I spend a lot of my time coaching. During the school season that’s mostly school crews but off season and when time allows I like
coaching masters. What do Masters bring that makes coaching them so rewarding?
Increasingly the masters I coach are taking it up after their own children have taken up the sport. Nevertheless they bring a youthful enthusiasm and have a real desire to row well. Add in to that the social aspect of masters rowing and a simple desire to get fitter, plus the fact that as coach you can have a coffee or other refreshment after training with the crew and masters crews are a lot of fun.
So how is it different?
There are some difference in the stroke pattern.
- Flexibility is generally not quite what it was so the arc of the stroke is smaller.
- For those who are newer to the sport the catch tends to be slower. That means that lots of focus needs to go on making sure the blade goes into the water at the point point the blade is out at its full arc – I describe that as when their knees reach the top. Strangely I have sometimes found that as the balance in the boat improves a slight pause at the front starts to develop as in a balanced boat there is less urgency to get the blade in the water.
- Then the focus moves to ensuring that the drive does not start until the blade is buried – you might hear coaches going on about rowers missing water. There are drills for addressing that but one that sometimes works [there are no silver bullets] is having half the boat rowing square blade and every second stroke place the blade but don’t push at all and simply let the momentum of the boat move the boat under you and the handle come through to the finish.
Masters rowers are also much more likely to be on the water without a coach. That can mean that every session is much the same and that the session involves rowing to a point, turning round and rowing back. A suggestion is to have a coach set up some training sessions that include a warm up, a drill or two for the session [with an explanation of what the drill is wanting to achieve] and some set work. If those are typed up and laminated crews can chose the session they will follow and take that out on the water. From experience it makes the sessions more useful, more fun and actually seem shorter.
If it is possible, get someone to video parts of a session and share that with the crew Rowers can compare what they are doing with a video clip of what they aspire to look like. You may also inadvertently capture some moments of hilarity which can be a great addition on the big screen at your next masters social event.
For those masters who have rowed through the club ranks you can take comfort from that great saying – “The older I get, the better I was.”
Allan Vester, Legion Committee Member
St George Rowing Club