I feel excluded in my rowing club


I feel excluded. Do I quit my rowing club?
exclusion, ducks, one yellow duck, rowing club exclusion I feel excluded. Image Credit: Seekingalpha.com

Do not quit yet when you feel excluded in your rowing club.

In the first place do some personal therapy right away. Take a sheet of paper and write down why you are feeling “excluded”.  Also, include what behaviors cause that excluded feeling in the rowing club. Then date it and keep it somewhere safe. Put a diary note for 4 weeks in the future to read and review the document.

How to change rowing club attitudes

Clubs are made up of individuals – people who are there in a voluntary capacity to enjoy the sport and participate in the journey of learning and competing.

Here are ways ONE person can influence the attitude and behaviors of a group.

  1. Become the “champion” for anyone else in the club who you see is receiving the same behaviors as you had. So this could not only be that they don’t get a ride to practice, but also that they get left to sit in the coach boat or that they don’t get a partner for gym work. Then you step up and choose vocally and in public to work with them, to volunteer them a ride, to choose to sit next to them at morning tea. Say it loudly, in public or on group email…. “Hi Benny would you like a ride with me, I can drive past your house.” So everyone else knows you and Benny are cool together.
  2. Next, watch the responses and attitudes of the rest of the group of athletes. Do they follow your lead?
  3. After 2 weeks, find one other like-minded athlete and tell them you are working hard on creating cohesion in the group. Ask if they will also do the same. Tell them not to explain WHY just to do the same things you do to others who may be feeling excluded.
  4. Finally, watch the responses and attitudes of the rest of the group of athletes. Do they follow your lead?

When the feeling of being excluded in the rowing club comes from the coaching team

Now, if your personal feeling of exclusion comes from the coaching team – you need to do something different.  Approach the coach and ask for a private meeting after training. Specifically, ask him to give you 3 tips of things you can do better in order to support her/his work with the group. In addition, make clear this is not just about your personal performance, but about how you can help the group dynamic work well.

Don’t mention you feel excluded in your rowing club to the coach – just step up and offer to help. Listen carefully and try to do what s/he says. Don’t worry whether s/he notices what you are doing, don’t show off to them. Just do it.

Build personal resilience

Now go back and re-read your document about why you felt bad. Update it to reflect on the situation now (4 weeks in the future) Furthermore compare the two. Have your feelings been modified? Have the behaviors changed?

Always remember that resilience is a very useful life skill and learning how to bounce back and put aside personal disappointments and grievances will be useful for the rest of your life (outside rowing too). Nobody flies through life and work without setbacks. Nobody.

Top athletes always have a story about when they experienced setbacks and what they did to overcome them. Start writing YOUR story now by overcoming this feeling of exclusion.

As Eira Parry of High-Performance Parenting says “It’s fine to make a mistake. What marks you out is how you pick yourself up from it.”

A Background Story

When Jamie Koven tried to make a comeback to the US Rowing team he met with Tim McLaren the head coach to have this exact meeting described above. Tim was interviewed in Rowing News magazine and said this was the first time in his professional coaching career that an athlete had asked him how he could help (normally athletes are self-centered and only want to ask about themselves, not the group needs or the coach’s needs).  This was the first time he had ever had an athlete approach offering to help him and how nice and refreshing it was.

Any other advice from readers?  Put them in the comments below.


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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Lene

    Firstly, NEVER quit (unless you are physically incapable) ever! Secondly, I have the opposite problem to you. I always wind up in the middle of things, then I get overwhelmed and have to figure out how to extract myself. So maybe some of my problem can help you? In a nutshell I love to help (coaching Juniors this Thursday, rowing and Senior Learn-to-Row this Saturday) I talk on tap to pretty well anyone, do my best to be calm and positive at all times, do what I say I am going to do with minimum fuss, try to say something good and/or fun and/or positive to anyone that I think is open to it. Basically, reach out, contribute, be positive and don’t take any of it too seriously.. People often have their own situations!

  2. The Lonely Rower

    Perfect timing on this post! I am feeling very “excluded” after our workout last evening. Our club is in transition and some new folks and some others such as myself (with a couple of years of experience) are finding a group of very experienced rowers are dominating the club whilst being fully encouraged to do so by the veteran coach. In a two hour session, we may actually row indoors for 1/2 hour as the “In-crowd” discusses the most arcane points about rowing as the serfs cool their heels on the ergs. I joined a rowing club to row. If I wanted to listen to, or make speeches, I would have joined Toastmasters. Obviously we are not the only place this happens

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Dear Lonely Rower – I do hope you can resolve matters and please let us know how you get on and if there are other “Tips” you suggest. Best wishes.

