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3-on-3: Words of Wisdom for Junior Rowers

by Jules Zane, jules@usrowing.org | Apr 22, 2016
Three experts answer three questions and offer unique insights that have helped them and others along the way. This month, we talked to Eleanor Logan (two-time Olympic champion and former U.S. junior national team rower), Rob Munn (2016 National Selection Regatta 1 winner and former U.S. junior national team rower), and Brian de Regt (Oakland Strokes men’s varsity coach, four-time U.S. national team rower, and 2015 USRowing Fan’s Choice Junior Coach of the Year).
Three experts answer three questions and offer unique insights that have helped them and others along the way. This month, we talked to Eleanor Logan (two-time Olympic champion and former U.S. junior national team rower), Rob Munn (2016 National Selection Regatta 1 winner and former U.S. junior national team rower), and Brian de Regt (Oakland Strokes men’s varsity coach, four-time U.S. national team rower, and 2015 USRowing Fan’s Choice Junior Coach of the Year).

May3-on3

1) What three things do you think all junior rowers should focus on to benefit their rowing career?

Brian: “The biggest thing we try to instill in our juniors is the connection between hard work and results. I think there’s a lot of instant gratification in the general culture right now, so it’s sometimes a little hard to get the basic concept through. Fortunately, the erg is good at teaching that lesson.

Physically, core strength and flexibility are really important for juniors and something we could be a lot better at. Junior boys, especially, get very tight as they sprout, and in bad cases, that can put them on the road to injury.

Along those same lines, juniors should learn to be mature athletes, which to us means that they’re responsible for their health. Ideally, no one would ever get injured or sick, but it’s sport and it does happen. What we look for is how an athlete responds to it, if they're proactive about getting back to 100 percent.”

Rob: “One, find something every week you can do better than the week before. This sport is all about improvement. Every practice or workout should be treated that way; whether it is improving how fast you go on your team’s erg workout or beating one more person on a timed run.

Two, pay attention to the little things. Everything in a practice matters. You can’t show up, go through the motions, and expect to get faster. You win from the hours you put in every day, not a race day miracle.

Three, race as often as you can. I have never gotten off the water after a race in any moment of my career where it was the perfect race. There was always something that could have been executed better. The more times that you can go down the course, the better you can be at executing this. Plus, racing is the fun part of the sport!”

Eleanor: “First, I would definitely say try and get into small boats, like a single, double, or pair. That’s something not all juniors have access to, but it’s very beneficial for learning how to row any boat later on.

Second, especially for juniors, stay creative with fitness. Try to avoid burning out from just rowing and erging. Do other things, such as cross-country skiing, and focus on staying healthy and getting stronger.

Third, the internet is a really great resource for everybody. If you love rowing, there are hours and hours of amazing videos available that go way back, and you can learn from amazing rowing. Watch races over and over again and just observe them.”

2) If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself in your first year of rowing?

Rob:
“Be as diligent as you can to row as close to the perfect rowing stroke as possible. This is a repetitive sport that involves completing the same motion for hours at a time for some sessions. By not paying attention to that basic framework, you can begin to develop some bad habits that can really hinder your effectiveness in the boat. Furthermore, once you’ve established a bad habit in your stroke it is incredibly difficult to change it because it is something you’re comfortable with. Take the time early on to do it correctly from day one.”

Eleanor: “I would probably listen to my coach a little bit more! It’s important to trust your coaches and be patient. Training really takes time. You have to do the work and it won’t all come together at once. Juniors want everything right away, and that’s just not going to happen. Rowing is a lifetime sport.”

Brian: “I would tell myself not to underestimate any of the kids and not to buy into my own preconceived notions. Junior rowing is much different than from when I was doing it, so I’ve had to change my expectations of what the kids are capable of. I’ve learned that over the past couple years, the kids will row to your expectations, high or low. Juniors can make huge changes, even within a season, so set the highest expectations for your athletes, and hold them to those.”

3) What was the first big race you remember and how can a nervous rower still cherish that moment?

Eleanor:
“My first big race was Youth Nationals. I was a sophomore in high school and we had actually won our regionals. We went to the finals in Cincinnati after a really great season and suddenly there were way more boats, which was totally nerve wrecking. But it was our boat out there just doing the warmup we had always done, following the same routine, and that really helped us calm our nerves. We ended up winning. If you are really nervous, trust in the work you and your teammates have been doing.”

Brian: “The first big race that I remember was NEIRA in 2004. I was in a pretty quick crew, but I don’t think we dealt with the pressure of expectations that well, and really under-performed in the final. What stood out to me was how much we took away from ourselves with nervous energy. We did so much work in practice, had so many good rows, but then when it counted we made ourselves slower. After that I did my best to get out of my own way, to not let nerves take away speed. In terms of cherishing it, it’s just learning to perform to your preparation – no more, no less.”

Rob: “The first big race that really comes to mind for me was my nationals qualifier in 2008. Our eight that year had shown potential all season, but had not yet beaten the other top boats in our region, but we got closer each encounter. As a result we placed high expectations on ourselves to have a good showing at the regatta. We won the race. Leading up to this my nerves were high and I was terrified what the end result was going to be. Here’s the thing: that’s good. Nerves are what bring the edge to racing. Nerves show what the stakes of the race are. Nerves are what make it special.”
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