Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rene Mijnders - FISA Coach in the Spotlight

Coach in the Spotlight
Rene Mijnders
NED Head Coach
FISA Coaches Conference, Budapest, Hungary 7- 11 November 2007

Good morning, it’s an honour to be in the spotlight here, and whether I like it or not I am here. I always find it interesting to hear other coach’s talk about their views and their experiences so I hope this goes for you too. I'm sure that there are many coaches in his room that deserve to be in the spotlight more than I, but still we can’t change that now.

So what will I talk about? First I will tell you something about my personal development, so how did I become the coach that I am today. Of course I will highlight the experiences of coaching Dutch crews and also the Swiss of course so Ill mention that. Then I'll talk a little bit, my view of the development over the years of Dutch rowing. And finally Ill give you my view of where the future of international rowing will take us.

So let me start and tell you how I got involved in rowing. I'm involved for about 35 years now; I started as a rower in 1972. And that’s a long time, it makes you wonder is it worth it? And is it still worth it? How important is rowing anyway? Could it have been something else? Maybe something in business or maybe something in music or in science? Yes it could have been, but its not and maybe it not the rowing that’s important but the excitement that comes with it, the challenge you face, the joy of joy of working with highly motivated people, people who want to get the most out of themselves, who want to achieve something special, something outstanding. For whatever reason I still like it a lot.

I got involved in rowing after high school when I went to study physics in Utrecht and at the start of the first semester the sport clubs they organise all sorts of activities to attract new members. And one of the sports was rowing. So I went, and kind of liked the atmosphere and who ever pitched up could enter the single, you could take a single and try to row it. So I thought why not, went in and got pushed off and flipped over of course. So went in again, flipped over again, and again, and again and again. So this was more difficult than I thought. So I came out of the water all wet and then this other guy approached, and there was clearly something wrong with this guy. He was walking with the two sticks and it was very difficult and he could barely walk. It appeared that he had muscular dystrophy and so he needed help to get into the boat and then he was pushed off then off he went, in a straight line, perfectly balanced and I thought “um I want to learn this too”. So I become a member and after about six weeks at the club there was this championship for freshman and I entered the single. I must tell you that I practiced quite a lot and I was pretty confident and indeed it went quite well. I reached the final, it was this one vs. one knockout system and in the final I took an early lead and I managed to keep it maybe half a length or so and then with about ten strokes to go I flipped over. One month later at the first national championship, first national regatta I lost my seat. Rowing was definitely my sport.

Before I knew it I was training eight times per week or more and forgot I was a student as well. I rowed for the next 12 years. I went twice to the world championships in the coxed four. That was in 82 and 83 in Lucerne and Duisburg and our crew was hiding somewhere in final B. Untapped potential. So after that highlight I started coaching at my club back in 84. By that time I had become a physiotherapist and knew a little bit about the human body and how it moved. Apart from that I was very interested in the physiology of rowing and the biomechanics of it. I read a lot of books and articles on the subject and I visited this conference, the FISA Coaching Conference for the first time in Cologne and at that conference Volker Nolte presented the principle of the hydrodynamic lift. He had taken a video from a bridge, from above of a crew and he clearly showed that right after the entry the blade would still be travelling in the direction of the boat, and not in the opposite direction as you might suspect by pushing against the water. And he also showed that in the initial stage the boat already got accelerated, or better the system of rower or boat. So you could accelerate the boat with the boat moving in the same direction as the boat itself. You see, I knew it! Long arcs are effective. I finally understood why.

I wrote some articles about this and some other ideas I had about rowing in the rowing magazine and before I knew it I was chief of Dutch rowing. My job was to coach the coaches and structure the national team. The federation at the time didn’t have any structure at all and there where no professional coaches either. Coaches were all volunteers and nobody cooperated with nobody. Success was a coincidence. So it was an easy start, it was not difficult to make things better. But I was rather young and inexperienced as a coach. I had to learn a lot, I still do. I guess with most of us if we look back we find that we are a better coach today than we are five years ago or ten years ago.

