Thursday, May 10, 2007

Learning To Row

Competency in Seven Lessons
Original Idea from Rowing by W Fritsch pp 49-72. Expanded by J. Croly
What a coach should do when teaching beginners:

Provide a variety of boats - The beginners should gain experience in the variety of boats available not just the single.

Demonstrate the movements – A correct idea of the movements, combined with the knowledge of their purpose is important to the beginning rower. Direct feedback is important but should be supplemented by videos and pictures.

Teach complete movement sequences – Rowing should always be taught as a cyclical movement sequence and not in separate, part movements. The explanation of the movement should always contain a few words about their function or intention.

Provide movement tasks – exercises or goals should be set to complement every learning step or element of movement sequences

Organization –
· Take into consideration the water conditions when deciding how many individuals each coach can manage.
· Have a lesson planned before each outing
· Make sure equipment is rowable and safe (bowballs, heelstraps, hatch covers)
· Try to make equipment as appropriate as possible for beginners – size of boat, shorter inboards etc.

The Basics
There are seven steps in learning to row, which build in each other and the mastery of which is necessary for all areas of rowing.


a. Use correct terminology
b. Keep the explanation short and simple
a. Try not to explain and talk at the same time
a. On correctness of movement
b. On things to do to improve
c. Do not be too critical. Focus on what will make the biggest improvement

1. Familiarization with and Handling of Equipment

Begin with a tour of the boathouse pointing out:
-Types of boats,
-Types of oars,
-How boats are stored i.e. bows towards water,
-Where safety equipment is – first aid, emergency contact numbers etc

Put a boat on trestles in order to illustrate the function and use of individual parts. Keep this simple at first – too much will overload the beginner
Rudder post
Rudder lines
Rudder handles

o Explain and demonstrate where and how to put the oars by the jetties
§ Out of the way of where boats are carried
§ Tips curved up to prevent damage to tip

o How to carry a boat – where to stand
§ Consider heights of crew members to carry boat
§ Consider if boat has backstays
§ Difference between sweep (opposite rigger) and sculling (at ends of boat)

How to put a boat into the water
Always into water on side wind is blowing to.

How to take a boat out of the water
Always land on side wind is coming from.

How to put the oars in the gates – different sides
Explain and demonstrate how to open gate and put oar into oarlock.
Bowside (green)
Strokeside (red)

How to get into the boat
Where to step
Where the slide should be when stepping
How to hold the boat whilst stepping in

How to correctly grip the oars
Handle held in fingers not palms
Thumbs on the end of the handles in sculling

How to adjust the stretcher for correct body position
Sitting with legs over sides of the boat with the handles held together between chest and thighs
How to undo wing nuts and move stretcher

Rowing Commands – Used to Maneuver the Boat
§ On To Water
§ Hands on. Are you ready? Lift & slide out
§ 1 & 3 under. Lifting off the rack. GO!
§ Walk stern/bow towards/away from the water

§ One hand across, Lifting above heads, GO!
§ Sides from the front, Shoulders GO!

§ One hand across, Lifting above heads, GO!
§ Rolling to waists, GO!
§ One hand in one hand under, one foot on the edge
§ Lowering together, GO!

§ 1 & 3 hold, 2 & 4 fetch the blades
§ Tie in the Strokeside/ Bowside blades
§ 1 & 3 hold, 2 & 4 step
§ Tie in Bowside/ Strokeside blades
§ Other side in
§ Pushing off together, GO!

§ Tie in and number off from bow when ready

§ Off Of Water
§ 1 & 3 hold, 2 & 4 untie blades away from jetty and step out
§ 2 & 4 hold, 1 & 3 untie blades away from jetty and step out
§ Undo jetty side blades

§ 2 & 4 hold, 1 & 3 take blades off the jetty

§ One hand in one hand under
§ Lifting together, GO!
§ Left/right hand across
§ Rolling above heads, GO!
§ Take sides from the front
§ Lowering to shoulders, GO!

§ Waists GO!
§ Shoulders GO!
§ Ankles GO!

§ Lifting and Sliding (onto rack)

2. Ensuring Proper Balance

Safety Position
Sitting with the spoons flat on the water, with the legs stretched out and the oar handles held over the knees
Check the spoons are flat on the water
Handles held at same height

Squared blades
Feathered blade

Changing the balance of the boat
Moving one oar and then the next up and down
Pressing both oars into down to let the spoons rise off the water
Check are the gates closed?
Is the boat away from other craft?

