How should I begin to build fitness and technique on the water with my J12 crews once they have mastered the basics of handling the boat?
Fitness and technique are the goal of all rowing coaching and tough to do well.
So my suggestions – first, make it FUN and also make some of the work competitive – kids love to race. This advice applies to adults as well – only the attention span and language changes.
Building rowing Fitness
Is mostly distance – but for your lot as they’re young. treat each outing in segments with none longer than
20 minutes – attention spans are short.
I would do drills and skills up to your turn-around point and then do a race back to the boathouse as a good way of balancing both skills and fitness. This can be a solid template for all your outings.
I set off the crews in reverse speed order so there’s overtaking /being overtaken experiences as well as several crews finishing together to add to the fun of it.
I also put the more skilful into small boats and the newbies into larger boats so boat speeds can be more similar.
When I coached juniors at Tideway Scullers School we used to allow the kids about 10 minutes at the turn around to sit / lark about (safely) and generally relax. It allows them a break from thinking and plays to their capabilities at this age.
Rowing Skill acquisition
I allow the crews to give themselves marks out of 10 as to how well the execute drills. You will then let them set the “quality score” and you will be amazed at how tough they are on themselves. I expect you know the type of drill to use – always start with the basics. And get them to do each drill at least 3 times in an outing,… you can make each execution more challenging, but the repetition is what creates the skill.
Skill plus Fitness training
One of my favourite fitness outings was to get two matched crews to do leapfrogging…. one rows at half pressure line astern and the other goes firm and the cox counts the number of strokes it takes to overtake, get clear water ahead of the other and pull in to being line astern again. It challenges the cox, allows the crews to ‘race’ in a controlled manner and also gets a bit of competition going.