I was inexperienced but did have some strong ideas about how to row. Let’s say I had a concept, I had a model. Not a perfect one but at least I had one. And to spread my ideas I organised central training at the Bosbaan, our national centre. A lot of rowers and coaches from clubs were invited and we took videos of all the rowers and I did the analysis. So all the people in one room and one by one video after video. Of course I wanted them to row my way, I wanted to push them into my model. The only truth. I wasn’t too political those days. Some people are still mad at me. I would look at the video for a few seconds and then stop it and then say “It’s obvious what’s wrong here” and then I would give a few comments to show that this rower was really crap and then I would switch to the next video. Some rowers left the room crying which I didn’t notice of course because I was already burning the next guy down. In those days Thor Nielson was already a legend. He was head coach of Italy at the time and in 1984 in my first year of coaching I went with the four to Pediluco to training camp. So it was my first year. At Pediluco we took video and Thor did the analysis. The first thing he said was ‘it’s not bad, I see a lot of good things here but…” and then he gave the whole shit. So at least we didn’t leave the room crying. If I look back I was quite rigid at the time and my social skills needed some attention. But we learn, we change, we improve, and sometimes we forget.

I remember at the training camp in 1996 we were with the Dutch eight, the Holland Acht, who won the Olympics afterwards and to our standard we trained very hard, high volume and also some intensity. One of the training sessions we did we did ten minute pieces at stroke rate 28 competitive in pairs. Now Niko Rinks, strokeman of the eight, he always was looking for competition. He liked it but he also had these little tricks to beat the other guys. So he would start a little bit ahead or rate a little bit higher, and again this time as soon as I said go he took off at 34, leaving everyone far behind off course. So I got mad and told him after the piece that he should stick to the program and keep the rate down just like the others. Now he blew his top and shouted at me that I never gave him any approval for the fact that he was working so hard or all the effort he was making. I was surprised, I was stunned. Here was the big Nico Rinks, stroke of the eight and former Olympic Champion, later on winner of the Tommie Keller award and he needed my approval. It made me realise again how sensitive people really are.

Not long after that I met Timothy Galway. He is the writer of The Inner Game…the Inner Game of Golf, Tennis, Work, Music and quite successful with it. And Timothy he gave a clinic and taught us how he used to teach tennis. So like me he had a concept of how you should play the game, so what a good top spin forehand should look like and what a good backhand should look like. So he had this model in his head and he would give instructions to get the player into this model. Not like this…like that. He didn’t have too much success with it, and then one day he realised that people don’t fit into the model. That opened my eyes. Did the rowers fit my model and if not how could I help them to get better. So after that insight of Galway he developed a new method of coaching and the TV documentary, I think it was NBC, there was a documentary made about his methods. And so what they did, they picked a really fat woman from the street, and it was very obvious that she didn’t move too much all her life, and Timothy Galway he had to teach her tennis in just half an hour. So they started each at one side of the net and all he did was play the ball to her forehand. He said nothing about how to hold the racquet or how to move the feet. All she had to do wads to play the ball back and to say “bounce” when it hit the ground and say “hit” when she hit it. He asked her to focus on the rhythm; tennis was like music, bounce-hit, bounce-hit. It was amazing how fats her play improved. After about five minutes of playing the ball to her forehand and he kept playing the balls he said ‘let’s try the other side”. And he played it to her backhand and she hit it perfectly. Watching that video changed quite a lot of my coaching. Of course I still had my model but I tried to figure out more why the rowers move the way they do and how I really can help them to get better. So let’s say I became more open-minded.

So in those days I began to look at other countries in the world and tried to figure out what was good about it. It was clearly different but what were the good things. A good way to learn is to bring people from outside into your system. And in 1994 the Dutch federation hired Kris Korzeniowski. Kris had some pretty strong ideas about rowing, and some were clearly different than ours. He used much more competitive outings and a lot of power training in the boat. We on the other hand were looking for more the efficiency of rowing, fluent motions, the run of the boat, relaxed motions, and so this didn’t match very well with power strokes. So Kris and I had very long discussions. We sat down for hours and hours, but we both learned and we adapted. We didn’t copy, we adapted. I learned and put it into practice for the next three years with the Dutch eight and I think they did well.

Over the years I also learned to trust my intuition more. It’s my intuition that tells me when training has been enough or when to push them a little bit harder, when to listen to our physiologists or not, or how much time we spend on innovation, or focus on the basic training process. Intuition is the combining of your experience and knowledge in life. It develops. In the beginning you can’t rely on it because you haven’t got it, but as you grow older it becomes a pretty strong instrument. And if I forget to listen to my intuition there is still the experience of the athletes. Sometimes they know better than you.

