Tuesday, October 2, 2007

African Coaches Conference Presentation - Preparation for SA Junior Team

Preparation for the SA Junior Team
Jamie Croly

African Rowing Coaches Conference
University of Johannesburg
22 September 2007

The Junior World Championships is an annual event on the International Rowing Calendar organized by the International Rowing Federation (FISA).
It is open to entries from National Federations (i.e. RowSA) and has 13 boat classes for Junior Men (7) and Women (6). All athletes must be J18 (turning 18) in the year of the competition or younger.
The regatta runs over 4 days and attracts entries from over 50 countries. The 4 rounds that rowers may have to compete in are HEATS, REPECHAGES or QUARTER FINALS, SEMI FINALS and FINALS, depending on the number of entries in each boat class. There are up to 6 lanes per race and finals are grouped into 6 lane races
A FINAL = 1-6
B FINAL = 7-12
C FINAL = 13-17

It is the intention of the IC to select boats that are capable of rowing in the Top 6 places at the Junior World Championships. Crews that do not display this standard of performance will be unlikely to be selected unless of a transformation nature.
Through a well structured assessment, selection and preparation as well as a well organized tour the aim is to give all of the athletes involved an experience that will ensure that the are enthusiastic about continuing on to future high performance programs.
The Junior Team should be seen as the start of the Olympic pathway.

Physical power is absolutely critical for the achievement of high performance. It is unlikely that any person that does not achieve the performance standards set out on the slides will be capable of making an A Final at the Junior World Championships.
The ergometer is an excellent measure of physiology and will be used throughout the assessment, selection and preparation of the Junior Team in order to measure physiological gains in performance. The ergometer will be used in conjunction with racing in single sculls and pairs, and other selected boat classes.
Physical size has a large effect on the ability to produce power on the ergometer and so bigger people must produce faster times and more power. Increased mass adds drag to the hull and so must be overcame by increased power production.
Strength training is critical in the development of power and all athletes selected will participate in a strength training program. It is essential therefore that all juniors have access to a facility that offers strength training equipment.
Even if the physical factors are achieved it is still necessary to row with a high skill level and technical efficiency. Coaches and athletes must emphasize the development of effective technique in the early season (Sep-Mar) that will allow a high volume of training load to be achieved in the preparation for the Junior World Championships. Athletes with poor technique will be extremely unlikely to achieve the performance targets particularly the boat speed targets.

The ergometer targets listed above indicate the power levels that athletes should aim for in order to achieve an A Final at the Junior World Championships.
It is important to achieve all the items listed particularly the 7str (starting strength) 250m (anaerobic power) 2000m (aerobic capacity) & >5000m (aerobic endurance) testing. Weaknesses in any one of these areas will limit performance at the World Championships
7str – ability to move the boat from stand still to race pace as soon as possible – will enable crew to be in contention in first 50m of start
250m – ability to row anaerobically in first 250m of race and gain position in early phases. Important for race positioning. Rowing from behind is physiologically hard and mentally tough to be behind in first part of race. If the other crews get clear water it becomes extremely tough as the crew will be rowing on their own
2000m – Aerobic capacity – indicated the crews maximal ability to deliver and use oxygen. Vital for 2000m race performance
>5000m – indicates the efficiency that the athlete uses fuel for performance. High efficiency will delay onset of fatigue and allow high force production to continue for longer.

Coaches and selectors are looking for athletes that are pushing themselves to the maximum in order to achieve and surpass the performance targets.
Athletes must choose rowing over other activities and sports. The focus must be on achieving the performance targets and as such many other activities will have to be put aside or done in a reduced capacity. You cannot do everything!
All training and racing must be conducted with the objective of winning. This is NOT school sport – performance is everything! Coaches will be constantly measuring athletes on the water, on the ergometer and in the gym to look for increases. Athletes and coaches must be concerned with numbers. If the numbers are improving the boat speed should be improving and therefore the ability to meet performance targets.
Athletes are also expected to be actively involved in the training process. They are an integral part of the process and must assist the coach to evaluate and structure training. Athletes should try to understand more of what the training program involves as well as to understand how the program is constructed and what the program is trying to achieve. This allows for effective feedback.
Coaches are not always around and also get sick or have other commitments that will mean that on occasion athletes will train on their own and must be able to complete the training without the coaches prompting.

The athletes should not participate in any other sports programs whilst members of the SA Junior Team. This will ensure that the coaches have continuous control over the training load and that it is not affected by outside factors. Others sports such as rugby, hockey, netball and cross country also carry a significant risk of traumatic injury which would mean the withdrawal of a boat from the team.
There will be no holidays during the preparation period as this would mean regression of the training state.
There will also be very few days off. Athletes can expect to feel some sensations of tiredness most of the time. This is necessary as the body adapt to a higher capacity. The only times that the athlete is likely to feel really good is at the JWC.

An athlete that lives the 24 Hour lifestyle is constantly analyzing what they do and how it will influence their training. Will going out at night leave them tired for the hard morning session? What are the best days to put appointments on?

