Aha! or Why bother coaching masters?



I am just back from coaching some masters rowers for a weekend.  As I reflected during the flight home I realised I had enjoyed it.  But why?  After a lifetime involved in high performance rowing, where the goal was to be the best, how could I be enjoying coaching rowers who were well past the date when their bodies and lifestyles would allow them to dream of being the best.

This idle philosophising led me to further questions: Why do Masters Athletes bother? Why do they train and race?  As part of the weekend we attended a Masters’ regatta and I watched them racing with impressive intensity if not always impressive accuracy.

One thing I did learn at the regatta was that lycra (spandex in US speak) is not always wise; but that is another topic for another day.

From a personal and selfish point of view coaching Masters is comfortable in that there is no need for crowd control, there are plenty of volunteers to join the tired coach in some alcohol therapy at the end of the day, and there are no worries about impropriety or whether one of the children in your care is sneaking off to inhale something illegal, or to have a tryst with one of the opposite sex.  I would prefer however to see my motivations in a slightly more favourable light.

As the plane bounced around on the approach to Queenstown I realised why the weekend had been so much fun; the aha! moment.


Several times during our sessions one of the rowers had said “Oh, that’s what people have been talking about!”  They were experiencing that sudden clicking of cogs into place and the realisation that they understood what coaches and other rowers had been talking about all this time.  Such experiences are all too rare in our lives and are extremely enjoyable. For a brief moment we are in control and know how to make the world behave as we wish.

When I am coaching and one of my athletes has an aha! moment I also feel good.  Watching a fellow human being take one small step along the path to enlightenment, even if only enlightenment about rowing, is enjoyable.

So maybe the masters have taught me more this weekend than I taught them?  That’s an interesting thought.  Is my coaching now more about teaching rowing than about winning races? If I am more excited about an athlete’s Aha! moments than their race results, have I going soft, or have I also taken a few steps along the path to coaching enlightenment?



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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. master krosse

    “how could I be enjoying coaching rowers who were well past the date when their bodies and lifestyles would allow them to dream of being the best” – elitist coach jonathon lewis

    ahhh, jonathon! your youthful impetuosity and vacuity remind me of my own from many years ago!

    what is “the best”? why bother coaching 2V, 3V, or JV? they are clearly not your “best”. why bother coaching women? they will always lag manly rowing performance falling short of your “best”.

    i suppose it may not be “the best”, but more “their best”. i have rowing colleagues in their ’70’s – competing to be the best nationally in a G or H-class boat; some of whom have been rowing longer than before your mother was born. btw – she should give you another smack across the forehead to straighten out your thinking.

    1. Duncan Holland

      Thanks for the reply, but it was me you should have been abusing not Jonathon, we had a small technical hitch and my blog was posted under the wrong name. I am pleased that in my 60th year I can still be accused of “youthful impetuosity”. My mother was born some 84 years ago so that must put your colleagues close to 3 figures. btw I must add your “smack across the forehead” to my coaching repertoire.

  2. Katherine Phillips

    I agree with you totally. Masters are challenging, frustrating, funny, so hard on themselves, delusional, and a joy to coach. I coach Masters and was a Master rower and they are my preferred group to coach. The life experience they bring into a boat along with the odd hip replacement, dodgy backs, poorly mended broken limbs or even four limbs is an education for all in how the body will adapt and how far you can push it at any age.
    I have just finished at the Australian Masters Championships with a mixed age squad from 30 years of age to 68 years. Regardless of age, experience and mind games they ended up with one gold, 8 silvers and 7 bronze medals for the majority of a squad that had never competed at a National regatta. 1700 Masters rowers, just imagine the stories and the drinking!!!!

    We will be over to the NZ Masters Nationals in Twizel come September. We are all looking forward to it

    Kathy from Row-Craft Coaching and Programming Solutions

    1. Duncan Holland

      Thanks for the comment Kathy,

      I think you got my gist rather better than our colleague above! It is good to hear of others that are enjoying teaching the less than perfect to row. I live near Twizel so perhaps i could meet with you and your team in September and share a drink and some stories?


  3. Katherine Phillips

    Oh and I forgot the lycra- the less said the better in many cases!!!

  4. Duncan Holland

    P.s. I won’t be wearing lycra!

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