How to improve rowing for beginners


We had an amazing discussion with Bruce Smith, Jim Flood, Ron Batt and Rebecca Caroe about how rowing clubs can improve the ‘experience’ of learning to row.

Below the video are our notes and helpful resources

Focus on How to Teach People how to learn to row faster – speeding up the process of learning. Teach them to have fun as soon as possible.

Teach ratio on the erg by having athletes yell out ‘pineppple” on the recovery phase and ‘chunks’ on the power phase.

Community Rowing uses 3 measures – KSA Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. You can see some of their lesson plans at for a limited time.

Enable an 8 to achieve balance early by putting pontoon floats under 5 6 riggers – use the same ones as para athletes have.

Use Challenges and Races to create fun.

Encourage problem solving by athletes – don’t give them all the answers. Instead of saying “back down the boat” ask them if they can “find reverse gear”. See if they can work it out.

Community Rowing issue a ‘driving license’ for sculling. You have to have completed 4 classes (Sculling 1, Sculling 2, 3 and 4) each lasts 6 weeks and has KSA achievements. At the ned the Captain’s test is a practical in a fine single plus a written test on the rules of the river. And you have to be over 18 years old – then you can take a boat out un-assisted.

Sculling 1 – wide 1x

Sculling 2 – Narrow 1x

Sculling 3 – 2x and 4x

Sculling 4 – Racing 1x

Wraptor Balance is an aide for beginners – pontoon floats can be strapped onto a racing 1x or 2x/2- temporarily and then removed when not needed.

Mixing up athletes of different ability is part of their self-identity in a club.

Volunteer requirements like team-building activities (gardening, sweeping boathouse, running an event) should be part of your membership deal.

Progression pathways are important – attrition rates in learn to row courses in the UK reported at over 95% drop out.

Responsibility of looking after newcomers to a group can help integrate faster – a buddy system.

Club Strategy Objectives – make these clear but explain WHY they are set and HOW we will achieve them.

Rowing for fitness should be a part of your club… Rebrand ‘recreational’ as fitness rowing.

Policy for a club needs to be set by the committee of management – Rowperfect has an article on How to write a rowing club strategy

Fund raising for clubs – know the capability of your novice group to raise funds – both by paying to learn to row and also running events themselves. It’s a a great way to get ‘grumpy’ old members on side… these young fellows will get the money to buy YOU a new eight!

Space Saver Rowing has great rowing club fund raising articles and an ebook with more ideas

Good practice teaching and learning includes

– briefing before the session “last week we worked on….”

– briefing after the session “next week we will….”

Think like a soap opera drama – give a trailer in advance and a recap before the episode.

Also ask rowers to talk to each other in pairs about what they learned at the end of the session.

US Rowing has a great video with the coach saying “if they don’t understand, it’s your fault, Coach!”


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