By mid-January, despite it being the very middle of the meteorological winter, most athletes and programs are nonetheless segueing into what will become the spring season; practice doesn't start and end in pitch dark, steady training starts to include some max tests as the days get longer, and everyone can feel the racing just ahead.
It will be sooner than any of us think, so here are some things to get done in January to maximize the coming spring days ahead. Depending on the weather where you are, some of these might wait until another time of year, or maybe not - any time you are getting ready to start the season in earnest, it is good to get ahead of the little stuff before they become a really big problem. here is a checklist of things to do in January so you are as fast as possible in June.
- Order spring racing gear.
If you expect to have your unis by your first race, you will want to have orders in and underway very soon. Collecting sizing, getting colors right, and nailing down any custom elements can take a bit of effort and time, and recent and widely discussed changes to fulfillment among many of the rowing apparel folks make this even more advisable, so make sure this is underway.
- Replenish tool boxes that have been rifled through over the winter.
No coach alive has come back after some time away from the boathouse proper and found their toolbox full of their favorite tools. In my early days coaching, I hid a toolbox inside a wall, and still when I went back to it a few months later all the best and most critical tools were gone. Whether taken innocently with intent to return or outright stolen, tools in an open toolbox migrate and disappear without fail.
- Buy a padlock for toolbox.
The year after hiding my toolbox in a wall, I bought a padlock and left the toolbox in plain sight, and go figure, had a toolbox full of all my tools when we got back on the water. The disappearance of tools can actually intensify when everyone is back in the boathouse, so if you don't want to be the rower or coach without a critical tool when you need it, lock it up now.
- Put outboard engines into maintenance rotation.
Outboard engines are probably the most fickle piece of equipment programs own, but are critical in so many ways - for safety, running a practice, coaching, and more. As the spring season progresses, missing a day in the launch gets more and more problematic. (This is probably a twice-yearly task for most programs.)
- Make sure the trailer is sound.
Trailers are already zooming around the country for training trips, and it's not long until they'll be needed for weekly and sometimes long hauls. They are also very difficult to repair, requiring welds, scarce and sometimes custom parts, and hard work.
- Make sure your collection of straps is sound.
A large percentage of the boat-hauling accidents we hear about are caused by frayed or faulty straps; check your collection to make sure you are not stuck using a questionable strap come travel day. You can buy straps here.
- Get the pulling vehicle serviced.
Servicing pulling vehicles is a simpler but no less critical task; it might take only a couple days at a service station, but you want to have it taken care of well before the Friday of your first road trip.
- Make sure your launch gas is fresh and stable.
If you have gas sitting in a gas cabinet for a while, you should swap it out or put some sort of stabilizer in it.
Two products that have been recommended by coaches: Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment and Seafoam Motor Treatment.
- Check your bowballs and shoeties.
Come championship time, referees will be checking bowballs and shoe-ties to ensure compliance with safety rules. Order these ahead of time, replace any worn items, and put the rest in your travel box to make sure you are ready for a quick replacement at the launching dock.
You can purchase bowballs here.
- Make sure you have all the riggers you may need.
Your boats may be rigged and in the racks, but do you have enough riggers for all your boats to have the stroke on either side of the boat, put in buckets, and put in a battleship rig?
You need to be able to rig how you need to rig
- Check over your oars.
Having intact, reliable sets of oars is essential to boating quickly, stable rowing, and more. Our feature on dry-docking your equipment includes a full section on regular and off-season oar care.
- Restock all types of batteries.
Make sure you have plenty of batteries for all the tools of rowing that use them; this includes megaphones, strokewatches, boat lights, and even ergs.
Coaches will need megaphone and strokewatch batteries, and anyone rowing near the edges of the day will need boat light batteries; one New England coach notes that "When the masters here start rowing in March, they usually come down to find that all their boat lights are dead."
No blank erg screens
And although spring season usually means less time on the erg, there will still be plenty of days crews are blown off the water, get in some extra work on ergs, and even get some testing and assessments in. An erg room full of machines that are perfectly useable save for dead batteries can be extremely frustrating; restock and avoid data-less erg rows.