row2k Features
Collegiate Coaches Corner
Fall COVID Silver Linings
December 15, 2020
Erik Dresser, row2k.com

Following the turbulent fall of 2020 season, row2k re-engaged the collegiate coaching community on the topic of COVID-19 and how it impacted their programs. We thank the coaches and staffs that found time to contribute their thoughts during this stressful time.

Multiple coaches responded that their squads weren't allowed on campus in the fall and we wish everyone better luck in getting together with their teams in 2021.

This week's COVID-19 related question:

HAVE YOU TRIED ANYTHING THIS FALL THAT YOU WILL LIKELY STICK WITH POST-COVID?

NICK JOHNSON – BARRY WOMEN
We have had less water time because the daily symptom checks are tough to pull off at 5:30am, and I think the extra sleep has been great for our group. We might have fewer morning sessions and workouts on the water when we get into the spring.


JENN LANGZETTEL – DUQUESNE WOMEN
While we have always utilized small boats during our fall season for training, we have never fully committed to using the single as we were forced to this fall. We saw great progress from top to bottom and it showed that we can commit more to work in the singles in years to come.


KEVIN SAUER – VIRGINIA WOMEN
If possible, I think finding a place to erg outside; maybe baseball again! In the past we have rowed pairs a lot in the fall so that wasn’t much of a difference. But I think the singles were beneficial and I may find a way to find more for the future.


CAM BROWN – ORANGE COAST MEN
We need to keep 6 feet apart at all times – that’s not really possible in an 8+, UNLESS you have four oarsmen rowing an 8+. It’s a first for me, and I was skeptical how it might work but it’s the only way we are allowed to get on the water. It’s actually a really great technical tool. The guys are figuring out how to keep it set and get some solid strokes in – I have a hunch it will be quite helpful to us once we get all 8+ back in the boat. Plus, it doubles as resistance training. Not sure we’ll go through the hassle of re-rigging all the boats in future seasons – but it’s good to know the option is there.


EMERSON CURRY – COLUMBIA WOMEN
Recruiting zoom calls with the current student-athletes has been helpful. While it isn't better than an official visit, it could be used in conjunction with official visits so that recruiting candidates can make a more informed decision.


ANDREW CARTER – IOWA WOMEN
I’d love to say, “working from home,” but I think that may be a terrible idea. It’s certainly been convenient but, I have to admit that my home office is WAY too close to the fridge!

Seriously, we had already moved toward a much more abbreviated fall racing slate in recent years and I think that has been a good thing. Having patience forced on us this fall has reinforced the value of focusing on laying a preparatory foundation. We have a great group of coaches in our conference who work so well together, and we’ve cooperatively created engaging fall competitive opportunities the past few years that make good sense in the overall development scheme for the year. I expect that will continue.

Finally, we’ve always had a very high bar for caring for all the pieces of a successful program. Personal care, equipment care, cultural care, etc. I think the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus that, not only can we do better, but we should and it’s not that difficult. We may not need to stay so far apart or wear masks in a post-COVID world but doing even better cleaning our equipment and taking steps to not become infected with relatively simple viruses takes little effort. Being that much more in tune with how we affect our teammates can only build a stronger team.


ANDREW HESS – COLUMBIA LIGHTWEIGHT MEN
We have not been able to do any activity this fall, so it is hard to find positives to stick with post-COVID. Our ability to interact remotely has improved and we have found different methods to communicate when not in person; this will likely continue when things return back to normal. The greatest lesson we will carry forward post-COVID is that rowing is a privilege and we must cherish it when it returns.


JOHN POJEDNIC – NORTHEASTEN MEN
It’s been good to have an “off season.” While I don’t think taking a season off is a good thing, I do believe all athletes need an off-season for development without competition. We’ll keep this in mind in future years when we are not restricted by a pandemic.


MARTIN STONE – NOTRE DAME WOMEN
Will be able to give you a more accurate answer in June when we review the whole year. For now, this is what I have. While in our pods/boats we stayed in the same lineups for 2-3 weeks. I think that allowed the athletes and coaches to work more on individual skill development. We were not switching lineups every couple of practices to find a faster one. We may also do less erg assessments.


TESSA SPILLANE – WELLESLEY WOMEN
We usually use our lake for small boat optional work when we are in season (maybe 1 time/week). Watching how everyone has made such great technical improvements and great small boat moving ability, we will spend more time in small boats (particularly in the fall), once things get back to "normal".

I DO know that we will NOT be zooming post-COVID, and I can't wait for that!


GERRY QUINLAN – ST. JOSEPH’S WOMEN
Although our Fall was solid and produced solid results for us to build off of this winter, I can't think of anything that we did that I will keep in our bag once we return to normal. Erging outside was a nice change, but kind of a pain to be honest. We already were very good at cleaning and disinfecting ergs and oars. We are looking to get back to normal.


JOE SCHLOSBERG – NAVY WOMEN
Anything that I'm going to bring from this year to future years? No thank you.


TODD KENNETT – CORNELL HEAVYWEIGHT MEN
I am thankful that the team seems to be focused still and staying optimistic. I have been a fan of the small boat for a long time, but I have hesitated to use the single as a training tool especially when we have the pair. I will be quicker to let guys scull more in the fall in the future. There is a lot to be gained when you are the sole operator of the vessel, and any speed discrepancies are due to your production or lack of production! I think there is a valuable place for zoom calls, and I will continue to use them in the future, maybe not as much as now though!


BRIAN PERKINS – TEMPLE MEN
The "after action report" on what worked and what did not has yet to be written.