In 1996 with the same men’s eight we were in a training camp in Seville and training quite hard ad of course they got tired. And they were fed up every now and then. On the one occasion the guys were already on the water and I had some problems getting the motorboat started. It took me about ten minutes. So finally I got the engine running and I was driving full seed to catch up with the guys. I went over the whole course which from the club to the end is about 8 kilometres in Seville, but I couldn’t find them. I didn’t know where they were I just couldn’t find them. And so I drove back to the boathouse and shortly before I got back I heard a little whistle and there they were sitting on the terrace having cappuccinos and eating ice cream and waving at me. They were tired and they were fed up. I gave them the rest of the day off. So I guess we all go through such experiences don’t we.

So we can learn from bringing people from outside into your system, like we did with Kris Korzionowski, but another way to learn is to get out of the system yourself. Coach in a different environment. I had a few opportunities to coach abroad. In 2005 and 2006 I was head coach of Switzerland. So let me focus a little bit on that. After the Olympics in Athens I was offered this job of becoming the head coach and the offer was very tempting of course, you don’t get them every day. The training centre is located in Sarnen which has a beautiful lake, which can be a little bit cold in winter. At the time I got the offer I just got married, took me almost 50 years, and we had bought a nice house near Utrecht, half an hour from Amsterdam. So I explained my situation to the Swiss and said that the only way to do the job was to commute between Holland and Switzerland. And they agreed. So of course I asked a little bit of what to expect. And the one thing there didn’t seem to be too many rowers, but no one could tell me exactly how many rowers we did have. Also the federation couldn’t tell me. Well it can’t be that bad I though but when I started to look around I didn’t see much indeed. So to find out how many rowers there were we did a little research. It wasn’t too difficult because if you want to participate at races at any level in Switzerland you need a licence, so you just count the number of licences. And this is the result.

For Women:

And we see the same figure for Men:

In red you see the number of new licences that year. So what you see is that after junior age, after 17, so there is a peak of 15, 16 and 17 year olds and afterwards it already goes down. And red is gone so after the junior age no new licences, no new members in Switzerland. So at senior level there is almost no one. So there is no structure, there is nothing there for seniors. The clubs aren’t interested and there is hardly competition at national level. So to repair this of course you have to take a lot of measures, but I won’t worry you with that. But what I did of course was to look around and start to find athletes. The first year wasn’t very promising. I was at the Rotsee in 2005 and Bent Jensen the coach of Denmark at the time came to me and asked me how I liked it in Switzerland. I told him I enjoyed it a lot only I didn’t see too much talent. He said “I know what you mean; you can’t make a race horse out of a pig”. Then he thought a little bit and said, “You can make it a fast pig”.

In Gifu we had a men’s double, a men’s straight four, and two lightweight scullers, lightweight women and lightweight men. The singles did ok but the double and the four were disappointing. At the U23’sin Amsterdam that year we did a little bit better and we had four crews in the final. So that gave a little bit of hope. But we needed to attract more rowers. So after Gifu the idea of the eight came out. I think it was Alexander (??) who came up with the idea first. We wanted to use the eight as a vehicle to get things started. The eight can be a vehicle to build things up. Some rowers think that “well if he can make it to the eight then I can”. But with whom to start, we didn’t have eight rowers. So I asked Alexander and he said “well maybe I can ask this guy, I know another guy, he quit but maybe he will start again, and we can ask him”. And so that is how the eight got started. And of course there was a lot of scepticism, from the clubs mainly. And of course this all disappeared when the eight came fourth at the World Cup regatta in Lucerne that year. In Munich this year they came a little bit short to qualify directly for Beijing but I still think that they have a very good chance next year. Anyway it would be a he stimulus for Swiss rowing.