The training load outlined on the slide is the minimum load that must be achieved in order to develop the physical attributes necessary to achieve the performance targets.
Endurance is one of the critical components and in order to increase it the body needs to develop increased capacity in the organs (heart, circulatory system and muscles) as well as increased efficiency through the increase in metabolic enzymes as well as well as improved skill through technique. Endurance is developed over many months and years especially with Junior athletes that are still growing. You cannot “get fit” in weeks. Preparation for the Junior World Championships is developed over 2-3 years of structured training.
It is especially important that from January onward the endurance load is increased to a minimum of 100km per week consistently. The load may be lighter in the Sep-Jan part of the season if the coach wants to spend more time on perfecting technique.
It is also critical to take part in a strength training program. This does not always involve the traditional “weight lifting” exercises but can range from body weights, through medicine balls, strength bands, and up to exercise machines and free weights. Athletes should seek the help of an experienced coach or fellow athlete when beginning a strength training program. The athlete should begin with exercises that use the body weight and once they are competent with those may progress onto other forms of resistance training
The preparation period is extensive and must take place all year round. After a period of light training (2-3 weeks) after the last season the athletes recommences training and builds it up over several weeks until the training load is at the required level.

All endurance is beneficial and “alternative” sessions can be conducted when it is not possible to row or ergo or the athlete wishes to do something different. When calculating the weekly load and taking into account the alternative endurance exercises the distance traveled can be multiplied by the factor next to the number to give an equivalent of rowing distance. However rowing specific training is critical for high performance at the Junior World Championships and must be maintained throughout the season.

Strength training is absolutely critical. You will NOT reach the performance targets without some form of strength training program.
Strength develops slower in women that in men mainly due to the lower level of testosterone which is a primary reason for development of muscle mass. This is not to say that women cannot be really strong. Per cross sectional area of muscle women can be as strong as men. It is mainly a combination of lower muscle mass and higher body fat levels required to maintain reproductive function that women are “weaker” than men.
Because of this women must be more consistent than men with strength training as their gains will take much longer to achieve but will regress at the same rate as men once training is ceased.
With Junior Women strength training can be extremely beneficial and will significantly reduce the possibility of injuries particularly those of the repetitive strain type. Strength training also gives stability to joints.
It is important to start the strength program slowly with either medicine balls and strength bands in J14 and J15 and progress through circuit training and onto formal strength exercise as the athletes matures through J16-J18.
Any athlete that does not take part in a rigorous strength program and attempts to complete the training load will run a risk of injuries. Strength training must be started well before the training load becomes high so that the required strength to cope with the high forces developed has already been achieved.

Just as the body increases its capacity to perform work (exercise) when a stress is applied so it will reduce its capacity when no work is applied. If more than 9 days go by without a strong training stimulus then the body will begin to significantly reduce its capacity for work. After a period of several weeks (i.e. December holidays) off there will be severe regression and reduction in performance.

Just as the body increases its capacity to perform work (exercise) when a stress is applied so it will reduce its capacity when no work is applied. If more than 9 days go by without a strong training stimulus then the body will begin to significantly reduce its capacity for work. After a period of several weeks (i.e. December holidays) off there will be severe regression and reduction in performance.

In order to be selected to the SA Junior Team there are several steps that athletes need to take in order to be selected.
1.They must meet the requirements of FISA in that they must not be older than 18 in the year of the championships
2.The athlete must complete the selection process.
3.They must meet the standards set by the RowSA International Commission.
4.The crews must then show an improvement in times and testing standards through the winter

The preparation time for the JWC is 22 weeks from the SA Schools Regatta. This includes the time for testing and selection.
Athletes must be available for all 22 weeks of this preparation and must be available to complete training on all days of this preparation period. There is not time for the athlete to be absent from training for holidays etc. Absence from training can be reason for RowSA to withdraw a boat/athlete from the team.
During school holidays the coaches will be organizing training camps from 2-3 weeks duration
An athlete can expect to have approximately 8 days off over the 22 weeks of the training period.
Training will take place at Roodeplaat Dam on at least 4 sessions each week. The training program will have 9-10 sessions per week, some of which will be under the coaches supervision and others the athlete will have to complete on their own.
Athletes will compete at the Gauteng Senior Champs, SA Snr Champs and several squad regattas in the lead up to the JWC

The program is planned by the coaches with the required loads necessary to achieve a successful result at the JWC. This will be of a continuously high load and intensity that will systematically prepare the athlete for the speeds required at JWC. There will be continuous assessment of the athletes physiological progress in the form of monthly ergometer testing.
The training program will take into account the school timetable so not all boats will follow an identical program but they will all have the same load and intensity. Coaches will schedule rowing on days that school finishes early in order to maximize water time and to ensure that athletes are not home too late at night. They will use later days for less time consuming training sessions such as strength training or ergo.
The training program will not be reduced in volume to accommodate academics or other social engagements. The only way that training can be reduced is to reduce the performance target at the end but that target is non negotiable = Top 6. If the athlete cannot complete the training volume then they will be withdrawn from the team. Athletes will be expected to have effective time management in order to sustain the training load as well as maintain an acceptable level of academics. This may include a reduced social life or free time for social activities ie. watching TV.