SCOTT GAVIN-WISNIEWSKI – CABRINI WOMEN
As a coach, I’ve learned that there is always opportunity in challenges; so I would say emphatically yes. The NCAA has given us some additional flexibility with scheduling which has allowed me to tinker with our fall/spring schedule and some of those things will remain next year. Additionally, considering the challenges presented, we’ve had to be much more intentional and original in our thinking about; recruiting, team building, hiring of our coaching staff, and leadership training. That process will make us better in the long run. The number one thing, however, was hiring two fantastic assistant coaches (Meghan Murtha and Emma Turnbach) who are exceptional Cabrini grads and are making an impact in everything we do.


ROBERT BRADY – FRANKLIN & MARSHALL
In terms of things that we really implemented due to COVID and will keep doing, nothing in particular comes to mind. To be able to make sure we could get rowers out on the water once a week, we acquired a few more singles for training. This was something I wanted to do prior to COVID, but it worked out really well. So, we will continue in small boats since we have them.

Erging outside as also enjoyable - fresh air was great - though we'll see about doing this in the future since it would be a hassle to bring ergs outside all the time.


NANCY LAROCQUE – DARTMOUTH WOMEN
Rowing in singles has been really beneficial. I’ve always liked small boats but have mostly worked in pairs due to roster size. It’s hard to get 45+ women out in singles. We are purchasing singles and more pairs for next year.


ALEX MACHI – MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME
The use of team members to take on additional responsibilities to regularly communicate with their fellow team members.


CHRIS KERBER – CORNELL LIGHTWEIGHT MEN
There were some unintended consequences with frontloading land training cycle. We hit the water after 5 weeks of body and machine work. This new integral provided a lot of insight into how we develop & prepare athletes. Reinforcing and repurposing some of the fundamentals we have on the play list. Athletic types adapted well to the single too.


DAVID KUCIK – PURDUE

  • The sanitizing procedures for all the equipment and oar handles to continue to keep the boathouse clean and limit spread of colds/flu within the boathouse.
  • Perhaps incorporating more outdoor workouts when we are on land in the future post COVID. To be approved to hold practices, de-densifying, disinfecting and distancing were key, so all our practices were outside. Finally got approved to not wear masks while on ergs as long as ergs were 12 feet apart.
  • We always used a barge, made by connecting two 8s together, but used only 8 rowers to achieve distancing guidelines. Barge work was very effective with a different approach to teaching basics.


EMILIE GROSS – NORTH CAROLINA WOMEN
The silver-linings are out there, and sometimes we had to dig deep to find them this semester, but I do truly believe we are better because of this. We will be taking a handful of things with us into non-COVID times, like I mentioned before, our small boat training is one and others we are still finding out.


BRIAN EBKE – CENTRAL OKLAHOMA WOMEN
Small boat rowing for the whole team. In previous years, we've used pairs a decent amount, but it's been primarily just with the top athletes. This year, all Varsity athletes have been in pairs, doubles, or singles most days, and we've even been rotating novices through the small boats as a way to break up the pod 4+s rowing with something fun and different. We've made some great technical progress this fall, and also seen a nice jump in our boat handling, steering, and practice management skills from all the rowers. None of the issues we were worried about with beginners rowing small boats have been a serious factor, and it's been a really great experience so far.


CAMPBELL WOODS – MARIST MEN
I think we learned a lot about running effective land training and finding creative ways to improve rowing related fitness without boats or oars or ergs. These skills are not needed in a typical year but will help us to supplement our workouts in the future to offer more diversity in our training. Additionally, we are learning a lot about the types of formats for distanced training that can keep the athletes engaged with each other and having fun. This will be useful for periods like winter training and summer training in the future.


BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
While we won't be sculling the majority of the time in future years (I know our rowers will be happy to be back in eights a bit more next year, to say the least), we will continue to utilize sculling, and the single in particular, as a valuable tool in boat awareness and skill development.

Additionally, while in-person meetings are still preferable, the ability to have a quick Zoom call when schedules are tight is valuable.

Lastly, we did some intersquad competitive events to supplement the lack of intersquad racing, including a doubles matrix at the end of the fall that was popular among the team (shout out to Gregg Hartsuff/Kit Bennett for the origins of this idea).


BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
Going back to sculling, especially in singles, was something we already had in mind, and it was the pandemic that forced us to make the right choices. We would like to be in racing eights in the spring, but who knows? For next year, since we have the equipment, the water, and the coaching experience, we will definitely return to iconic events like Green Mountain Head and Head of the Fish in every sculling event they offer. Counting days instead of weeks is such a paradigm shift, it allows much better control over training physiology for college students, that I hope the NCAA will consider a continuation in some form.


COLIN TRUEX – UC SAN DIEGO WOMEN
It’s hard to say at this point; with the athletes being so deloaded from the lost spring/summer seasons we’ve really had to ease them back into the erg. Not being on the water we’ve incorporated a lot more drilling into their workouts which has actually made a difference in how they are going about their work. Hopefully that will translate to more stability when we do actually get on the water again. So, it remains to be seen! I can assure you that we will never ZOOM again after this is all over.


JOE WILHELM – NORTHEASTERN WOMEN
It has been nice to focus on smaller groups and give each athlete more individual attention. We will probably try to stagger practice times on certain days to allow us to continue to work with small groups, while bringing the entire team together on others.

Video chats have become a staple in our recruiting since last March and has allowed us to, “sit in more living rooms,” and talk to prospective student athletes and their parents in a more personal way than phone calls. Moving forward, we will still travel to watch practices, races, and meet families, but we will definitely incorporate more video chats into our recruiting. Video meetings have also allowed us to stay more connected to our athletes, both individually, and as a team, so that is something we will want to continue as well.


JOHN FUCHS – WESTERN WASHINGTON WOMEN
No.

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