It seemed that those who had started rowing at school and been pushed
hard, had more often than not fallen out of love with rowing. Those
who had started later in life were more happier with the sport,
fitting it around other activities.
Those are the trends here in NZ - kids train a lot in high school, and
the vast majority hang up their oar at the end of school, looking for
other things to do.
This is getting to be ancient history, now, but when 18 men and women
returned to Canada from Barcelona with Olympic Gold from rowing (M8+,
W8+ and the W2-, W4- doubled up in the 8+) - 12 of those had started
rowing in university.
My own case - I was in badminton in high school, dropped that and took
up judo in university, dropped that (injury) and took up rowing in
Probably but don't hold your breath
It took me some time to find it on their website, but here it is
7 times a week sounds too much to me, even though it is within the
guidelines (for J16). At this level of intensity rowing ceases to be
enjoyable and becomes another chore to fit in around homework, family
and social life.
For those who haven't seen it, I strongly recommend the article by Alex
Henshilwood in the Nov 09 edition of Rowing Voice (Rachel Quarrel's online
rowing magazine). Alex Henshilwood is the Eton chief coach and has in
recent years produced the fastest junior crews in the world. You have to
subscribe to Rowing Voice to read it, but one quotation is particularly
relevant to this discussion:
"It may come as a surprise to learn that in a normal week at Eton between
the months of September and April, my squad will only row three times a
week: considerably less than other programs. And they almost never have
What I would not advocate is exclusively being sucked into the sport.
All sports seem to be run by people that want to get the most out of
the people they are coaching which means a lot of training. There is
nothing wrong with this though personally I believe having lots of
options and choices in life for the young person to choose what they
want to specialise in. Hopefully it will be something healthy and not
So away from school my kids are thrown into a cocktail of
sports..rugby rowing judo fencing badminton skiing swimming cycling
outdoor stuff generally. Music too. I recommend this to anyone that I
Within this cocktail of activity approach the young people will still
want to compete and win stuff. Its tough if you are competing against
people that do 10 to 18 hours a week on a chosen sport but I dont
believe its impossible. The advantage in the longer run is that if
they fall out of love with one thing at least they can realistically
start something else with high aspirations rather than as a total
My middle son loves badminton. He is competing against people who do
12 to 18 hours a week some getting a lot of private tuition into the
bargain. Its tough for him to compete but he is gradually narrowing
the gap. If he beats one of these exclusive sports people then for
them its very bad news...they have thrown their life into it...they
have no room to manouevre...they can only beat themselves up about
it..they cant really try any harder or change things. For him though
if he loses he can go away and take it out in a boat on a bike in the
pool secure in the knowledge that when he is unfettered by his
dogmatic father when he is say 16 or 17 if he chooses to go flat out
for his chosen sport then he has the opportunity to move it on to a
different level. He is fully aware of my rationale and at the moment
buys into it.
Also there are skills from each sport that assist with others...the
specialists do not have the benefit of this.
The posture in weight lifting and rowing helps with rugby scrummaging.
The wrist action, footwork and speed of fencing helps with courtwork
in racket sports without having to think about hitting a small flying
object. Away from sport playing wind instruments helps with breathing
control for all sport - particularly if you have any asthmatic
tendencies. The discipline of learning musical instruments is also
beneficial on the concentration required to play sport to the best of
I would rather see the kids achieving as adults (and for me
achievement includes wanting to have a "good" lifestyle as well as
winning gongs) having had the building blocks given to them in youth,
than achieving in the short term and giving up. I have seen loads of
excellent junior rowers give up as adults. Similarly swimmers who get
sucked into an exclusive regime have a tendency to give up. I would
think that will translate into other sports too.
The flip side for me as coach is at the moment Im hoping to get a crew
to qualify for HRR and I would like them to specialise for a month or
so but as they all have their other activities we are limited to 2
sessions a week. We may get an odd third session but definitely no
more than that until the week of the regatta. This makes it an uphill
struggle for sure but if they do manage to qualify then all the more
This is a question Im sure I will revisit in 10 or 20 years to decide
if I got the focus right or screwed it up!!!!!
I have long suspected Mr Casey of great wisdom; now I accuse him of it.
Henry Law Manchester, England
It does upset me that some of these people have a future possibly at
the highest international level but don't want to follow it through.
I also think that many could still enjoy rowing at a 'lower' level at
university competitions such as BUSA and local regattas and still get
satisfaction. But the memories are clearly too raw for that to be
While writing on this topic, there is a small 'spat' brewing on
Rowperfect after this post by Duncan Holland.... apparently Rowing NZ
is about to complain.
watch this space http://www.rowperfect.co.uk/news/2010/05/28/crimson-and-black/
what do you think?
Caroline - that is simply a biased opinion. I trained more than 7
times a week at J16, loved every session, and am still involved in the
sport more than a decade later, as are many of my crew mates. It was
never a chore - I only wish that I had been able to paddle more
throughout my school days.
If you love the sport, you want to be out there the whole time. If
not, then you'll never stay involved in the long run anyway.
There will always be drop out - the key is retaining the ones who love
it, not dumbing everything down to try and retain those who are
ambiguous about it.
Any competitive sport cannot be dictated by the lowest common
denominator. Citius, Altius, Fortius should never be rewritten as Citi-
ish, Alti-ish, Forti-ish.
If the solution to this is to introduce a more relaxed 'recreational
racing' tier of competition, then fine - but leave those who wish to
train to win alone, they don't need your protection.
Personally I also rowed more than 7 times a week at age of 15/16 and
loved ...still love it. It is tricky though as a parent who happens to
also coach their own kids as you absolutely dont want to find 20 years
later that you were compelling them to do something rather than simply
opening a door and let them push through. Thats coloured my approach
but Im not saying Im right.