row2k Features
Technique Feature: Getting Back in the Team Boats
April 5, 2021
Charlotte Hollings, Calm Waters Rowing

We've all heard the saying that a team boat is only as strong as its weakest link, so how do we make sure we're not the weakest link? Better yet, how do we row so as to make the others around us row better?

Some fortunate ones out there are getting back into team boats after a year on the erg and/or in the single. Hopefully you took advantage of that time alone to discover your own strengths and weaknesses and are more prepared now to become a better team boat rower.

For those of you coming off the erg, our past few articles were about rowing better on the erg. You can review them here and hopefully apply those lessons to your team boat.

For those of you who spent the last year rowing a single, what have you learned? I've always felt rowing a single was the fastest way to learn how to row well. You get immediate feedback to anything you do and you can't blame it on anyone else. You are solely responsible for the speed, balance, rhythm and run of the boat.

Hopefully those of you who spent last year rowing singles have become more aware of how much effect even a small movement has on the boat. Those things affect a big boat too, you just don't notice as much and/or you like to think someone else is to blame. The awareness that you gain in a single can help you become a better team rower.

Just like in the single, avoid sudden movements. It shouldn't take a lot of motion or effort to release the blade at the finish or to put it in at the catch. Think about being gentle where it's appropriate and don't just muscle it now that you're back in an 8 or quad. The oar is not your enemy, so don't fight it. If you do this in a single, you might pay by taking a swim so you learn how to work with the boat.

When you first got in the single and took a bad stroke, you automatically cut back on the pressure to minimize the damage, while instinct in a big boat is to fight. But just like in the single you want to try to be not only one with the boat, but one with your team. The better you row, the better they'll be able to row. The more level your hand heights, the better the set and the easier it will be for your teammates to work on their hand heights.

In the single, you don't have to worry about following anyone else, but in the team boat, that's critical. You can certainly feel and create flow in the single, but to do that with others, bodies have to move together. How well are you following the person in front of you?

The catch and finish timing are important but equally so is body swing. Key in on the body in front of you and move with their body throughout the stroke. Try to row relaxed so as to better feel what is going on in the boat. One exercise you can try is rowing with the eyes closed. This can be done by the whole boat or by pairs or even individually. How well can you stay in sync just by feeling the flow of the bodies around you?

As one coach put it to me, "A loose muscle is infinitely more responsive than a tight muscle," and you want to be responsive to what is going on around you. You're just one link in the chain, but you want to do all you can not only to avoid being the weak link but to be the catalyst to making that chain stronger.

This is what you might call staying loose:

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