Developing Juniors by Richard Boulton


Pathway to junior rowing…. you don’t need to be enormous compared to WCS… more about the traditional pathway.  We don’t select because we think they WILL be good.  We work with those who turn up at clubs and schools and who choose to row.


Teach to train and compete – local identification in clubs and schools by local coaches

Encourage to train properly – higher levels

Send to GB Junior trials – Richard visits local regattas and tries to spot good athletes

GB Junior trials month by monthOctober 2k ergo at 24.

This is an early identification trial entry and registration in BIRO scheme

  • November EIDT 1x 5km trial at Boston
  • December 5km ergo rate 24
  • January 5 km ergo rate 28 (keep training over Christmas)
  • February Long Distance Trial 5km 1x or 2-
  • March 2km ergo at free rate [the first time we are really interested in the scores]
  • April Spring assessments side by side at Nottingham, seat racing – learning what will happen at final trials, selection for Munich
  • May Munich Junior International Regatta – race the Germans who often do well at junior worlds
  • June – Ergo 2k free rate
  • July – final trials and selection (3 weeks to the big race)
  • August – Junior World Champs

It is a single year cycle repeated each year.  Junior worlds combine every 4th year with the non-Olympic events to a larger regatta.  Selection in UK is only based on performance.

Issue is only 3 weeks from selection to Championships. 25 Junior Men  and 22 Junior Women – max team size.  Team tends to change each year because few are good enough to do 2 years at junior level.

2007 Average Ergo scores – JM 6:21.4 JW 7:20.1 – broadly correlated with success.  Reducing most years in 2002 boys were 6:34.3 and girls 7:21.  The boys tend to medal each year but girls less successful.  Difference boys to girls is about 50 seconds…. but issue right now is the girls are mostly a minute behind.

Targets for successes – they are gold medal times for Junior Worlds.  Reassess each year. The Coupe de la Jeunesse A second string team for sub-world champs level athletes.  We run a big final trials in order to select two full teams.  First run 1985 and over 3 days now.  Based on points total for the team.  Can swap athletes between crews as race both on Saturday (heat, final) and Sunday (heat, final).

We do get athletes through the coup and move onto Juniors the following year.  It is the top achievement for some athletes.  It is tough and not a breeze!  GB always sends a full team and we’ve won it 9 times (France 8 times, Italy 5 times).  30 boys, 16 girls (they double up into the 8 and race on Friday).

Coup Ergos 2007 boys 6:29.4 and girls 7.27.9.

Trial selectionsOctober target was 7 minutes for boys and 7:55 for girls. We got 183 boys and 99 girls beating these targets.

January 5 km at rate 28 boys had to be less than 17.50 and 120 came.  Girls 20:10 and 39 made the cut.
June 2km ergo at free rate boys 6:30 and 58 made it; girls 7:20 and 9 made it.
This really shows the drop-off.

The GB-France MatchThere is a third team:

This is very different – the kids don’t have the same trials selection.  It is a ‘roll up’ race – first past the post goes on the team.  We have domestic and international J16s in the team.  Exceptional J15s can also make the grade.  This is all club combinations – we want ready-made crews for most events except the 8.  We want Club units at a young level at their age group and to give them their first taste of success.
They can never come less than second!

We always send a full team 28 boys and 23 girls including spares (But not coxes).
There is also a WCS UK versus France regatta but they can only row if have been 12 months or less in the sport.
Ergos: boys 6:41 girls 7:43 in 2007.

Junior training progressionWhen a parent approaches you and asks about their child you should ask

How much should they train
How often should they train
Should they lift weights
More on water or more on gym
How to cope with training during exams and revision

How much and how often should juniors train?

There is a cunning cheat-sheet developed by British Rowing-how-much-and-how-often-juniors-train…. This summarises what a range of ages should do for training volumes and freqency, including notes for late developers and late starters should be doing.  Don’t want to see J12 or J13s training 8 times a week.

J11-J13 – mainly skills, up to 3 short sessions per week (time on water not distance covered).  Rowing shouldn’t dominate their age – they do other things, music, drama, cubs / brownies.  Don’t push them into it too early
J14 – still only 4 sessions a week.  Weight lifting technique only.  Light bars – no weights.  Teach them to work on the water and build the technique on the land.

