What can rowing and sculling coaches learn from the recent Winter Olympic Games?
The Mind’s Eye explores extensively the evolution of the athlete’s skills and awareness. So it was with great interest during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games that the cameras showed the figure skaters and skiers engaging in visualisation practices on a number of occasions. In both situations, the athletes were Gold Medalists, Shen and Zhao in figure skating, and Lindsay Vonn in downhill skiing.
My immediate reaction and question to myself in viewing their pre competition preparations was how much of this type of inner training is being done by rowing coaches and athletes today? For me I was fortunate to have experienced this practice in two sports in the 1950s, in wrestling and sculling. Looking back, it was a highly successful strategy employed by the coaches.
Tell us more about how you were taught visualisation
In sculling I was fortunate to have a coach, Robert Fitzpatrick, who inserted meditative exercises into the on water practice sessions on a regular basis, including relaxation, mindfulness, concentration, and the visualisation. Years later I would do the same with my own rowing coaching, adding quiet sitting to the list, and expanding the sessions to include land as well as water practices.
This generated the development of a yearly plan for mental training. It proved to be highly successful. The various practices, the plan, and the effect on skill training, are addressed in detail in my book, The Mind’s Eye. Rowperfect will be selling the book from mid-March, 2010.
The development of the visualisation skills are assisted by simulation exercises considered to be “pump primers”. In rowing the simulations take a number of forms including: using the hands to describe the entry and release movements, using the trunk and one leg up on a bench to simulate the drive and recovery phases. It is noted that simulation exercises are common to other sports. For rowing the two major complete units, the stroke cycle and the race itself, are critical visualisation practices.
So how can you build mental training into rowing workouts?
The yearly mental training plan, sequenced and diagrammed clearly in the book, underscores the importance of doing this type of training in some form on a daily basis. So the book provides detailed examples and the consequence of this type of training is a highly focused and concentrated athlete. Eventually, the practices become a part of who the athlete’s makeup, as it obviously is the case with Shen, Zhao, Vonn, and others.
The book also provides an extensive bibliography for future reading and research for both the interested athlete and coach. The Mind’s Eye represents a significant part of a lifelong odyssey; my hope is that you find the read both enjoyable and profitable.
Jim Joy has had a distinguished career as an athlete, coach, and as Director of the Canadian
National Team. For the past 35 years, he has been a leader in the area of coaching education,
putting together seminars for coaches all over the world. His “Joy of Sculling Coaches
Conferences ” have become the top program of it’s kind, and his many years of teaching sculling
clinics and camps make him unique in the sculling world.
Buy The Mind’s Eye £15 in the Rowperfect shop.