South Africa coaches should work on with their athletes?

Endurance, in rowing it is important to have a big engine, even for lightweights, and the only way to get a big engine is to train a lot. Long hours on the water are required, if water is not available then the erg. Best would be to use the RowPerfect as it doesn't impact on knees and backs.

9. Which is the best crew that you have seen rowing?

The Australian pair is one of the best as they have a rhythmic and powerful stroke, they are concentrating on quality of each stroke. Don and Ramon on a good day are going in this direction. If you catch them on Roodeplaat have a look at the rhythm and the power that is put into each stroke.

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