How to transform yourself from rower into coach
We’ve been following some online rowing conversations recently about masters rowers moving into support roles in the rowing community. That got us thinking, how could a rowing athlete become a skilled coach? We took a look at what it takes to be a rowing coach and the first steps needed to get you started.
What do the experts say?
Coaches have to observe and experience things very differently from a rower. Rowperfect recently spoke with Jimmy Joy (a skilled and experienced rowing coach from Joy of Sculling) on the monthly RowingChat podcast about how he suggests moving from an athlete to a coaching role in rowing. He suggested:
- A history in teaching is highly recommended: Jimmy juggled teaching and coaching simultaneously to start out with, so he was learning how to teach well throughout his daily life. If you don’t have a teaching background he suggests doing the same, taking a teaching course while you coach or row. There is more to teaching than you know and in doing this you’ll greatly improve your coaching.
- Get your personal life in the right space: professional coaching in rowing requires a lot of travel and Jimmy found it especially difficult keeping a family together throughout his career. Settle in and get comfortable with your family before you put a lot of stress on them.
- Be completely immersed in what makes the boat go faster: during the podcast Jimmy would constantly reference momentum and physics. It is clear he has a solid grasp of concepts that affect rowing but that aren’t directly related to rowing study. To move into the coaching profession your knowledge of subjects around rowing but that affect rowing can mean the difference between amateur and skilled. Hit the books to find out what forces are at work in rowing and how you can manipulate them to your advantage.
Mike Davenport just recently recorded his thoughts on the subject in a lengthy blog post “How to make the living you desire from coaching sports”. He helps you ask the big questions and if you come out of it all with the thought “I want to make a living from coaching sports” he tells you exactly what he did to succeed.
We also found several key attributes for rowing coaches from University of Worcester Rowing Club & The Association of Rowing Clubs, SA by Frank Dick, then formulated our own 8 key attributes we believe a great rowing coach needs:
8 key attributes to being a successful rowing coach
- Speak the language: terminology and phrasing is incredibly important. If your athletes don’t understand you they will keep making mistakes.
- Mental toughness: be ruthless, but never cruel! A coach must push their athletes and be open to the criticism and despair an athlete can bring when under extreme pressure. Don’t go easy on an athlete just because they say they can’t do any more after a hard training session. Inspire or excite them.
- Organise! Organise! Organise!: planning is the mark of an amazing coach. Knowing your athletes is one thing but if you don’t know what to do with them it’s time to go home and make up a few plans. A coach’s planning includes both training and what to do when that training becomes redundant (e.g. if their muscles no longer need developing, just maintaining).
- Analysing an athlete’s capabilities: coaches need to be able to watch an athlete and read their movements. In doing so they see drops in performance and ways the athlete could improve upon their mental or physical fitness or skills.
- Be sociable: this attribute must be strong for coaches teaching multiple athletes or crews. An unhappy crew can be far less effective than a crew that enjoys each other’s company. Bring your crew together and make sure they’re having fun as well as taking the sport seriously.
- Belief and trust towards your athletes: if you have no faith in your athletes they’ll have no faith in themselves. Encourage them rather than putting them down. This can be difficult if they find your training complex or ineffective. Alter your coaching approach if their self confidence dips and if they learn in different ways (e.g. learning by written words vs. learning by movement).
- Passion: rowing coaches have astounding love for the sport and it keeps them at the edge of their seat for any deeper insights they can get. They test out every training technique, explore every regatta, listen to every story and in doing so they help athletes get completely absorbed in rowing sport culture. This is from where athletes find their joy of the sport soon after they start!
- Unbridled knowledge: of the sport, of the equipment, of the exercises and of the events. A rowing coach knows where to put their rowers and spend their time relentlessly pursuing more and more rowing information.
Your first step!
What do we suggest as the first step? EASY! Find a non-rowing friend or loved one and try to teach them the ways of rowing. This will show you what you’re good at, what you need to work on and most importantly it will show you if the most novice rower can follow your instructions.
Good luck in your coaching adventure.