To learn more about this series and the topics we plan to cover, please visit the Youth Coaches Corner's index page. Youth coaches are more than welcome to contact row2k to get involved in future columns.
This week, we asked coaches a two part question about what their training "year" might look like--year-round, seasonal, scholastic, etc--and the key aspects of a successful training program in that context.
How many seasons does your team use for training during the year, and what are some of the most important aspects of a successful training program for your situation?
KIRSTEN PRESKENIS - FARMINGTON HS - VARSITY WOMEN
We practice during the fall and spring, but have summer programming through our town's recreation department. We also offer opportunities to improve fitness during the winter. During the off-season, I believe it's important for people to explore other types of exercise or try another sport. Rowing or erging is very beneficial and we have that available, but we also encourage people to try and learn new things.
The important aspects include: Do workouts that prepare the athletes to succeed at the specific racing distances they'll be doing. Alternate tougher workouts with easier ones. Remember to incorporate a recovery strategy into your training plans. You can only progress as much as your recovery allows! Also, having the ability to read your athletes and know when they can go hard, and when they need to dial things back.
I have a training plan that maps out what we do daily, weekly, and monthly, but I'll make adjustments if necessary.
ED FELDHEIM - FAIRFIELD PREP - VARSITY MEN
We are essentially a school year team, meaning we go from the end of August through the end of May, possibly the beginning of June. Summer is left to the athletes to recover, go on vacation, and have fun. Some guys will stay training over the summer on their own, but it's not part of our formal plan.
There are three aspects of a successful training plan that come to mind:
I don't know that it's specific to our situation per se but making sure the athletes understand the plan directionally is really big for us. They have to know why they are doing a particular workout in January for instance, they have to understand how it fits into the larger picture of the season and our stated goals.
Another major element is respecting the athletes' time. Everyone in this sport knows how time consuming it is and when you are on the water--it's sort of non-negotiable--but over the winter training sessions, we try to limit how much we ask of them in terms of that commitment. No matter what we are doing for a winter training session, erging, lifting, video, whatever it is each day we make sure it is no more than an hour of their time directly after school. These kids are busy and we have to respect that.
Lastly, we have a short body of water to row on--depending on wind we can go from 3K down to 1200 meters--so we have to factor that in and focus on a lot of distance work on the erg, saving the high intensity work for the water.
CHRIS RICKARD - JACKSON/REED HS - VARSITY WOMEN
We practice fall, winter and spring.
The two most important focuses of our training program are building a broad aerobic base and building mental confidence/toughness.
ANONYMOUS COACH - NOVICE MEN
With Novices, especially in the fall when we have no Novice racing, I'll take water time over conditioning every chance I get. I don't care how in shape they are, if they can't actually row, all the conditioning is pointless (they can do that over the winter). They can only learn bladework, setting a boat, and doing those in time in a shell.
In a prep school environment, I have a set practice duration so I want to make the most of it. Thus my practice plan in the fall is to be on the water Every. Single. Day. Rain or shine. Putting in lots and lots of strokes. Initially with basic drills to learn, then moving later in the fall to putting in the meters. Nothing teaches rowing better than just plain old rowing (with coaching to avoid bad habits from forming). Lather, rinse, repeat. Plus, invariably there will be bad weather that keeps you off the water and on the erg.
That being said, novice practice in a small prep school environment is more of a learning session than a training session. When we're out on the water I not only teach them about rowing and its traditions but also about the wildlife we see, how to read the weather, the signs of the wind moving across the water, how to enjoy and even relish being out in bad weather. When we put the boat in slings to work on it, I teach the boys how to use tools (some have never used them).
I make them take responsibility for themselves; Mom or Dad aren't allowed to call or email me to tell me their son is sick or injured; he needs to do it himself. I want them to learn to represent themselves, their families and their school well: shake hands, be respectful of themselves and others, be humble, be gracious, be honest, own their mistakes, etc.
I want rowing to help broaden who they are as young men. Having raised my own boys, I have a good idea of how to deal with them at this age. They're in a strange place, betwixt and between a child and a man. So I try to help them navigate those treacherous waters, gently chiding them, goading, encouraging, appealing to their growing confidence and physical abilities. And if they learn to row somewhere along the way, great!