The Rowing Stronger Mission

Without a doubt, the most helpful thing I learned in school last year was how to develop and coach with core values. I had heard plenty of times before about coaching philosophies and the benefit of developing one, but I always found it to be an overwhelming assignment without a clear starting point. Two things helped me break through this barrier. First, like any good project, was a deadline. We had to submit certain portions of our coaching philosophy gradually by certain deadlines throughout the quarter, and this made it easier to force myself to sit down and struggle with it. The second was a clear system. In this article, I will share this system with you and explain my own philosophy of Rowing Stronger through that framework.

Coaching Better with Core Values

The key purpose of a coaching philosophy is to ensure that your values have clear purposes and are backed up intentionally by your actions. Once I learned to think in this way for a coaching philosophy, I started to see the connection in other areas of my coaching as well. The mission statement of my website was borne out of this–helping you row stronger, faster, healthier, and longer.

It’s a magnificent way of simplifying and clarifying so that we can keep the overarching principles of our coaching clear as we focus on the minute details. Having specific connections between your values, purpose, and actions also makes it easier to discard ideas or actions that don’t fit your philosophy.

The “Why” of Rowing Stronger

Before getting to values, we had to think about why we coach in the first place. This is a helpful starting point to lead naturally to values. If my “why” for my website operations was to make money and max out traffic, I would have a different set of core values to support that goal.

Continue reading → The Rowing Stronger Mission

Fall Rowing Strength Training

The Specific Preparation Block of rowing strength training can often get left behind in the overall hustle and bustle of fall rowing season. It’s an exciting time in the collegiate or junior USA programs. Athletes return from summer break, enthusiasm for a new year high. New novice rowers join the program ranks. Coaches rush around like forest creatures using every last bit of daylight to make final preparations for the changing seasons, squeezing in extra meters to get athletes up to speed. Coxswains sweat out the twists and turns of upcoming head races. It is vital to have a solid plan for fall rowing strength training amidst all the busyness so that your athletes get the most out of the work they put in during the summer General Prep Block.

One difference between the General Prep and Specific Prep blocks is the quality of rowing work you do. If you followed my recommendations and spent the summer cross-training, sculling, or at least sweeping from your non-preferred side, the Specific Prep Block is more specific largely because you’re returning to dedicated rowing training.

On the weights, it’s crucial that we use the Specific Prep Block to gradually increase intensity of training to build into the winter season Pre-Competitive Block of training. No matter what they did over summer, rowers who neglect fall strength training are in for a shock if they try to jump straight into the next block of training unprepared. Thus, we tune the intensity, or how closely we operate to 1-rep max (1RM) weights, up slightly to operate more in the 70-85%1RM range compared to the General Prep Block’s emphasis on the 60-75%1RM range. When intensity rises, volume falls, so we do slightly fewer total reps than in the General Prep Block. We also use a more focused panel of exercises compared to the diversity of lifts used in the General Prep Block. All of these factors–the specific rowing training, the increased intensity, the decreased volume, and the more focused exercise selection–contribute to the “tuning up” that characterizes the Specific Prep Block.

Continue reading → Fall Rowing Strength Training

Why Strength Matters in Rowing

The short-and-sweet answer to why strength matters in rowing was concisely tweeted out by my good friend and Strength Coach Roundtable co-host Blake Gourley few months ago, that increasing strength decreases the amount of effort required per stroke, which increases endurance. I dubbed this “Twitter-coaching at its finest” in the conversation, however, I know many are interested in the full answer. Here’s about 5,500 characters (and no emojis) more on how we get to this beautifully concise answer.

We have to go to the research and do a bit of maths.

In “Strength and Power Goals for Competitive Rowers” (2005), authors Ed McNeely, David Sandler, and Steve Bamel outline their proposed strength and power standards for male and female rowers in the different categories of sport from lightweight to heavyweight and junior, U23, club, national, and Olympic levels. Personally, I think the standards are a little low, which I credit to how the sport has grown and progressed in the 12 years since this article was published. The data was collected over the previous 10 years, so we’re looking at standards based on rowers from 1994-2004, so some “performance inflation” is natural to occur.

Continue reading → Why Strength Matters in Rowing

My Greatest Mistake as a Coach

“There’s nothing really good that comes from a 14-15 year old thinking that you really like them.” “I try to keep my personal side out of it as much as possible.” “I’m more like going for 80% impact.”

Is that the kind of coach I am or want to be?

There was some context to these words, but as I thought about and listened back to my guest episode on the Winning Youth Coaching Podcast, I wanted them back.

