Re-posted thread on US Rowing Olympic Results

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Bob

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Aug 4, 2021, 8:57:50 PMAug 4
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This is a repost of a deleted post that contained serious factual errors.
Hopefully they have been addressed (thank you A. Dumas) and the calmer self has prevailed.

I suppose rowers from many nations who follow the Olympics have
something to say about their country's performance in the rowing
portion of the Olympics. I think the biggest story is the failure
of the United States to win a single medal. Surely there must be
something very wrong about the way US Rowing conducts the business
of preparing athletes for the Olympics?

There was a certain amount of drama this year as the Men's coach, Mike Teti, is being investigated for abusive behaviour dating back many years.
Because the story broke just before the Olympics, it has garnered
national attention in the US including call for Congressional Oversight of the investigation.

Still, that doesn't explain the across the board failure of the US in 2021.

One theory is the failure to make use of data analytics. One of the
Olympic athletes was asked if Coach Terhar used data analytics during training and the answer was "No" - not that she was aware of. Obviously some data is collected but not like in other nations. New Zealand has "Goldmine". Connie Draper moved to Vancouver where the Canadians train and their eight won gold. Even at the collegiate level, the University of Texas used data analytics in its rise to winning the 2021 NCAA Championship. In this day and age, the failure to embrace data analytics puts the US program at a disadvantage compared to other nations at the top of rowing.

The Chair of the US Rowing Board of Directors and the CEO of US Rowing have both posted letters on the US Rowing website promising changes will be made. When you have a whole organization and mindset so far behind the rest of the world, how do you make those changes? I've seen posts on this forum about issues and frustrations with British Rowing and wonder if there are any correlations? No doubt there will be a certain amount of cynicism regarding the ability of the organization to change (to many ticks on the dog?), but it is still worth expressing the opinions in the hope someone will listen..

https://usrowing.org/news/2021/7/30/olympic-team-a-letter-from-usrowings-ceo-on-the-olympic-games.aspx

https://usrowing.org/news/2021/8/3/general-a-letter-from-usrowings-board-chair-on-tokyo.aspx

Data analytics is just one theory. It would be interesting to hear other takes on what is likely a complex situation..

Bob

James HS

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Aug 5, 2021, 2:40:33 AMAug 5
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Hi Bob,

Is your hypothesis that data use would have improved the chances?

I happen to love data in coaching - I personally believe that you can't improve what you don't measure, but lots of coaches 'measure' in their 'eye' and sometimes I think I need to look up more from my data - so I am not completely convinced it is a magic bullet?

Asking an athlete may not be the most reliable metric?

I think there were a lot of shocks this regatta - and possibly the complete lack of racing is what made the difference - no one knew what the opponents were likely to have in their lockers and adjust.

the margins of loss were often very small, and some countries had just obviously prepared and delivered fractionally better than others - small differences made large medal differences.

I personally love the fact that the sport has become less predictable!

So I think that this is multi-factorial.


James

Bob

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Aug 7, 2021, 12:28:21 PMAug 7
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James,

James,

Thanks for responding. I think you are correct that lack of racing is likely one of the major causes of the surprises in the results.
Also, the US has not been dominant in most categories of rowing so there is always a chance of winning zero medals.

The athlete was asked whether metrics were used not whether they knew why the result was less than expected. I wouldn't want to be around all the finger pointing
going on at US Rowing.

Perhaps the sport is less predicable because more and more countries are approaching parity in their use of advanced metrics? I hope it isn't due to advances
in drug testing.

I was told once that US coaches suffer from the "Harry Parker Syndrome" in which they believe they can see all they need to know.. A legendary coach such as Harry Parker probably didn't need much in the way of data analytics. More mortal coaches need all the help they are willing to get. Data Analytics can be useful as reality checks to stubborn athletes and for matching athletes in boats. I doubt there is a direct measurement of heart and guts but there are indirect metrics. Given enough time, good coaches can get the crews optimized but time is often short. The US selection camp model of determining crews insures that disparate rowers must be melded together quickly.

The big problem with data analytics is dealing with the data! I found something interesting in the area of utilizing data analytics in a painless manner that might interest you- - www.crewlab.io.

Oh, and I am no expert in all this so if I'm overstepping, let me know and I'll shut up. I mostly do this to find out what more knowledgeable people have to
say about these issues. - Like James

Bob

James HS

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Aug 12, 2021, 2:33:51 AMAug 12
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Hi Bob,

Not overstepping - I learn heaps on here!

By metrics I has assumed you meant in-boat measurement - I would assume most coaches use land training metrics as a minimum (but having said that, I do know some coaches who do not care about land training results!)

As a minimum I like the info an impeller can add to a boat (actually knowing how fast a boat goes is quite useful!) and love the additional information an oarlock can give.

Not to be a slave to the above, but I personally find coaching with them useful!



James

Bob

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Aug 17, 2021, 3:52:56 PMAug 17
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James,

I do mean in-boat metrics like the Peach System. I have some confirmation that, on the women's side, there is virtually no use of in-boat metrics.. I don't even think they use the oarlocks but I was told that and don't know for sure. The bottom line is that, it appears the US team not making much of an effort to use
state- of-the art techniques to maximize boat speed. My Physics professor once told me that "old Physics theories never die, just old Phyicists". I certainly don't want coaches to die or even retire but I don't see how US rowing will improve given that we are so far behind the times with respect to metrics unless the coaches lead the way.

James HS

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Aug 18, 2021, 3:19:55 AMAug 18
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Bob

Has to be said, that I find a general resistance to in-boat metrics until the athletes actually experience them. (I coach at a grass roots club level - but one that 'wants' to get though the rounds at HRR.)

I think that there are sometimes 2 approaches - coach for athlete perfection (like all the negative comments about the Irish lightweight's grip technique) or coach for boatspeed (like his coach obviously does!)

IMO a mixture of the two is probably right - remove as many idiosyncrasies as possible, without damaging boat-speed, and then mesh those together to improve boat speed.

As a coach one does want to coach all athletes to a 'model' to give you more flexibility in moving people, but there are some crews of mine that just work together and I have no idea why - they are not really swappable into other crews from a technique point of view.

But I would agree, that the lack of all data use, in this day and age, is probably retrogressive.

James

Bob

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Aug 19, 2021, 7:46:43 PMAug 19
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James,

I guess I'm a bit US centric. In looking through Row-360 it is pretty obvious that the British are not pleased with their results either although it is one thing to wonder where the gold medals went vs where all the medals went as in the US case.

It has also been pointed out to me that the US is no longer just an incubator of home grown sweep talent since rowers from other countries are highly sought after by US Universities (check out the UW roster). Title IX in women's rowing has resulted in large programs with athletic scholarships to gifted rowers. The advantage of the scale of US rowing, with so many Title IX rowers, is reduced when the best are recruited from elsewhere. This is true in other sports which helps lead to the parity you mentioned and liked.

I also agree that this is a good thing for rowing in general.

I guess my position is that as parity is achieved in talent, the need arises for an edge that will lead to the slight advantage that results in first place vs fourth. IMO as long as the US lags behind in metrics, we will continue to lag at the finish.

bob

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