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 Boat Selection with the following question:
DO YOU HAVE A STANDARD SEAT RACING PROTOCOL, OR DO YOU VARY DEPENDING ON THE DAY?
BILL ZACK – SAN DIEGO STATE WOMEN
On the days when I do traditional seat racing, it is typically over 1500-meter or five-minute pieces. We will use whatever our racing cadence is for that time of the year. I prefer changing one person at a time rather than pairs, and I would rather seat race in fours than eights even if I was selecting for an eight. I also like to give each crew some time to row in the new lineup rather than just switch-spin-race. We will also make use of seat racing matrices in fours or occasionally in eights.
SANDRA CHU – WILLIAM SMITH WOMEN
I track my line-ups each day and play with different combinations throughout the selection season. But, for scheduled switches, we typically use 4’ pieces—the length of our straightest piece of protected water.
TODD KENNETT – CORNELL HEAVYWEIGHT MEN
If I owned my own lake, I was the only coach and the weather was always the same, I would have a very set protocol. But too much changes on my course; traffic, current, winds, and for that matter even the guys so I do try to be systematic, and often use one of 3-4 different scenarios depending on what works the best in the given situation, but I do not have one set protocol. We do try to make things similar so there is some consistency, and we try to make it similar to a race scenario.
LUKE AGNINI – GEORGETOWN HEAVYWEIGHT MEN
I’ve always been a fan of switching in small boats, we row straight fours and coxed fours a lot. Switches there can help sort guys out and really exposes people in good and bad ways, however there are a lot of factors. Straight fours require good boatmanship in order to have consistency. Coxed fours have a slower pick up and impulse. Some guys do very well in coxed four seat racing and can’t quite seem to produce similar results in the 8. Some guys are much more comfortable to the speed of the slower boats.
A lot of times in the fall though, we’ve had some interesting results and very fun times with a concept called trial by combat. Any day that is announced as a trial by combat day allows a rower in the losing boat of a piece to challenge anyone in the winning boat. If multiple guys request a switch, priority is given to the better weight adjusted erg from that week. I got the idea from Game of Thrones. That one always gets the juices flowing.
BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
It varies depending on the day. Sometimes I’m only looking at a couple rowers, whereas other times I’m looking at an entire boat. It’s always done in 4s, though; 8s are too big with too many X-factors.
NICK JOHNSON – BARRY WOMEN
We try to minimize factors and excuses, so we are pretty particular about how and when we do seat racing. We’ll put out two or three fours of equal speed on a day when there is minimal wind, and we won’t announce who is racing. We will do our first 4-minute piece, make a switch, then do a second piece. Obviously, whoever was switched is racing, but we emphasize that the second piece is also the first race for another two unnamed rowers. We rinse and repeat that process for however many races we had planned on doing, but we usually keep it to 5-8 pieces.
DAN ROOCK – DARTMOUTH LIGHTWEIGHT MEN
A standard is four and a half minutes at 33 in fours, side by side. This works best on a buoyed course. The challenge is fairness, so if there are lane differentials, I sometimes run time trails with crews racing single file against the clock.
JENN LANGZETTEL – DUQUESNE WOMEN
We do have a protocol, but it can vary depending on the day. Sometimes we will utilize a pair matrix day to day as a measure.
KEMP SAVAGE – EASTERN MICHIGAN WOMEN
We only seat race if the distance is over 1K. To keep progression of practices we can't always use the same pieces to select each week.
GABE WINKLER – OREGON STATE MEN
“Hey coach, are we seat racing today?” Dumbest question in all of rowing. Every day, little boy, every day. I said this before, we will most likely do switches on any day of the week for any length of a practice. A “seat race” may be from yesterday to today. How did this boat do with just a small change from what we did the previous day?
BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
We look more for individual responses to changing conditions. We can identify the rowers who by instinct love a challenge and help those who don’t. The rates and durations of the challenges vary according to the overall practice plan. It’s not seat racing in the normal sense.
CAMPBELL WOODS – MARIST MEN
We try to do the same thing or nearly the same thing every time so that the athletes can get used to the protocol. If the athletes are nervous or confused, then it is one more factor that will potentially skew the results. Try to have a clear system and for the athletes to know what that system is. The goal in any seat racing program should be that the only thing affecting the outcomes is the athletes who have been switched.