Junior level – at J17/J18 they should be at their best…. 7/8 sessions building to 10 depending on exams and time (maybe 14 after exams).  One session per week off.

To make the Junior worlds team they have to be capable of training 2-3 times per day for a week at a time (e.g. at camp and final trials seat racing).  This means they are preparing for the next level.  Capable of 20km UT2 outing.  With rest between sessions. If they get injured or sick, they won’t make the grade.

This depends on

  • Coach availability
  • Equipment available
  • Safety – numbers on the water
  • Weather
  • Time of athletes available
  • Club’s requirements
  • Demands and needs of the individual and the club
  • Aspirations of parents and coach

Make it enjoyable, it is not just about performance.  We have a duty to look to the long term development of the individual as a whole.   Education in more than just rowing.  They have to learn time management, have a family life (Sunday lunch), academic qualifications (the boys at Hampton who succeeded at rowing had better than average results because they learnt how to manage their time), manage social life, manage their health (growth spurts), other activities (music, Church, drama).

Keep the variety, fun, teach skill development and quality MUST be in the programme.  This is essential.

Teach sculling and sweep and both individual and crew boats


Correct use of the hands, bladework (correctly taught at the start they won’t have to un-learn it later)
Core strength – not necessarily a separate session – but part of the programme – it can be water technical sessions with core exercises within it.
Rest and recovery – as important as the sessions.  Without good rest the next session won’t be good.
Are they eating properly?Use a cycle of hard / medium / light weeks

Try to have at least one complete rest day per week (not a day off rowing in order to go running!)

We the coaches have the responsibility to see the individual athletes have the tools to survive the programme.

  • Mental, endurance, skills, technique, strength, general training, how to look after their hands.
  • How we are improving junior rowing?We need emphasis on small boat performances
  • Ergo monitoring for older children
  • Periodisation of training programme
  • Training peaks including loading and tapering
  • Ensure paddling UT2 training is functional (perfect practice makes perfect and permanent)
  • Train how you want to race – technique good at rate 18
  • Practice the skills (there is nothing worse than taking on a group of athletes who don’t have the skills to survive that level)
  • Ergo – get the intensity right.  It is not a race.
  • Standardise monitored sessions.  Keep records.
  • Don’t de-train technical skills on the ergo by allowing poor technique.
  • Support for JuniorsFunding – lottery (for the very best), SportsAid, Local Councils
  • Subsidy of camps and events (Nantes just happened and was subsidised £20k)
  • Boats on loan (the National system has some boats it can help with).


Training days and camps (get the best together so they can be identified)
Join the Junior mail-out list (training sessions, suggestions, programmes) free information and support for coaches and clubs.


Why are girls not hitting the ergo targets? We need more girls in the system – more chance of finding the top athletes.  We treat girls differently.  Some coaches won’t ask the same things of girls as boys.  Some of the coaches of girls do not coach that level long enough.  The boys sweep are our most successful group at junior level.  This is because the coaches of the groups have an inbuilt structure that the same coach has J15s for many years.  Learns from mistakes and improves year on year.  Generally for junior girls and scullers the same coach takes the group from J13 through to J18. They don’t re-do the same year group and learn from their mistakes.  Also when they do switch year groups they coach and learn from their predecessors.  The best coaches take the youngest athletes. Our coaching methods – we need better tools for girls don’t be scared.  Sport in schools has reduced and for girls particularly it is un-cool (I don’t want to put on muscle).

Should they abolish racing for very young age groups? Richard is very against racing for the very young.  I try to stop it.  The type of racing that has been pushed through.  There should be fun-style, mixed up, short stuff in regattas.  [Pete Shepherd added – our sport has changed and more young kids join at J10, J11 when it used to be J14.  We have to be smart with what we do with them so they stay in the sport.]

Using weights during growth spurts?  Individualise the programme to manage kids having growth spurts.  It is harder with schools when you have 30 kids to spot those being ‘weak’ because they are growing.  Work with low / no weights.
Would the junior performance be enhanced if they were available sooner in the summer? Yes it would. But it’s good for kids to get the all round education in their schools e.g. Henley, National Schools.  We can’t offer the same experience.


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