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Best Lesson I Ever Had!
by John McAdams
posted on September 20, 2007

I'm an enthusiastic albeit not overly talented masters rower (my introduction to the sport , 20 years ago, consisted of a coach telling me, "You're tiny, you're not particularly strong, and you have no flexibility whatsoever. What i'm trying to tell you in my own subtle way is that you're gonna suck at rowing. If you're willing to accept that I'm happy to coach you." I was so he did.)

Anyway yesterday... I'm finishing up a hard 4,000 meters, just passing the boathouse when my son's high school coach pulls out in a launch. I move up close to the shore in an attempt to get out of his way. But instead of going toward the center of the river he wedges his boat between me and shore, pushing me out toward the center. Ok, I think, if you want the shore so bad you can have it -- I'll move. But then he follows me to the center and in fact goes past me and starts pushing me back toward the bank. "What the?" So I move to the bank again and again he pushes me toward the center. I look back and see the entire high school team of half a dozen boats sitting at the starting line waiting for him -- why he's messing around with me i haven't a clue. I row as fast as I can to try to get out of his way -- why doesn't he just leave me alone? But he continues to follow me... first from the port side... then from starboard... then back again... kind'a creepy actually especially knowing my son and his teammates are sitting there watching and wondering what the hell is going on.

I finally run out of river by the Route 130 bridge and come to a stop. Coach comes right up in my face and barks, "I see you out here every morning, sometimes twice a day. I refuse to watch you continue to lead with your shoulders during the drive. Sit ready at the finish." At this point I'm so flustered/embarassed/intimidated I'm lucky I remember what the finish is -- but I think I get there. "Ok now hands away." That part is easy so I obediently push my hands away. "Body over." I give it my best shot and look up at him meekly. "Is that really as far as you bend?" "Uh... yeah." "Well that's just pathetic... (pause and glare) but if that's all we have to work with then that's what we have. But don't go compounding the problem by leading on the drive with your shoulders -- keep your hips in front of your shoulders throughout the drive." With that he speeds away... Best lesson I ever had!