This year the junior squad has bounded on with progress and promise. Most of our juniors are fairly young which means they have time to develop through experience into well rounded athletes with the knowledge and skills to perform to the best of their ability. The most rewarding moments this year have been the individual successes from day to day training. Someone finally getting in and out of a single by themselves, setting new personal best scores on the ergo, crews being able to handle the boat without knocking trestles over, someone ‘getting’ a technical improvement having persisted on a technical drill, or a cox saying all the right things in a race. Of course there have been some excellent results which also brought a smile to my face, such as the J15 girls winning at interregionals’, the J18 boys suddenly pulling it together at scullery to win a bronze medal, our J15 ‘b’ double overtaking local opposition in a head race (much to their coaches surprise and disgust!), and Walton and Weybridge regatta where three junior quads won in the same ten minutes! Phew! So well done all for a good year so far and here are some thoughts on some of the lessons learned (or relearned) so far this year.
Even things which seem like a setback can be used in a positive way as long as juniors are prepared to see what can be learnt from every situation. A highly important skill for life which can be developed in rowing is the ability to fight through adversity and come out the other side, possibly even stronger than before. From my rowing experiences my proudest moments have been when I worked the hardest not necessarily the best performance as others would see it. In what I consider my best ever race we came second! The best year was not the one with the most gold medals around my neck but the one which demanded the most commitment and effort to get through it. The message being that the results are a product of training efforts, but ultimately the sense of pride and achievement from having done your absolute best is the biggest reward, better than any shiny things you may pick up along the Wey! :D
The juniors saw first hand at National Schools’ regatta how small the margins can be between places. The WJ15 girls got into the final by going half a second faster than a crew that did not qualify, so they took approximately two hundred and seventy two strokes during the race and it came down to who had a little extra in the last ten. The racing was close and of very high quality, and all our crews put in a good effort, with the girls getting the highest placing with fifth in the double and quad. Its worth pointing out that these girls have consistently attended training, done the training well and therefore had the opportunity to practice together for about a year and a half. They make rowing a priority and are organized enough to arrange other commitments and studies around it, with some assistance from their parents no doubt! You train how you race and you race how you train!
One of the best things about rowing, in my opinion, is that hard work is rewarded. It relies on aspects which can be developed with training or controlled by the athlete including aerobic fitness, core strength, power, determination, flexibility and technique. Some people talk about size or talent as a deciding factor of success, but both are irrelevant without a good work ethic and sufficient practice. In my first year of coaching, I coached a girl that was doing GB junior trials and at about 57kg was much lighter than most of the competition. But she would give everything she had to every stroke and every session, even doing more than required. For example after a 16km outing in her single, she begged to do an extra 4km at the end rather than wait in the queue to get her boat out. Setting and maintaining high standards regardless of what others around you do is key for reaching tough goals, needless to say she got a 7.30 2k ergo by the summer and got selected to represent Great Britain. It’s also worth pointing out that there are several members of our junior squad that have potential to reach a high level but those that achieve highly in rowing are the ones who manage their workload and time effectively by finding a routine throughout the year rather than cramming at the last minute! Of all the juniors I know that have reached international representation, not one missed any training (doing 8 to 10 sessions a week) during exams, yet all achieved high grades and got into their university of choice, go figure! The informal observation from rowing schools is that rowers do better academically than non rowers, because they have to be so good at time management and forward planning. A task will take as long as you have!
Given that every split second counts in a race then its worth giving everything you can to training – ‘train hard, race easy’ (maybe). If you can go 0.00001 of an inch further than your opposition each stroke, you’ll beat them (unless they over rate you of course!) Perfecting technique comes from focus and challenging yourself; keep your attention on technique while you’re rowing, apart from anything else, it’s an excellent distraction from discomfort when you’re working really hard!
Here is an extract from an excellent book called ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed:
“In the 1990s researchers conducted a revelatory study into figure skating. They found that the major difference between elite skaters and their less elite counterparts is not to be found in genetics, personality, or family background. Rather it is to be found in the type of practice. Elite skaters regularly attempt jumps beyond their current capabilities: less elite skaters do not…elite skaters attempt jumps that are more difficult even when measured relative to their superior abilities. Purposeful practice is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. Excellence is about stepping outside of the comfort zone, training with a spirit of endeavor, and accepting the inevitability of trials and tribulations. Progress is built, in effect, upon the foundations of necessary failure.”
…and that, dear juniors, is why standing rigger dips and square blades in singles are such a good idea! Training is not supposed to be easy!
Anything is possible given time, opportunity, hard work and focus. You have the opportunity at Weybridge; we will support your ambitions. Decide what you want to achieve and go for it, unrelentingly. Setting your own goals can be the first step to achieving them.
Work hard and enjoy!
Many thanks to all those that support the juniors rowing and make it happen. Particularly including the coaches Nick, (who also fixes equipment often having to go out of his way to do so at short notice when juniors break stuff!) Clive, Jon, Matt, Lisa, Dale, Graham, Riccardo, the captain Rachel, and of course parents who drive rowers around the country, stand on the riverbank in all weathers, buy kit, wash kit, and feed the rowers at home and events in addition to usual parenting duties!