Do Mars and Venus Row Differently?


Of late I have been coaching various crews in Cambridge UK, the Robinson College 1st Womens boat and some crews from Champion of the Thames, and have been coaching women for the first time for a number of years. All the crews have been preparing themselves for The Bumps .
Apart from being great fun this experience has re-confirmed a belief I formed many years ago. Men and women are different! So what?

I often get asked questions along the lines of What differences should there be in the training programme for men and women? I dont think there should be a significant difference. I believe men and women can, and should, row the same way, train the same way; do the same amount of work.

Where I see the difference is in the attitudes displayed. These are merely generalisations, but like all good generalisations, have a grain of truth in them. If a mens boat isnt going well the first reaction from most of the crew is The others are messing it up for me. Women react with the polar opposite Sorry, I am messing it up for you.

The interesting question for me is how I should react, and yes I know my views are filtered through my attitudes and experiences, and are therefore not truly objective, coaching is a subjective business.

What are your experiences and suggestions?


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Cynthia Hill

    There is much truth in what you have written. With men, I find they will give you everything they have… as long as the conditions are right. Women will give you everything they have, no matter what the conditions. Unfortunately, the effort becomes more emotional and the physical effort becomes less focused.

    There is no reason why men and women should train differently. Is it a product of how they are treated in society? Perhaps it is. Should one allow for this behaviour – on either side – to perpetuate and to remain the norm? Most certainly not; however, effecting a change must be treated with delicacy. I have worked with both men and women as a coxswain, a rower and a coach in the US and the UK.
    Certainly, men and women approach training with different attitudes; however, I think this is more the case in the UK rather than in the US. In the US, I have never heard of a race where the expectations differ – for instance, Henley Royal Regatta vs. Henley Women’s Regatta. People may joke about “knowing your limits”, but to make a blanket generalisation, this perpetuates the attitudes that women are not expected to race as long or as hard as men. Yes, women now race past the Steward’s Enclosure at HRR, but this is reserved for the top athletes in the world, not for your average University rower. This borders on circus side-show, to me. I understand that these fixtures have been in place for years and there is much resistance to change; perhaps modernisation of these fixtures are in order to help change the attitude regarding female rowers?

    Three primary elements seem to be necessary for anyone to become a successful athlete (at their respective level): 1) responsibility for self, 2) confidence in one’s skills, and 3) good technique. I try to establish these expectations early on in my relationship with the rowers, with emphasis on responsibility for self with the men, confidence with the women. Hormone differences are a poor excuse for not upholding the same standards for training.


  2. Sculler

    Interesting, actually in my experience its the polar opposite in that its the mens crews who tend to work out between themselves what is going wrong, admit responsibility if something is going wrong, poke fun and have banter with each other over mistakes and remain friends at the end, and our womens crews tend to resort to in-fighting and accusations when its all going wrong and end up not talking to each other!

    Just goes to show I guess that theres not one model for men and one for women, personalities and situations vary and you just have to thank your lucky stars when you get a group of mature rowers who act responsibliy!

  3. Murray McLeod-Jones

    This is a really interesting theme as I have discovered a couple of other things that may be of note. I did a small pilot study a couple of years ago looking at coaching and athlete behaviours. The aim was to identify whether or not the coaches and athletes altered their behaviour depedent on the approach of the coach. Ultimately what i was looking for was the athletes aligning themselves with the coach or was it the coach aligning themselves with the athletes.

    What I found was that coaches altered their approach depending on whether they were coaching a male or female crew (i used both male and female coaches). The coaches tended to be more direct with the males crews giving instruction rather than the approach with the female crews which was to pose a question and let the crew come up with the answer. Evidence suggested on this pilot that the male crews wanted to be told what to do to make the boat go quickly, where as the female crew wanted to understand how to make the boat move. Now there is heap of research about athletes and the approaches a coach should take with them and this pilot study did nothing more than highlight one small discreet aspect of it but is was interesting to see. I don’t for one moment expect this to be the norm, it was a snap shot of a couple of crews and their coaches but it would be interesting hear other anecdotal evidence.

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