Everytime I get the chance to get on a motorboat with a rowing coach I observe that a huge part of his practice is directed to coaching everything that happens from the moment the blade comes out of the water until it gets in again. The reality is that everything that happens during the recovery will play a big role on the rowing drive.
Let’s first understand that the Rowing recovery is from the moment the blade gets out of the water at the release or end of the stroke/ drive until the blade gets again in the water that will be the start of the stroke/ catch.
When we are coaching rowing we need to coach multiple things and a very important one is rhythm. Rhythm comes as a reaction of good power application during the drive and good synergy of movements of the body mass and the boat mass during the recovery.
During the recovery the coach will teach his crew to move on the way he wants to let the rhythm develop. He will make them spend the time coming up on the slide the way he wants to. Different styles of rowing have different ways of spending the time during the recovery to let the boat run. Normally there is a pause somewhere on the recovery to help the rhythm develop. All of those choices of pause or slower part (end of stroke, arms away, on top of footstretcher, before the catch…) have positive and negatives but all of them are good for different goals and different boat events and stroke rates.
To give you an example the australians usually will pause at the end of the stroke and let the boat run there and rush to the catch. They actually do really well with this style because they are very good on their rowing skills and because of that they can run to the catch and anticipate the blade on the water before the stern goes down. The problem starts when you want to use this style of rowing with a not skilled crew? The stern will go down and the boat will be slower because they won’t be able rushing to the catch to anticipate their blade to the water before the stern goes down. In this situation this boat could go faster with another rowing style or way of moving during the recovery.
The reality is that coaches can see how bodies move during the recovery and how the boat reacts to it. Obviously with an acceloremeter on the boat giving direct data to the coach boat, the coach can really see direct data of the reactions of the movements of the body mass and boat mass during the recovery. This is the ideal way to see what style is the best. Real data feddback of the changes of acceleration and speed on the boat.
The biggest challenge starts when the blade gets on the water and we want to coach the power application of the Rowing Drive. As soon as we get the blade in the water and produce pressure in front of the blade (to do that we need to generate pressure on handle and footstretcher), then we start creating positive acceleration and eventually the speed of the boat will increase.
I’m observing very often that is really hard for coaches to teach a good rowing drive or different rowing shapes of power curves or power application on the water. The power curve is a curve that describes what happens from the moment the blade gets in the water and gets pressure in front until it loses pressure. If that pressure during the rowing drive is continuous, discountinuous, focus on the catch, on the second part of the drive, descoordinated, disconnected, partially disconnected, short, not even, not smoth, not consistent, etc…. the power curve will show that on the shape and volume. If the coach has access to this curve he can detect the problems and look for solutions. When the coach doesn’t have a way to get data of what is really happening in front of the blade, then it will be really hard to improve the rowing drive or to really know how efficient each rower is rowing on the water.
Here I present different ways the rower can develop a good drive:
1) The rower has a natural way to develop good pressure in front of the blade and feel for it.
2) The coach is very experienced and good that can see with his eyes and intuition what is really happening in front of the blade.
3) The rower rows with a rower that has a good power application and feels it and learns by the feedback of the feel and the comments of the experience rower. Also this experience rower can give feedback to the coach of what is going on.
4) The boat has a WEBA telemetric system to measure pressure in front of the blade on the oarlocks and the coach and rower learn from it.
5) The rower rows a Rowperfect3 on the land and learns from the feedback of the power application. He then makes changes on his rowing drive during the repetitions on the land and takes it to the water.