Using the oars to ensure the balance of the boats
Holding the handles together and moving the body from side to side
Holding the handles together and have somebody else try to influence the balance of the boat.
Exercises and Games

Lay the blades on the water, hold the oar handles tightly above your thighs and try to make the boat rock by swinging your body to and fro
Do this again and try to let go of the oars for a moment
Slowly move one hand up and down to see how it affects the balance of the boat
Turn the oars into a horizontal position, press both the inboards into the boat and rock your upper body from side to side

3. Rowing in a Forward Direction

The free-floating oar can now be positioned vertically (squared) and drawn to one side gently towards the rowers body.
Correct grip
When squaring the oar only the fingers should wrap around the handle.
The inner surfaces (palm) of the hand do not touch the handle and the wrist remains straight.
The surfaces of the hand and lower arms form a straight line.

Feel the correct position of the blade in the water.
The hand doing the rowing is always above the hand resting on the thigh.
The seat is not used.

Alternate with left and right hands

Teach the rising and lowering of the handles to extract and immerse the spoon.

Lengthen the slide


Check left hand is in front of and above the right hand.
Knuckles of the right hand in the palm of the left hand
Show how the direction of the boat can be influenced by different pressures on the oars

Exercises and Games

Close your eyes and square and feather the blade several times
Are the grip and position of the blade still correct
Rowing with squared blade
By yourself
In pairs
All together
In pairs with one oar squared and the other feathered
Row five strokes harder on bow, change sides
When is the best time to look around and check you are on course?
Who has to look around the least when making your way to a fixed point?
Keeping on course
Traffic Rules
Who can row right/left in a circle?
Take five strokes with bowside/stroke side alternately
Rowing Commands – Used to Maneuver the Boat

Backstops, Are your ready? Row!
A little harder on stroke/bowside
On the next stroke, Easy!
Blades on the water
Safety Position
Hold it all lightly
Hold it all hard
Hold it on stroke/bow

4. Maneuvering the Boat

Teach backing down
Start with hands only then lengthen the slide
Hold water

Teach how to turn the skiff by alternately backing and touching
Both at the same time = sculling turn

Use games and competitions to practice these skills
Exercises and Games

Back it down towards and objective
Three strokes forwards on bow, three strokes back on stroke
One back, one forwards on alternative sides
Complete turns to stroke and bow
Who can turn 180 or 360 fastest? (both sides)
Who turned 360 three times the fastest? (both sides)
Combination exercises: crew or sculler back it down to an objective, performs a 360 turn and rows on forwards to another objective
Traffic Rules
Land on a jetty from various directions
Wind direction assists
Reducing speed using the oars (holding water)
Who can stop closest to a line or the landing stage
How do elites land the boat?

Rowing Commands – Used to Maneuver the Boat

Back on stroke/bow
Touch on stroke/bow
Whole crew backing/touching together
Hold on stroke/bow, touch on stroke/bow

5. Overcoming difficult situations

Rowers must anticipate and practice difficult situations
Sculling test
Handles together
Seat at bow end of slide
Flying – blades feathered in the air coming forward
Are the blades being taken out of the water correctly?
Is the speed sufficient for balance?
Rowing in waves
Feathering high
Blades up and away
Standing up in the boat
How to deal with large waves/motorboat wash from different directions
Has the crew assumed the safety position
Distance between the boat and other craft on the water
Distance between the boat and bank
Is the boat parellel to the waves
Changing places in a crew boat
Safety position of those in the boat
Do not step on the bottom of the boat

§ Exercises and Games

Who can row three strokes forward and then let the boatrun with blades feathered off the water?
Who can "fly" the longest distance?
Who can stand up in the boat?
Who can let go of the inboards whilst standing?
Who can lie down in the boat?
Who can turn around whilst standing in the boat?
Slalom course: row forwards, through buoys, do 180 turns, row backwards to an objective, reduce speed, pick an object out of the water, throw a ball into a bucket etc
Perform orienteering exercises on short excursions

6. Steering

All members should take turn leading a crew by being the cox
Using the right commands to organize the crew
Does everybody understand them?
Are the commands appropriate for the situation?
Steer a boat to a given destination

Principles of steering
Steering is a loss of speed
The rudder should be applied gently and at a gentle angle
Is the rudder at to sharp an angle?
Can the cox steer to an objective?
The boat must be kept parallel to waves and rowers must assume the safety position until the waves have past
Awareness of motorboat wash
Boat should come to the jetty with the wind in order to be blown onto the jetty and push off with wind in order to be blown off the jetty
Exercises and Games

Carry out steering maneuvers using rowing commands without using the rudder
Steering towards a specific objective without a rudder
Leading a crew from the boathouse onto the water, carry out a training session and then return the crew to the boathouse

7. Introduction to Various Areas of Rowing

How to read a regatta program
Start procedures
2 minute rule
ID cards
Venue traffic rules

Setting Performance Displays
Drag levers

What days are water practices on?
What days are land training on?
What can be done in the rower’s own time to improve?

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