So what else did I notice in Switzerland. I already mentioned that there are very few senior rowers. Four languages and many tunnels. I said this because there are also 26 regions and they are very independent. And I mentioned the tunnels because in Switzerland if you drive through a tunnel, it’s like driving to a different country. So as a result there is not too much cooperation. And you have to work very hard to get everybody to work together. The Swiss are good at organising, and they like it, everything is organised. I'll give you an example, at the training centre in Sarnen, they introduced when I left, and they introduced a new system for the collection of garbage. The principle is that the more waste you have or produce the more you pay. The system is very sophisticated. Each individual is offered several options, you can pay by volume for instance, or you can pay by weight. You want to pay by volume, you buy special bags, and these are the only ones you can put on the street. If you want to pay by weight you collect your garbage in a container, and the container is put on the scale. To save money people started to throw their garbage in the container of their neighbours. No really, that’s what happened. So now you will find every container in Sarnen securely locked. So if you have some waste there is nowhere you can throw it anymore. So now if you still want to save money you have to dump your garbage in the river or the forest. Well at least it’s organised. But on the other hand it doesn’t make them too flexible. So if you want to use the Rotsee for your trials you better start making requests one year ahead and it will take you a huge effort.

So what des it look like for the athletes in Switzerland. There is very little support from the Olympic Committee. I think that Holland is a little bit average but when you come to a country like Switzerland you realise that it can be a lot worse. And if you want to train in Sarnen you will have to bring your own boat. But the individuals are prepared to train. And I must say more than the Dutch. The Dutch they train rather smart than hard. But the Swiss they don’t complain, they just do the work. So I had a good time in Switzerland and I enjoyed working with the athletes and the coaches. And I still would have been there if I didn’t get a lovely daughter almost one year ago.

When I came back to Holland quite a few things had changed. What used to be the grandstand at the Bosbaan was now a well equipped training centre. It has offices, restroom for the athletes and an excellent weight room. Weight training, and this is the subject later on, is now in the hands of an expert. You can invite him next time I think. Training is very sophisticated so when I came back I looked at the program, and I studied it but I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t read it. Exercises are very complicated. So I slowly found out this was a different program. It was more a neuromuscular stimulus, more to do with the recruitment of the fibres, coordination and stability. And so it’s not so much a metabolic program, it’s not so much a build up program for the muscle itself. But I think the athletes benefit from it, and it’s a step forward. But the training is different and it has implications for the rest of the training, for what you do in the boat or for what else you do on land. And it took some time for me to figure it out and understand it fully. So slowly, slowly we improve. And you have to because international rowing develops. And remember if you develop with the same speed as the rest of the world, in ten years time you will be just as far behind as you are now. So you had better speed up.

So how did Dutch rowing develop over the years? Let me start in the 60’s. At that time the competitive rowing structure in Holland would look like this: a pyramid.

A broad base and a top that is not too high. If you want a higher top, you need a broader base. And at the base in the 60’s we find student clubs. So the crews at the top the crews that made it to the Olympics were club crews coached by amateurs, and they would bring home medals. Since the 60’s student rowing hasn’t changed much. In fact it has moved backwards I think, because you have to finish your studies in less time nowadays than in the 60’s. So students are more under pressure. In the 80’s and 90’s there are still hardly professionals found at club level, but the level of the national team increased, and this is mainly the result if centralisation. A training centre was established, we have professional coaches now, medical and physiological support improved and the financial support for the athletes and the federation from the Olympic Committee got a lot better. So the structure of national rowing in the 90’s would look like this: the Eiffel Tower.

The better people from the clubs would come to the centre, and we would put together crews from them and coach them. No more club crews. So a smaller base and a higher top. Definitely an improvement. But will it be enough for the future. I think the future will look like this: the Rockefeller Center.

What you see here is a small base yet a very solid and very high structure. To build such a structure we will have to improve our system even further. We have to improve our knowledge and facilities for the athletes, we have to monitor the training better and we have to individualise it more. Let me give an example on that. To monitor training and see how people respond to training in most countries they use lactate. And the lactate curve looks like this:

If the curve shifts to the right we say that the aerobic capacity improves. So the VO2 max works on a pulley on the curve. But the anaerobic capacity works as a pulley on the curve as well.

It works in the opposite direction. So if the anaerobic capacity goes down the curve shifts to the right as well. Obviously the aerobic and anaerobic capacities have an influence on the curve, and in practice about 40% of the interpretations are wrong. The worst case is this, so on the right side you see the two circles, the above one you see both an improvement of the aerobic and the anaerobic but the aerobic capacity improved more than the anaerobic capacity. So the curve shifts to the right. And we say good, excellent, keep going like this and maybe even push a little bit harder, and we see how the athlete responds. And if you look at the red circle down, you see that everything went down, both the aerobic capacity and the anaerobic capacity but the anaerobic capacity went down more than the aerobic capacity, its not totally right in the picture, but if the anaerobic capacity goes down more then the aerobic capacity the curve also shifts to the right. And again we would say excellent, keep going like this or push even harder. But the rower is about to collapse, he is already on the edge. So for a good judgement you need to estimate both capacities, not just one.