  3. Offtrajectory

    I think exclusion is kind of built into this sport because people form crews that persist for years, generally undisturbed by coaches who can’t face the backlash when they try to mix things up. I am a rower with good technique and good erg scores, but I fell off trajectory for the competitive program because of injuries. As a consequence, I was told I wasn’t fast enough to join the competitive workouts which has left me on the periphery of the group. Now, it seems that other rowers avoid rowing with me because I can’t keep up. The only way out of this, I think, is to get into a single so I don’t need to rely on a crew. That way I can participate without having to be last picked for the team which is very disheartening. I love rowing, but I am rowing on my own terms now. Venio et remigabant, vinco.

  4. Offtragectory

    Rebecca, yes, I row crew when the coaches boat us but when they don’t, I don’t wait around. I sign out a single and, frankly, I usually have a better row!

  5. Olio

    I too have feelings of exclusion. Rowing is a “selfish” sport individually and collectively as people want to do well and do well with people they feel they can achieve that with. My feelings come from a feeling of being “last picked” as “Offtragectory” commented, a feeling that I “make the numbers” in an 8 and a particular event where I was “replaced”, by the first session crew, with a member from a different squad by that crew, for the second session with nothing being said. It was also said “people talk and arrange things with other members not being there” by way of an explanation. I am a rower with good technique and although my scores may not be amongst them they are close. I enjoy coaching new joiners and have helped my current squad, but I am approaching the time when I either decide to focus on single sculling, again as “Offtragectory” commented, surrender my gold card or leave altogether.

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Olio I feel for you. Not all rowing clubs are like yours. Have you spoken to your coach about this? Does the Captain and committee realise what’s going on? If you have an opportunity – ask around other clubs to find where your skills would be welcomed.

  6. graham cawood

    A single gives you independance. Race, or simply exercise, as YOU wish. After heart and hip problems I turned occasional sculling into daily outings of about 5km. And with the aid of a rear view mirror picked up plastic trash. The amount of trash, towards which destination, was logged. Over 17000 bottles were collected over about 4 years. After several near misses I stopped sculling, and instead erg daily, and walk about 5 ks, again collecting plastic rubbish. Very satisfying! All MY choices – not dependant on anyone else ( except the dispersers of the rubbish! ) Makes me feel good!!!

  7. Christiane Mehl

    Graham, your choice has not been easy. But protecting the environment is definitely worth it and so is your health. Keep up the good work!

  8. Caroline Turnbull

    Good advice here. I too felt excluded when I joined a club after 12 years of not rowing. I wasn’t a novice, but not fit enough to join the racing group. So I learned to scull – competently but not very fast – and took a coaching qualification. After a while some other ladies joined the club who were in the same boat (as it were) – I coached them and we formed a crew. The group got larger and we found there were a lot of people out there who wanted to row but weren’t interested in competing, so I started running Learn to Row courses for recreational rowers. Eventually the group got so large that we formed a separate club and before the lock-down had over 100 members and rowing sessions every day of the week. And we make sure that nobody feels excluded ever! Incidentally I’m now also President of the original rowing club, though I no longer row with them!

    1. Christiane Mehl

      That’s a wonderful testimony Caroline. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Susan Schofield

    As a very small person with scoliosis that makes me even smaller, I was never given a seat very often in sweep boats. Thus I turned to scull, eventually settling on my own 1X. I have become a quite good sculler, much better in a 1X than 90% of the sweep rowers in my club (secret source of pride!). I am fortunate that during the winter, my club has an 8-oars on the water rule, so we row 4Xs. This helps to satisfy a need to row with others. BUT, a great way to get your club to accept a person who is viewed as “marginal”, is to be useful to the club in other ways than in a boat. I have been on the club Board of Directors (3 times and am currently treasurer), organized Learn to Row classes, sometimes sponsor Saturday morning breakfasts, maintain the boathouse garden, and I am always the first to volunteer for any needed duty. While I would love to row sweep or race, I know my own physical limitations, but have been very accepted as an important and contributing member of my club.

    1. Christiane Mehl

      Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s very inspiring.

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