Friday, May 11, 2007

The Science & Art of School Rowing

The Science & Art of School Rowing.
By Nick Lloyd – Director of Rowing Shore School, NSW, Australia.
From Keystrokes NZ Coaching Newsletter, March 05.
Recent achievements of the Shore School 1st 8+
-National Schoolboy VIII title 2002, 2003, 2004
-Head of the River winner 2003, 2004
-NSW Schoolboy VIII title 2003, 2004
-Unbeaten in any schoolboy race 2003-2004
-New Zealand National U19 and U21 VIII titles 2004
-Riverview Gold Cup winner 2004

We inherit in the GPS part of the shed boys with certain attributes:

This can be attributed to the excellent junior program, characterised by:
-Prioritising the interests of the group rather than the individual
-Setting of high standards
-Competitive training

The application of technology:
-Video Analysis Software: Siliconcoach
-Excellent resolution
-Can play at normal or slow speed, or frame by frame, forward or backward
-Can have up to four athletes on the screen at any one time or overlay athletes for comparison purposes
-Can overdub commentary
-Can draw lines, arrows, grids on the screen to provide a frame of reference or highlight features
-Can measure angles, time, distance, speed, acceleration and display results in table or graph form
-Can package presentations with playing software, then burn onto a CD for the athletes to take away with them

Shaping the right mindset:
The positive mindset we inherit from the junior ranks needs then to be refined for the challenges of rowing at the top schoolboy level

The 1st VIII, for the past three years, has applied a simple yet highly effective philosophy, developed by one of the parents – Dr Jacques van Schalkwyk. Once a week, Jacques has spent thirty minutes with the boys, working progressively through the Eight Ways of Awesome Athletes. He works very closely with the coach to ensure that his approach
is customised to the sport of rowing and of course the boys themselves

The 8 ways of awesome athletes – moving from good to great to awesome:
-Begin with passion
-Believe you can
-Focus your action
-Do it as one
-Fuel your energy
-Bite the bullet
-Break the barrier
-Act with character

Begin with passion:
-Assisting the athletes to formulate a vision that inspires passionate commitment
-Breaking the vision down into clear goals that guide their actions and can be used to measure their success
-In 2003 the crew’s goal was to become an Awesome VIII. When asked what that meant, they said that meant remaining undefeated in every race they entered, including heats. They in fact chose to never use the term “heat” as this may have caused some in the boat to row simply to qualify. This goal to become awesome was broken down further into goals for each training session and of course goals for each phase of the race.

Focus your action:
Teaching the athletes to focus on the task at hand, one step at a time
Encouraging them to do it with ice in their veins

Do it as one:
Aligning the minds in the crew by:
-Creating a sense of belonging
-Reminding them of their shared vision
-Ensuring each individual fully understands how they can contribute to achieving this vision
-Building on their inner desire to be the best they can be

Fuel your energy:
-Becoming awesome is a journey, not an event
-The athletes will be energised by the push effect as they begin with passion and the pull effect as they near their destination
-In-between these two phases, they need to be energised to sustain their momentum by:
-Redefining the doldrums as opportunities
-Reinvigorating their dreams and reminding them of the importance of their actions
-Variety and surprise
-Leading with optimism

Bite the bullet:
-Helping the athletes to:
-Persist through adversity
-Remain calm under stress
-Developing the will to succeed - not just the want. The coach needs to nurture those athletes who will walk over hot coals to succeed and use them to inspire the others

On the day of the State Championships, in searing heat, the bow man collapsed with a severe migraine headache in the last 200m of the final of the Men’s U21 VIII race. The crew scraped across the line in third place after having won its heat in the quickest time. One hour later it won the Champion Schoolboy VIII race with a rower from the 2nd VIII in the bow seat rowing his fourth 2000m race for the day. Four weeks before the Head of the River, the crew lost its four man to malaria (caught in Bali in the holidays). He was the top sculler in the crew and considered by
all to be a key player. Bringing up the seven man from the 2nd VIII caused a major reshuffle and some concerns about the crew’s ability to sustain its winning form. The crew bounced back immediately, winning the Men’s Open VIII at the Sydney Rowing Club Regatta that same week and the Australian Schoolboy title one week later.

Break the barrier:
-Encouraging the athletes to do what the competition is not prepared to do in order to break through the performance barriers
The first barrier was considered to be that point in the 3rd 500m when so many rowers “hit the wall”. The crew was encouraged to make that point their biggest opportunity – they could stay in their comfort zone or make the barrier their friend and push through it. They were given confidence to do so by practicing it in selected lead-up regattas.
The second barrier, which many saw as beyond the finish line was pulled forward to the beginning of the last 30 strokes and a similar attitude to it was adopted.

Act with character:
-Develop and encourage in the athletes a sense of:
-In the absence of these, they will neither earn nor deserve the respect of others

The boys were taught that in winning the Head of the River they may be considered successful, but unless they acted with humility and integrity, they would not be respected and thus not could not be considered awesome.

They were also encouraged to trust in each other’s commitment to the crew – that they were all in this together. This gave each boy confidence to break through the two barriers because he knew he would not be doing it alone.

No comments: