The key to the beginning of the new season is to not dwell too much on the last. This may be particularly difficult this year as it only finished a few weeks ago, as opposed to the usual few months. The ‘Henley crews’ are no longer, and training focuses drift from precise technical goals and marginal gains to setting up for a squad to be built, and a return to the basics.
The summer should have been a time to rest and recuperate, preparing the athletes for the slog through the winter and winding down after a heavy season, but due to the disrupted nature of the last few years this has not been an option for many squads. This autumn the fitness levels are higher but the fatigue will be prominent. Injury prevention, and athlete management will be on the forefront of every coaches mind. The standards may be higher than last season but the long miles, and dark mornings await.
Much of this winter will be spent teaching people how to race, and getting the whole squad up to standard.
Countless juniors, university students, and novices have yet to experience a full season of rowing. At this point in their rowing career, these athletes may have been looking to push for top boats, attend trials, or aim for international events. This is directly at odds to the position that they now find themselves in; lacking in experience of domestic rowing, some may have never experienced a head race. Much of this winter will be spent teaching people how to race, and getting the whole squad up to standard. Senior and more experienced rowers could potentially find some tension here - a university having a senior squad where over half have less than a full season under their belt may lead to some interesting conversations between captains and coaches.
The inclusion of a Beginner 2 category at BUCS Regatta last summer worked well to combat the large rift in ability across senior squads, but it cannot be a long term measure. Looking to the new season, there will be a lot of work done with those aiming to join senior squads, after all there is a lot of missed time to catch up on. The learning curve for newer athletes and coaches will be steep this winter. Hopefully the fact that National School’s Regatta and BUCS went ahead in the summer will have dusted the cobwebs off the club gazebos and prepared many for the onslaught of the head race season.
The learning curve for newer athletes and coaches will be steep this winter.
There may be a sense of frustration at lacking international chances for the uppermost performers, and also from those who have lost entire seasons. Juggling high-performance athletes with those who have missed seasons may leave coaches tearing out their hair, or splitting squads further to allow for all to receive more tailored training. Again this may not be effective in the long term.
A shorter Olympic cycle adds to the frustration for high-performance rowers. Often, following the Games, many will retire paving the way for the next crop of athletes. Nevertheless, three years is a lot more doable than four, meaning that hardly any Team GB rowers have stepped down. The disappointing results in Tokyo coupled with Project Paris winning medals at World Cup III in Sabaudia leaves the competition for seats in the GB squad fiercer than ever. With the season’s first set of trials in November, many could benefit from not having all summer off and outperform their goals.
Maintaining the motivation for the coming summer will be integral to success this season.
Summer 2022 may seem far away. However, before you know it, crews will be counting off the eights flying past on the Tideway waiting for their turn, and then the regattas will come thick and fast. A full racing calendar is enticing to many crews who will still be running off the highs from last year. Maintaining the motivation for the coming summer will be integral to success this season. The standards will be higher as international competitors hopefully return – something that domestic crews would do well to remember when the going gets tough. Squads and coaches are starting to outline the season’s goals, culminating in the summer racing, and this will entice many now while the weather remains (by British standards) nice. As the weather and ergs make themselves known, these enticing motivations could seem a million miles away.
The racing this winter promises to be exciting and entertaining. A full calendar of local, and national head races leaving many chomping at the bit to sit in marshalling for an hour to thunder down the track for 20 minutes cursing their lack of training. The novelty of this is usually saved for novices and beginners but sure to be enjoyed by all until the British weather decides to join in.
The long push starts now, and as every coach will repeat, "regattas are won in the winter".
Looking forward to regatta season at this point may seem overly optimistic. However, the long push starts now, and as every coach will repeat, "regattas are won in the winter".