Monday, May 7, 2007

Older Athletes - From Experience With Women Scullers

Older Athletes - From Experience With Women Scullers
By Jutta Lau
From FISA Coaches Conference Papers 2001
The most important thing for high performance in sport and for the length of any competitive career is success. Success clearly determines the length of training at the high performance level of every athlete.

Take Steven Redgrave for example. If he had come 4th, 5th or 6th at the World Championships or Olympic Games, he would surely not have continued in rowing for so long.

Additionally it is important to enure that one year is not exactly the same as the next. If that were the case, then I as a coach would have already lost the way.

If we compare oarswomen from the youth area and their motiation to compete at a high level, it is worthwhile to look at what are the substantial factors which have encouraged them to take up competitive rowing – their parents, teachers, school friends, other friends or through the club. All of these peer groups can have an ifluence on the individual athlete. Those who treat sport in a positive way and have encouraged training at a competitive level , contribute fundamental requirements for good development. A negative attitude will have the opposite effect, and lead to athletes giving up sport at a competitive level and following other interests.

The motives for a developing rower competing at a hogh level are different from those who are at a senior level. In the younger rower the motivating factors are such things as training in a squad, parents who drive the rower to training, the goo feeling of being in a team at the club, the enjoymet of a crew form your own club representing at important events, winning and losing together, spending time with rowing friends outside of training, e.g. going to the cinema, eating ice cream, and going to other sports and events.

The more experienced and the more successful the oarswoman becomes the more varied and all embracing, complex and complicated is the coaches work with the athlete. In senior women’s rowing the external influencing factors – that is to say influences through partners or boy friends, managers, the federation, employers and media – are more intensive, broader and more multi faceted. This requires that the coach works much more individually with each rower, to determine what is important to achieve success. The awareness and interest of the rower in politics and business increases, and the personal obligations and commitments are greater. This demands of the coach that he or she provides clarity and precision, straightforwardness, good support and the power to persuade the rower, the ability to leave her alone at times, to trust her, to rein in her ambitions at times, to design and implement training sessions that are consistent, wel directed and convincing.

In this respect the media can complicate matters. They are capable of affecting the unity of the coach and the athlete. The way successes are valued in the media and in the eye of the public can lead the athlete to lose interest and confidence in and to drop out of the sport. For example Nils Schumann form Germany, the 800m Gold Medal winner in Sydney 2000, a young athlete with a relaxed attitude. The risk of not succeeding can lead to the career being abruptly terminated.

Nevertheless, the work and the experirnce with older athletes can be a great challenge for every coach.

For the athlete, their age, and the length of their competitive career are quite secondary, if they can still be successful! On the contrary, the athlete has a higher consciousness of her capacity and can better evaluate her own performance. On this basis she can achieve what she wants professionally, materially and existentially. The motivation ot measure herself in races against hard competition remains very much in the foreground.

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