Sometimes, the best way to teach a finer technical point in rowing is to hack up a way to prevent the athletes from doing it incorrectly at all, and that is where this week's Coaching Hack comes in: Got folks who can't seem to figure out whether they are over compressing at the catch? Then slow their extra roll with the Dowel Front Stop trick.
Not unlike using, say, a plastic cup to keep folks from feathering with their outside hand, putting a dowel in each track is a great way to reinforce good slide length and effective catch positioning, buy making it impossible to use that "you've gone too far" bit of the track altogether.
This is pretty much the "on the water" version of a Training Hack we shared years ago for teaching good rowing technique on the erg--the Bungee Front Stop--and, since bungees will not serve in the boat in quite the same way, the dowels are a great substitute, as well as a great way to help athletes carry their learning over to the boat.
There are other ways to get at this problem, of course, to include just moving all the tracks to the bow so that the front stops are set at exactly the right spot for the work-through you want to see in your crews, but this dowel hack can save you a lot of rigging time--especially if you have different sized-athletes or want a quick way to reinforce the concept with an athlete who might be rowing in a new seat or different boat on a given day.
By making it impossible to slide too far forward, the dowel can teach the rower what effective length feels like and may even help them realize that they do not need to lift their heels to "compress all the way"--leading to better catch posture all around and a stronger front end to the stroke.
Not sure how long to make the dowels to create the posture you want to see? You can easily have a few different sizes in your tool box and then just swap them out on the water. The dowels will sit pretty snugly in the tracks, so you don't need to affix them in any way...and they will even float if the rower forgets to grab them before taking the boat up over heads at the end of the row.
The Dowel Front Stop does create a hard stop, so this is really a teaching tool to use during drills and maybe steady state, but is probably best removed once the rate comes up and the work starts. If you have an athlete that really prospers with this trick and maybe needs a reminder of how much track is too much track, a "race day" solution is to put a piece of electrical tape in the groove of the track: that will create a tiny "speed bump" reminder for the athlete, but won't actually impede the wheels if they go a bit too far as the boat gets after it at speed.
If you have a coaching hack that helps you get your crews to go fast, share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.
Have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion here? Send it to us!