Coaching: How to Prepare for an International Regatta
Daunting as it is, a coach’s first time attending and coaching for an international regatta could be much nicer. We had a talk with rowing coach Grant Craies about his time with the University of Otago Rowing Club in New Zealand where he took crews to race in China.
Environments, both different in location and to do with travel in general, are difficult to adapt to. Grant suggests moulding yourself and your team to the environment of your destination, as well as mapping out the area and its key points:
- Know this regatta: keep a schedule of the regatta timings and a layout of the event area on you at all times. You can easily get swept up in the stress of managing your team and preparation for the event. These also serve to keep you focused on the regatta at hand in a structured way when you are getting overwhelmed.
- Have good communications with regatta coordinators: if you can, join the team manager meetings for the event. You’ll usually be given a lot of information in advance including information packs, registration instructions and event details (dates, times and locations). Often managers get all the information and you have to get it from them so keep a constant communication open with them at all times. If you know anyone in the regatta’s event management team personally they can give you greater insight into what is actually happening.
- Environment training: can you simulate the environment you’re travelling to? Grant took his crew to China in the summer when it’s humid. He took the crew to an environmental chamber to do ergos before travelling in order to simulate the weather conditions. They grew accustomed to working out in those conditions. Cold conditions can freeze up joints quickly hurting crew mobility, while warmer climates drain their stamina faster and dehydrate the body.
- Timezones and jet lag: set up a sleeping schedule matching the timezone you are traveling to so your crew are sharp and ready for each race. Grant starts this process on the journey over but you can start even earlier as long as the lives of your athletes can cope with it.
- Survey the course of the regatta: knowing prevailing winds and where it is likely to get rough on the course proves to be invaluable information. If you get a chance, row on the the race course early to help your rowers get a good feel for it. This could mean travelling to your destination that little bit earlier in order to get in an outing.
- Hotel/ accommodation knowledge: new city layouts can be tricky. Don’t lose your crew and make sure they can locate, and have access to, their accommodation. Get a key card to your accommodation for each of your athletes, give your rowers a map and make sure they keep you informed about their location if they go out.
- Know your food and water: in some areas of the world it’s dangerous to eat certain foods or drink from taps or water fountains. A sick athlete cannot compete and could spread illness to others. It also doesn’t hurt to be stocked up on general medicines for colds, diarrhoea and other common illnesses.
The biggest problem with new coaches attending international regattas is preparedness. They often expect everything they need to be made available to them. Regattas can be messy however, and often require a coach to think on their feet. Grant explained that there are a series of things that coaches are powerless to control, therefore they must come up with alternatives and contingency plans:
- Know your city: by knowing where gyms and other such places are, a coach can set themselves up with training gear and spaces quickly. Share your knowledge with your athletes as well to make sure they stay safe and stay in touch.
- Flexibility is key: sometimes things just don’t work out. The training area is closed, there aren’t enough boats to train in, your equipment hasn’t arrived or got lost at the airport, the potential problems go on and on. If you plan for both training and alternatives you’ll be saving yourself a huge headache. But how can you do this?
- Training tracks – map out places in the city your athletes can run or spend time training. Local parks are good for this sort of thing. Simple use of the terrain can be a powerful training tool to keep your athletes occupied and fit.
- Zero equipment training – If you can’t get hold of a gym know which exercises and activities you can do with no equipment in a nearby open space. Get your athletes to practice these exercises before they travel so they can quickly pick them up if needed.
- Internet access: know the area’s internet hot spots, especially if your training regime, statistics or information on the regatta are online. It’s easy to get caught without a connection so it’s wise to print out what you can before you leave.
This short guide should give coaches a good platform to prepare for international regattas and travel. What are your best tips for travelling?
May your first international regatta run as smooth as lake water on a calm morning.