From fall 2016 to spring 2017, I drove over 2500 miles to coach both rowing and lacrosse as well as volunteer at and attend clinics. I spent thousands of dollars on gas, books and coaching resources, equipment, plus tuition at the University of Denver to help me become a better coach. I spent hundreds of hours away from home, my girlfriend, and dog, many of them uncomfortable hours in the cold, rain, early morning and late night, and many more hours studying, thinking about, and talking about coaching and my athletes with my co-coaches. In addition to all my personal effort, I had the lives and athletic pursuits of 45 young people entrusted to me by themselves and their parents. And yet, I’m only “going for 80% impact”?!

I knew immediately that I was unsatisfied with my answer, but it took me most of last season to figure out exactly why and what I could do to change it.

I Underestimated

Continue reading → My Greatest Mistake as a Coach

Bundle: Summer Strength Training for Rowing

Beyond the sun, warm weather, and vacation time, summer is also a wonderful time to make gains to lay the foundation for the rest of your training year. If you’re a spring 2k rower following the block periodization system, summer marks the turning of the page into the next training year. Whatever you accomplished, however many medals you won, and no matter what PR’s you hit in the previous spring, training for more and faster starts now. Summer strength training will follow the general preparation phase model of block periodization.

“General” is the name of the game for this block of 10-16 weeks. Forget about your 2k or 6k erg time and set some goals outside of short-distance rowing. No one cares how fast you are or how strong you are in July, so don’t waste time and effort trying to hit 2k PRs or new 1-rep maxes now. There’s plenty of time for that later, and working on some different goals now will help you now and in the future. The whole goal of summer strength training is building a broad base and foundation for the rest of the year. High variety of exercises, high variety of rep ranges, and high variety of cross-training.

Why is strength training important for rowing? The answer is simple. Increasing your strength decreases the amount of effort required per stroke, which increases your endurance. Read more about this in the first article below.

Overview

Learn the Lifts

Summer is a great time to start strength training if it isn’t a part of your training already. The single biggest factor in your program’s success is how well you perform the lifts. Make sure to get instruction from a qualified coach or trainer if you’re beginning to lift.

Improve Your Mobility

Build Your Knowledge

  • Blake Gourley, Joe Deleo, and I host The Strength Coach Roundtable podcast. Every 1-2 months we do a deep-dive into a topic in strength training for rowing with the occasional guest. We’re always taking questions, too.

Bundle: Winter Rowing Training

As the fall head racing season wraps up in the US, many teams and rowers are looking to avoid the ice and frostbite by ditching the oars and moving into the weightroom and onto the ergs. Here’s a bundle of articles that will be useful to you as you plan your winter training.

If you’re a spring 2k rower following the block periodization system, the winter training block will be about half specific preparation and half pre-competitive, depending on when exactly your fall season ends and your spring season begins. The typical rowing team will conclude fall in mid-November and resume water training in mid-February. In between the seasons is a great time to restore bilateral (left/right) balance and make great gains to set up the spring competitive training block. Cerg1heck out “The Basics of Strength Training for Rowing” for an overview of annual periodization and how all of these blocks fit together with the goal of peak spring 2k performance, then read the other articles for how to accomplish it!

Overview

Learn the Lifts

Improve Your Mobility

The Strength Coach Roundtable

Keep in touch over winter training

Subscribe to my email list so you can stay tuned for the next Strength Coach Roundtable episode and hear about some of the techniques I’ll be experimenting with over winter season. Email subscribers get exclusive content about training, coaching, and my studies that doesn’t necessarily make an official blog post.

Podcast: Winning Youth Coaching

A few months ago I wrote an article about my five tips for new coachespodcastcover-1024x1024In tip #3, “You Still Have Practice,” I listed off my go-to resources for authors, speakers, blogs, and podcasts that I follow, and one of those was the Winning Youth Coaching podcast. Host Craig Haworth brings on a different coach for each episode from a variety of different backgrounds, sports, and specialities. I find his questions and his guests to bring a great blend of thoughtful discussion of youth coaching as well as actionable takeaways. After listing this as a resource, Craig contacted me and offered me to come on the show as a guest. So, here we go!

http://www.winningyouthcoaching.com/wyc-093/

2:15: My background, athletic bio, and how I got into coaching

Continue reading → Podcast: Winning Youth Coaching

A Coach’s Guide to Inclusivity

In part one last week, we covered person-first language, took a detailed look at what it means to truly be inclusive, and evaluated the differences (or lack thereof) in characteristics of athletes with and without disabilities. In part two, we’ll use the critical theory to look at how sport reflects society for people with disabilities, the concept of social settings to check the message your program is sending to people with disabilities, and wrap things up with an action plan for coaches.