We also know that the athletes respond on a different way to training, they have different profiles, yet in practice most rowers follow the same program. From this time of year row 200km a week or more do three weight sessions and a stability program. So is it a good program? For whom? Does it make sense that one rower who is very strong with a low anaerobic capacity and another rower with the opposite profile have the same training program? Different profiles, different programs. I think we still have a long way to go here.

So let me summarise. So if you look over the years from the perspective of the federation, we see an improvement in structure, facilities, number of professionals, medical and physiological support, and also financial means. From the perspective of the athletes, we see an improvement in facilities, and available time, financial support, so the system has improved. But the number of talents in the system didn’t increase since the 60’s. Today the number of real talents is still very low. And this is in Holland, this is in Switzerland and I think in most countries of the world this is the case. So you cannot build such a high structure with average talents. I think only with outstanding athletes you can reach for the sky. So what is talent in rowing? What characteristics does a talent have? Well let’s take one, for instance length. We want good leverage. So here is what the length of the population will look like.

We have a nice shape bell curve. We find most people of average length and both very short and very tall people are rare. But let’s say we want women over 180cm and men over 190cm. That would be anyone on the right side of the red line. (Redrawn from video to be clearer)

But we don’t just want them to be tall; we also want them to have a high oxygen uptake. So we concentrate on the small people on the right side, and see of these people who has a high VO2 max. We will find another bell curve.

So the ones that are both tall and have a high VO2 max are the ones to the right of the red line in the little bell. Now we don’t want them just to be very tall and aerobically very good, we also want them to be strong. Another bell curve.

And they also need the ambition and the right mentality to become champions. Another bell curve, and so on and so on. So what I'm saying is that real talent is extremely rare. So every now and then we such a huge talent in rowing, and its like he or she is from another planet. They are not form another planet they are just extremely rare and hard to find. So who are we coaching? Let me give an example. The Dutch are the tallest nation in the world. If we look at the future we look at the juniors. They are the future right? So last year we sent a Dutch junior woman’s eight to Beijing. They were the smallest team in the competition and finished far behind. So we are the tallest nation in the world but managed to select very small girls into the eight. As if we did it on purpose. How many of them will be in the senior eight in four years time? How many have the talent to become an Olympic Champion? Not one I suppose. Yet we spend our effort or time or money on them to make sure that they truly reach their potential. We coach whoever is there. We coach whoever comes into our system.

So why don’t we find the talent, identify and select new talents? Most countries don’t, some countries do. I think the Brits they started a few years ago with a big effort in this area and they are already very successful with it. But to be honest so far the need wasn’t too high. In rowing we are lucky. There is not just one man and one woman winning a gold medal at the Olympics there are many. In rowing at the Olympics we have 27 gold medals for men and 19 for women. That’s all the medals at the Olympics, Gold, Silver, Bronze 138. At the World Championships, 48 gold medals for men, I didn’t count the coxes by the way, and 28 for women if I'm not mistaken. So that 228 Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. So we can still get away with it by focusing on one or two boat types. This is the picture taken of the Dutch men’s eight in 1994 in Indianapolis when they won a silver medal.

Were they talents? Well some where not talented enough because in 1996 it looked like this.

So were they talents? Well they definitely were the best and I still think they would be competitive today. They definitely were talented rowers. But on the other hand how many could have become Olympic Champion in the single scull? Not too many I suppose. So in 20 years from now will the eight consist of more or better talent? Definitely. So finding, recruiting and developing big talents is were I think the future is. And you don’t need so many, a rather small base will do. But haven’t we seen this before in the 70’s and 80’s in Eastern Europe maybe? Does this mean back to the DDR? In a way yes, the system worked. It did produce results. Maybe it was a little bit too rigid. The system has to be attractive for people who are in it.