The training program will have 8-10 session per week depending on the stage of the season and the training objectives for that week. Some “lighter” rest weeks will have less sessions and “harder” weeks will have 9-10 sessions. On training camp athletes can expect up to 3 session per day.
During the weeks most training will take place in the afternoon as that is when the most time is available. The coaches may however schedule several morning session that the athlete will have to complete on their own. These will generally be shorter session and those that do not require much lifting from the parents i.e. run, ergo etc.
The program varies in order to allow periods of recovery as well as progressive overload. Recovery is usually planned to take place as a gradual restoration of energy capacity and will take place over several days. It is not practical to simply have time off as the body reacts by starting to regress.
The hard weeks will take place as progressive overload where the training load is built up to a higher level than previously tolerated followed by a recovery period that allows adaptation to the new load.

The training program is designed around the time needed to recover adequately from training sessions. The coach will assess the time required for energy systems to recover from the training stimulus and schedule the next training session accordingly.
Therefore it is important that the training conducted as scheduled. If a session is missed it is lost forever as you cannot simply just “catch up”. The cumulative stress will then be too much for adequate recovery to occur before the next session. If adequate recovery does not occur then during subsequent training the athlete is not capable of training at the intensity/speed required for an increase in capacity.

Rest and recovery are the most critical aspects of the training program. The athlete is always weaker after training and only stronger after rest, recovery and adaptation have occurred.
OFF on the program means OFF. Not catch up training missed, not time for all night party, not late night study sessions. Rest and recovery are enhanced mainly by sleep and good nutrition.
Athletes must be getting 8 hours sleep per night minimum as well as naps where possible. In order to achieve this effective time management is critical as well as choosing a sporty lifestyle where training is very high priority. If the athlete chooses partying over recovery then they should not expect to see improvements in performance.

There are many factors that effect stress on the athlete and all can reduce or interfere with the rate of recovery from training.
Social – fights with partners, late nights, alcohol, even too little social life!
Nutritional – insufficient calories, inadequate nutrients, inappropriate meals
Medical – illness, menstrual cycle etc
Financial – costs of training, gym contracts, camps, tours, food, transport etc
Travel – Time in cars, busses, planes etc
Academic – study loads, exams, homework etc
Parental – interference, reluctance, fights, divorces etc
Coaches will plan training in order to keep those they can control to a minimum as well as being available to advise on those that the athlete can control or that the parent can assist with.

It is extremely important that the athlete has a neutral or positive energy balance. I.e the amount of calories eaten must match the amount expended through life activities as well as training. If a negative balance is achieved then training will begin to suffer as a result of a poor energy supply.
A well balanced diet consisting of a large amount of carbohydrate (60%+) – pasta, potatoes, rice, fruits, vegetables as well as protein and fats. A variety of fresh foods i.e. fruit and vegetables should be enough to provide the vitamins and minerals needed.

Carbohydrates are critical for maintaining training load as they form the fuel source for the majority of training that will take place. A deficiency in carbohydrates will lead to an inability to maintain training loads
Fats are extremely important for women's sport as they are required for production of hormones critical for reproductive functions and bone density. Low fat diets and high training loads will increase the risk of amenorrhea and osteoporosis later in life. Diets with sufficient fats and strength training can reduce the risk of these conditions.
Protein are also extremely important as they are required to maintain or increase muscle mass – required for force production.

Please do not try and fad diets such as the zone diet, no carbs after lunch etc as you will fail to meet the training requirement

Athletes are 100% responsible for what goes into their body and what is found in their body. It is extremely important that all medication is checked with the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport before it is taken.
Supplements and herbal/homeopath medications are not regulated and do not disclose all active ingredients. It is strongly recommended that you do not take any of these substances.
Athletes that take medication for long term conditions must fill in and have accepted by SAIDS a TUE or ATUE form

The tour will be entirely arranged by RowSA incl flights, other transport, accommodation, entries, boats. A manger to arrange the tour as well as accompany the tour will be appointed by RowSA at the time of the National Junior Selection Regatta.
Athletes will be part of touring party from the time of departure from SA until released from the tour after the regatta or upon return to RSA. Athletes may not leave the team for other activities on the tour i.e. sightseeing or other functions.
Parents are responsible for payment of an equal share of the costs of the tour before the tour leaves RSA. This cost includes the manager and coaches costs. RowSA will not be arranging any fundraising efforts although parents may get together and organize something. Any monies raised will be shared equally between all the touring party to offset costs equally. Any other reductions that parents may have such as free flights etc will also be used to equally offset the tour costs.
Parents may use voyager miles etc only if they are compatible with the airline and flights booked by the tour manager. No member of the touring party will be flying separate to the group.

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