Sport as a Model of Society

Especially in an Olympic year, we constantly hear about the values of sport in society. Sports build character, sports teach life lessons, sports teach the value of hard work, team work, self-confidence, and so on. There is no doubt that sport can be a powerful way to do all of these things, but only when done with the goal of doing so. Just like playing a team-building game on the first day of practice doesn’t automatically build a rock-solid team with no further effort, the messages you want to send and the lessons you want to teach with sport need to be consistently evaluated and reinforced to be effective.

One way that we can evaluate sports in society is with the Critical Theory. This is one of five main sociological theories that has guided sociological research for the last fifty years, and focuses on the power dynamics present in a given environment [3]. Someone using critical theory will see sport is an area where culture and social relations can be produced and changed. History has proven that this is the case in sport, from race relations to gender IMG_6575(1)stereotypes, and hopefully now to disability. Main questions to ask of your program from a critical theory perspective include:

  • How do people without disabilities interact with, influence, and make decisions for those with disabilities?
  • How is power shared between individuals with and without disabilities? What is the balance of competitive opportunities, resources, equipment, coaching, and more?

Continue reading → A Coach’s Guide to Inclusivity

Inclusivity in Sport, Part 1

I’m a straight, white, healthy, 24-year old athletic male with no disabilities. No one in my close family has disabilities, and it’s not something that I consider myself to know much about. I coach high school lacrosse and college rowing, two sports traditionally known for being more privileged, and aside from a few athletes with attention deficit disorder, I haven’t had any experience of coaching athletes with disabilities. My exposure to the field of disability comes from my girlfriend, an MA graduate in rehabilitation counseling who works in residential services for people with disabilities, and a few opportunities to volunteer with an adaptive rowing program in the Seattle area. I decided to do a final project for a graduate school course on this subject and set about learning more about sport for people with disabilities as well as accommodations and inclusivity in sport. As I started researching, talking to other coaches, and thinking about my own experiences, I realized I had a lot to learn. My goal with this article is to share my learning process, including my own preconceived notions, background research and sociological theory, and tangible takeaways for my own coaching and hopefully yours too.

Part one of this article will discuss person-first language, how we can define and produce inclusiveness, and whether there actually is a difference between athletes with and without disabilities. Part two will discuss how sports reflect society for people with disabilities, how environment affects perceptions and actions, and will conclude with an action plan for coaches.

Continue reading → Inclusivity in Sport, Part 1

5 Tips for New Coaches

I have enjoyed connecting the dots on my young coaching career. A few of these dots are:

  • Dad buys me a used bench and concrete weights at age 12-13. We have to keep a training log for karate promotions, so I begin journaling my training as my middle school best friend and I do endless variations of bench press and arms exercises. I get bit by “the iron bug” and build the early habit of the training log.
  • Despite no real experience, knowledge, or accomplishments, I become “the guy” in high school writing training programs for himself and anyone who wants one. I latch on to my high school strength and conditioning class teacher and coach. He supervises my senior project after I change interests from sociology/criminal justice to “undecided,” and I do my presentation on strength training for rowing.
  • I play club lacrosse in college and become the de facto team strength and conditioning coach, organizing weight-room and agility and conditioning sessions.
  • I work with a few rowers at my student job and run into them in the weight-room during a lacrosse session. They jump in and I start working with a few of them individually. I decide to major in kinesiology because I enjoy sports and training.
  • Because I’m in the weight-room so much, actual coaches and athletes start assuming I know what I’m doing. The undergrad kinesiology program is backed up, so thanks to one of these connections, I fulfill my year-long internship requirement with the varsity track and field team before I actually begin coursework.
  • I’m giving advice and coaching to 5-6 rowers at this point, and a few of them become team captains/cabinet members. They talk to their coach about strength training and I officially become the team strength coach.
  • I overhear my former lacrosse teammate and then-roommate talking on the phone with the head coach of a new lacrosse program he’s coaching, lamenting their struggles to find a JV assistant coach. I sign my coaching contract the next week.
  • I have a job at a local gym after I graduate. I work it for a while and things don’t work out, so I take a desk job. I have a lot of time, so I start a website so that my high school lacrosse players and college rowers can find technique videos and training resources.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve said things to athletes that I’ve regretted, missed plenty of opportunities, skipped on readings that I should’ve read in school, called plays that didn’t work out, and done some dumb things in the weight-room. I’ve learned a lot from these, and I know I’ll make more and learn from those too.

I’ve also done a few things right that I think would help a new coach.

Continue reading → 5 Tips for New Coaches