If you want to throw a stone into a basket you can control this. If you know the distance to the basket all you have to do is give it the right speed and send it in the right direction at the right angle. And the stone definitely for sure will end up in the basket. But if you try to d the same thing with a living creature, let’s say a bird, so again, you know the distance to the basket, and you give it exactly the right speed and angle and oops it flies away. So if you want the bird in the basket, you can either kill the bird and throw it in the basket, or you use some attractors. You could for instance put some bread in the basket. If the bread is tasty ad the bird is hungry you might find the bird in the basket. Rowers are like the bird. And therefore I think that rowing has to be a nice thing to do. It has to be fun. And this goes for coaches as well, and by that I mean you. So if you are bored right now you can relax I will finish my presentation here.

I shared with you some of my experiences and thoughts and gave you my view of were I think the future will take us. And if you didn’t fall asleep thank you for your attention.

Question: You said I think it was Bent Jensen that you followed up his story about “you can’t turn a race horse into a pig, but you can make it a fast pig” and the later in your presentation you said “you can’t achieve success without talent”. I’d like to challenge you on that and see if you can think of some rowing athletes who didn’t fit all your bell curves and weren’t talented and achieved success. Are there some that you can think of and how can you explain that there are some exceptions to your rule.

Rene: Yes that’s true and sometime I’ve worked a little bit in company as well and of course I mentioned these examples of people who don’t fit in and nobody thinks that this person, that he or she can make it but they end up with a gold medal. So if we find talents we talk about characteristics but there are also assumptions and if we want length and leverage it doesn’t mean that people that are a little bit shorter can’t win a medal. So this is about numbers, in average we find that the taller people have a better chance in rowing. So it always works with estimations and averages for the identification of talents but it doesn’t always go for the individual. And I don’t think if Allen Campbell (GBR 1x) if he would fit in all the characteristics of the British talent program. Of course it’s wonderful that the people who don’t really fit in and win a gold medal. But if you want to build a system and you structure it then you think otherwise and you look generally where we find good talents.

I think right now in our straight four, the stroke, he is a very little guy for instance. In the Dutch eight there is Michael Bartman (??), not too tall and he got selected in the boat but previously he was in a club level and they made an eight and he didn’t manage to get in the boat because he was too small, not strong enough, technically not very good and at that time I probably would not have selected him either. But he had this drive and he managed to make it and in the end he was one of the best rowers in the boat and in 2004 he was stroking the eight.

Question: Rene in your presentation you said the emphasis is changing from physiology over too neuromuscular stimulation. What would that involve inside the boat and outside the boat?

Rene: I was talking here just about the weight training and what we used to do was work more in the area 6-10 reps, quite heavy loads, and this of course is a metabolic stress so you have to see this as a metabolically very stressful training. So that means around it in the boat you relax a little bit or focus a bit more on basic endurance training. But now on the other hand if you have this different type of training people get fatigue but it’s a different sort of fatigue but around it you definitely can use a little bit more intensity in the boat because you don’t do it on land. That’s what I meant.

Question: In your presentation, you said that the Dutch are the tallest nation in the world and also spoke a lot about height. Do you think that there is an optimum height and if so what is it, and can you be too tall to row?

Rene: Can you be too tall? Yeah I'm not an expert in this because our talent identification process is hardly established and we are working a little bit in this area right now. I don’t know if you can be too tall for the boat, to fit in the boat and how the boats are made and how it is adjusted I think yes and if you are a lot taller than all the other guys in the boat then maybe you can be too tall. Still we don’t find too many people over two metres in rowing. I don’t know if this is because we don’t know how to put them in the boat right now or that they are maybe too tall, I don’t know.

Question: Rene, you talked about having fun. How do you make fun when you’ve got crews that are training in a four year cycle, competing at a major regatta or event only three times in a year and the rest of the time is just really boring training. How do you make fun in rowing? Are we doing the right thing with our sport?

Rene: I don’t know if it is boring. Maybe if you do twenty kilometres at stroke rate 18 twice a day, day after day. Ok there is some boring stuff in it, but I think rowing is more than that, and it is definitely more than that. In the end the goal is not the goal (gold?) and what I mean by that is you work very hard to try to win a medal at the Olympics but how many people succeed. Ok there are still a few gold medals to be won at the Olympics but most people they don’t make it. So does this mean it was all for nothing and that all this effort was for nothing? They are losers, that they regret that they have started rowing? I think not. I think the true value is somewhere else. And I think it is the process of working very hard together and working on the way and finding out what a real team is, and finding out how you can trust other people and work with other people. So there is a lot of joy in that and I agree that sometimes the training can be a little bit boring and I think in the 60’s it was more romantic. You had just four guys at the club and they came together and “hey lets go for it” and they trained for one or two years and they came home with a medal. But we can’t change that sport still develops. But it has this side that you thin Ok it becomes more and more and more and you can’t combine it with other things in life. Is it still worth it but I still think that it can be very rewarding even in the end if you don’t make it.

