I am a junior rower for a Junior Crew. I’ve been very interested in your coaching style, especially your use of the Rowperfects as I used them myself when I was at a camp at Seattle Rowing Center this past summer. In a lot of your videos, I’ve noticed the rowers have been rowing on the square a a good deal or have extremely early roll-ups into the catch. Why is it that you emphasize this so much? Interestingly enough, my coach just offered me a challenge to row (during practice) this entire month on the square. Every piece, every drill, he said must be on the square. Do you think I should take this? He said it will book bolster my technique to where I will be able to qualify for youth nationals next spring. Thanks for the help.
This is what I think about Rowing on the square, about early roll-up and about your coach challenge.
1) With boat speed it is easier to balance your boat, boat speed comes over blade connection to the water that moves the boat and the key to balance is good timing at the change of direction. The reason I’m talking about this is because in order to row on the square, first you need to know how to have balance while you row. So to balance your boat you need to be able to change direction at the end of the stroke without losing pressure on your feet against the footstretcher while you take the blade out of the water and change direction of your body mass from going to the bow to now going to the stern. If you know how to do that well we can start talking about rowing on the square!!
2) When you know how to move on the boat, have connection to the water from catch to release and change direction at the end of the stroke having still pressure in front of the blade before the extraction (you can only do that having pressure on your feet against footplate) then you can start thinking about rowing on the square on a 1x.
These are few reasons why I like to have the rowers I coach row plenty on the square or half feather:
- It teaches them to complete the stroke, keep pressure in front of the blade until the last moment and take the blade out of the water on the square.
- It is easier to make the good rowing stroke without involving the turning of your wrist to feather. If you row on the square first, you learn to tap down and away first without adding the complexity of turning your wrist and changing the blade from square to feather. Before i teach rowers to feather I teach them to complete the stroke cycle without adding the complexity of the feather. I have them rowing on boats that are easy to balance like learn to row shells or team boats with part of the crew balancing the boat.
3) The early roll-up. When the rowers can row correctly on the square, then I start teaching them the correct action of their wrist to do the feather. What I always tell them is to roll up early enough going to the catch so they have their homework done before the catch. The catch by itself is complex enough, so I ask them to don’t make it harder by waiting to the last moment to square. We need a square blade to do the catch correctly. So early roll up is the way to go to have an easier way to get the job done well at the catch, but for that we need a balanced boat and some speed on the boat.
4) About your coach challenge to row for a whole month on the square: It depends on how you can do it. If you are not connected to the water, if you are not able to change direction correctly at the end of the stroke, rowing on the square it’s IMPOSSIBLE. So what I will say is just get the homework done before you can row on the square by yourself on a 1x. Learn first to connect to the water all the way to the release, learn to change direction at the end of the stroke by having pressure on the blade and on the feet, learn to balance the boat as a reaction of the prior actions done properly and when you have achieved that, then rowing on the square is possible and will teach you:
- to complete your stroke
- to get the blade out of the water clean and vertical
- to feather when you want
- to get an early roll-up to achieve a better catch overtime.