|Junior Rowers help with boatyard clean up.|
This spring I started coaching, and I have loved every minute of it. I rowed in high school and then picked up the sport again as an adult. I became a "captain" for our small community club with which came safety responsibilities. Later, I took on the task of program coordinator. For the last two years I've been scheduling coaches to teach adult classes for the club. At the same time I've been writing and revising (and revising, and revising) a Young Adult novel about a rower and her coach. The research for the novel allowed me to delve deeper into coaching theories. The more I learned the more I wanted to coach.
I developed a spring junior rowing curriculum and piloted the program for 25 girls this year. Many of the girls were hooked and we continued to row throughout the summer. After one of their first long power pieces I called through the megaphone, "How you doing? Getting blisters?"
The rower in two seat waved with a bright smile. "I've got two! It's like Christmas over here!"
With school starting I expected academics and other more traditional sports to take precedence but these girls wouldn't quit. (An crucial quality for a rower.)
As I've coached them, the TV, movie, and yes, YA plot of the mean, conniving, and ultra competitive teen girl has been squashed. My rowers are kind and supportive. I give them space to help make choices and they rise to the occasion every time. Yesterday we had three people show up for four or two spaces. I had them chose who would row when and they came up with fair solution.
Perhaps the kindness I've witnessed in my rowers stems from the fact that we are not a competitive crew. At this point my focus has been on teaching the technical and safety aspects of the sport. There was never any try out, no seat race, no first and second boats. I believe deeply that coaches can build self-esteem in their young rowers by waiting to race them until such time that the rowers will experience success. By success, I do not mean that they win a race. Instead, I mean that at the end of a race a rower should be able to feel that they have given all they can for themselves and their crew. A crew that is unstable in their technique or safety is often too filled with anxiety to enjoy the competition. This anxiety can lead to anger and to rowers blaming their coxswain or each other at the end of a bad row.
On the water yesterday, there was wind and little waves licked the hull of the double. My rowers were learning the basics of sculling (two oars) for the first time. Despite the tippy boat and the disequilibrium that comes with a new learning situation, all I saw were smiles and concentration.
Back on shore we reviewed the schedule for the next practice which would be a week later and after school, but they wanted more. They wanted to row before school too. "How about 5am they asked?" My jaw dropped. I'm an early bird but five is not my favorite hour. We settled on 5:30 and I know that I'll happily get out of bed to coach them.
|The author in three seat.|