Following the cancellation of the 2020 spring racing season, row2k solicited the collegiate coaching community to engage in a variety of high-level topics within the profession. We submitted over sixty questions across a dozen topics and thank the coaches and staffs that found time to contribute their thoughts during this stressful time.
This week we focus on the topic of Crew Selection with the following question:
HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY DECIDE BETWEEN TWO ROWERS THAT ARE NEARLY IDENTICAL 'ON PAPER'?
BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
Whoever matches into the crew better: attitude, skill, and personality. Each timing point during each stroke has to be better and strokes have to remain consistent under almost all conditions. Crew harmony makes everyone happier.
NICK JOHNSON – BARRY WOMEN
We have three primary factors when selecting crews, and we tell our group that they need to check off at least two of those three boxes if they want a chance at a boat. 2k score, technique on the water, and power-to-weight ratio are those three boxes, and if we are talking about rowers 8 and 9 fighting for the last spot in the V8, there is a good chance that they have both checked off two of those boxes, and so the third box is our tie-breaker. If they really are identical and have the same data in those three boxes, then we will do some seat racing to see if we can sort it out.
MEGAN COOKE CARCAGNO – DUKE WOMEN
I’ll do pieces with one athlete, then another. I look at time trends, ease of boat speed and who seems to get the job done the most in the highest stressed situations. Sometimes, who wins in practice isn’t who wins on race day.
CAMPBELL WOODS – MARIST MEN
Often this is the best time to do some seat racing and see who really moves the boat well. If seat racing is inconclusive or extremely close, then take some of the intangibles into account. For example, If I have two athletes that are neck and neck and one is a freshman with the other a senior, I nearly always take the freshman. Always be in the habit of building your next fast crew. If the new guy is clearly not slowing you down, then he will learn from the time spent in the top boat and will be a greater asset in the future; the senior will be gone after this year and can’t help you next season. Are there attitudes to consider, mentalities, progressions, or maybe one of them is a better fit for a specific seat? Everything comes into play.
SANDRA CHU – WILLIAM SMITH WOMEN
We look at their impact on the water and in the line-up as well as their data from the Empower oarlock. I am also, as I said above, very interested in consistency. Students with good ergs are given a good look, but a good erg doesn’t always mean good boat moving. If both students are equal on paper and on the water, I will usually give the nod to the rower with the greater utility; whether it is rowing both sides, skills for different seats in the boat, or a blend quality either on or off the water that gives the line-up as a whole an advantage.
BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
If the rowers truly have the same height, weight, erg scores, etc. then I’m looking first and foremost at who wants it more. As in, which rower is more likely to turn themselves inside out to win a race? Which rower has more fight and determination in difficult situations? That’s the rower that everyone wants in their boat.
Beyond that, I’m also looking at which one seems to make boats better. Sometimes I have rowers who aren’t necessarily stars themselves, but they are “confidence” rowers, people that make those around them feel more confident or calm in the boat.
TODD KENNETT – CORNELL HEAVYWEIGHT MEN
Often, I will switch them in and out of a seat, seat race them, and see how they work with the others in the boat. One of them usually does something that enables the guys around him to work a little better. It could be as simple as he tells a good joke, so they are at ease and relax and row better because of it!
LUKE AGNINI – GEORGETOWN HEAVYWEIGHT MEN
Really depends on context. Sometimes the two athletes have much different experience levels and it benefits you to go with the less experienced guy to see how he performs. At the end of the day, that’s what we are all interested in. I like to provide guys opportunities and see how they respond. Momentum is interesting too, my gut usually tells me to go for the guy that is on an upward trend. But trust plays a big part of any selection and that trust is built throughout the year of training and racing.
BILL ZACK – SAN DIEGO STATE WOMEN
I would pick the person who is most consistent from day to day and race to race. That’s the advantage of coaching people over an entire academic year and getting to know them well. Maybe the one I would choose has the better or smoother technique that is likely to hold up over the 2000-meter distance. Maybe the profiles of their erg tests are more consistent over each 500 compared to somebody who goes out really fast and fades and ends up getting the same time. I would go with the person who I thought was most likely to race to his or her true ability, which could be just a gut feeling.
JENN LANGZETTEL – DUQUESNE WOMEN
I pay attention throughout the year to their work ethic in all tasks. The harder worker is the one who will come out on top and be more reliable in the end.
GABE WINKLER – OREGON STATE MEN
There are a lot of things and it could just come down to attitude. The attributes that we rank for a coxswain should also be there for a rower. Are they a good teammate? Are they the kind of guy that shows up early? Do they help others around them? These intangibles can really help a boat in the 3rd 500m. On the other hand, if a crew has a guy in there that may have won a seat race but is just an awful human, you might be destined for disaster. In order to prevent that from happening, just don’t have awful humans on your team.
ALICEA STRODEL – MINNESOTA WOMEN
Give them racing opportunities to see if something emerges.
DAN ROOCK – DARTMOUTH LIGHTWEIGHT MEN
Test to see how they compare ‘on water’! If they’re still the same, go with the rower who gets along better with others.
KEMP SAVAGE – EASTERN MICHIGAN WOMEN
We do a team survey through google forms and have the athletes choose their line-ups for each boat. This usually gives us a pretty good idea who is trusted by the other rowers and can work as a tiebreaker if athletes are identical on paper.