Question: The first question was “how do you throw your rubbish away in Sarnen, because I think that’s a question for later. You talked about your coaching style being quite rigid at the start and how you adapted but how would you describe it now and what is the really important thing that you try to get across in your coaching.

Rene: So how I deal with the rowers or how I approach them? For me I think that it is very important that they are involved. They are not just instruments in the hands of the coach. I believe that you get better results when people are really involved, when they are really committed and responsible and so that’s a little bit how I coach. And so there is a difference that you have some above the training program and the coach is not there and some don’t show up, or they are responsible. In ’96 we had Niko Rinks who just started a company and it was impossible for him to train twice at the Bosbaan, so what he did, he did the first training session early in the morning, at 6”o clock even, at home he would sit on the erg and then shower and went off to work and in the afternoon he would train together with the rest of the team. So what I think is important and if you do this right with this approach, there is not a single doubt, nor by me, nor by the rest of the team that Niko Rinks did really sit on the erg at 6 o’clock in the morning. So for me this is very important. There is more to say on this subject but we still have tomorrow.

Question: Two questions form the Russian speaking community. The first question is about lightweight rowers because these days the performance of lightweight rowers is very close to the performance of heavyweight rowers. What about heavyweights having some reserve of performance in training and physiology. And the second question is about lifestyle. What do you think is the optimal lifestyle for high performance rowers? When they training, the best time to do training, in the morning or afternoon. These sorts of things.

Rene: Um that’s quite a lot. So the first part of the question is about the fact that lightweights are almost just as fast as heavies so does this mean that there is some reserve in the speed of the heavies so that they can be faster in the future? Definitely they can be faster in the future and maybe it’s the same thing, if we look at for instance in the eight how many real talents do we find in an eight? And so everything in the lightweights is focused on the lightweight four and the lightweight double. And so there are a lot of lightweights in the world with only a few types of boats and I think that this can be a reason that the level relatively is higher. You just had more choice if you are a heavyweight and therefore the spread is higher. This is what I meant by how many people in the eight have the ability to become the Olympic Champion in the single scull.

And the other half question was about lifestyle. Again I’m not an expert in this but I still think that of course you have to really look into it. It’s not just training but also you need the rest for the adaptation of the training, you need the good nutrition so you have to take care of yourself and so there’s not too much place for other stressful things in life and work and studying and all that. Or partying or what ever that is. On the other hand it is still so that you have to enjoy the situation that you are in. Otherwise you can put people under stress but after one or to years they will quit. It’s always a balance these things so yes it is important to structure your life. On the other hand you have to be a little bit loose and a little bit flexible as well.

Question: I would have two questions about recruiting. The fist question is which age group do you focus on in your freshly established recruiting system to find the talents. And the second one is, is it important to have any other sports backgrounds for these guys which you are recruiting?

Rene: Again we don’t have a very sophisticated recruiting system in Holland. But for in stance I think in the DDR they would really work with school kids in the very early age they would try to take the already. The disadvantage is that a lot of these people they are fed up with rowing by the time they become seniors and I think there was a big fall out as a result of it. And so if I'm not mistaken right now in England they focus on people who are a little bit older so I would say maybe 18 years, 19 years that range. You wouldn’t select people from 30 years probably but in rowing it is still a sport that most people who are a little bit coordinated we can teach them a decent technique in a few years. And also it is a strength and strength endurance sport and both strength endurance ad endurance capacity are very trainable so if you do the right things I think in a few years time I think these athletes can become really good. So maybe there is not such a need to start with the really small kids of 12-13 years old.

The second half of the question was again…”Do you think it is important to have a rowing background or another specific sport background”…Definitely I think it is a benefit, that it is an advantage when people do have, not necessarily in rowing but they do have a background somewhere in sport. So some of these capacities are already developed and also coordination is developed already.

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