row2k Features
Coach Tricks
Rowing Hack: Handle Height Bells
January 19, 2023
John FX Flynn

Have an erg room full of athletes dropping their hands into the catch as they rack up the winter meters that will make them champions? Then grab some PVC piping and build yourself this week's Hack: Handle Height Bells.

Credit for this build goes to John Thornell, the Stonington Girls Head Coach and Director of Rowing for Stonington Community Rowing in Connecticut. Thornell wanted a fun--and occasionally festive--way to remind his athletes to keep their hands and bodies up into and through the front end.

When the rowers get it right, they ring the hanging bell, which provides pretty quick and pointed feedback. As a bonus, the musical payoff is as obvious to the athlete as it is to their coach and teammates. That makes it easy for the athlete to self-correct and learn.

The PVC stand--and we think readers know how much we like a good PVC-based hack--allows you to quickly adjust the contact point for each athlete, and even to move it from erg to erg as a full team swings through a workout.

You see plenty of "handle dropping" in the erg rooms--enough that we've featured a few hacks to address it. Luckily, the design of the Concept 2 erg, with its vertical chain guide, does lend itself to teaching tricks that target the front end. As a result, folks have been hacking up tricks in this category for years, from full-on metal brackets or bolts attached to the erg to simply using a piece of tape across the opening at the preferred level, as in the Height Tape Hack.

One of our favorites--the Handle Height Helper Hack--just involves something wedged in or behind that vertical slot, like a full roll of tape or a baseball. That version of this trick gets used enough that we recently heard from Joe Tewkesbury at Marietta High School that tennis balls do the trick pretty well, too, especially if you can get them for free from a friendly neighborhood tennis coach.

Thornell's Hack does require a bit more assembly than either of those, but he doesn't have to worry about gumming up his ergs with tape residue, or keeping a bucket of balls around--which might just make it our new go-to trick for this important bit of erg teaching.

Plus, all that jolly jingling of good catches can even generate a little holiday spirit at the right time of year:

Thornell also tells us that his bell set-up becomes a flexible teaching tool as he moves it around, good for checking--and reinforcing--handle heights throughout the stroke cycle.

To reinforce a level hands on the recovery? He can put the stand a bit closer to the athlete, so they can ring in on the way up the slide. To work on the idea of "dropping the blade in" at the catch? He can put the bell over the hands right at the catchpoint and ask the rowers to ring the bell before they push on the footboards.

Do you have great teaching trick that you've hacked together for erg season? If so, share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.

If you have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion, then please send it to us like John did, and we will feature your idea in a future column.

If you enjoy and rely on row2k, we need your help to be able to keep doing all this. Though row2k sometimes looks like a big, outside-funded operation, it mainly runs on enthusiasm and grit. Help us keep it coming, thank you! Learn more.


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