German expertise in junior rowing system
In 2013 the German junior team took home four gold medals, topping the medals table at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Trakai, Lithuania. This year, hosting the event in Hamburg, they have qualified boats in all 13 A-finals and they look set for success.
So what has contributed to this success at the junior level? Mario Woldt, German High Performance Director, shared his insight on the topic. “We have a really broad club system and the coaches are well developed, so we have a lot of rowers to choose from,” Woldt says. “But we also work to bring them together and create a really good atmosphere in the training camp before the Championships. They become really good friends.”
German junior rowing is based mostly on the club system. According to Woldt, the clubs use different methods to identify their rowers; some scouting, some advertising at schools, but mostly word of mouth, friends bringing other friends along to try.
The German Rowing Federation starts development of the athletes early. They hold several training weekends throughout the spring to get an initial idea of the athletes. “The goal is to let the athletes train in their clubs as long as possible,” Woldt says. “They remain (in their clubs) almost through to the under-23 age. They need to finish school and we don’t want to take them from that too early.”
The final selection for the World Rowing Junior Championships is made at the German National Championships. In the small boats it is straightforward. Winning at the national championships means a start at the world championships. The runners-up are then invited to join the training camp, where they make the final selection for the bigger boats.
The training camp is help in Berlin four weeks before the junior championships. It is at this point that the athletes are given more individualised training programmes. “In the German system we try to be as individualised as we can, but we can’t do that in advance,” Woldt says. It is also a chance for the athletes to get to know one another and come together as a group.
German single sculler, Tim Ole Naske speaks fondly of the training camp, “We spent four weeks in Berlin. At first we did long distance work, then more high-rate work. It was a very nice team this year, really a great group.” This all-important four week camp takes the juniors right up to the championships.
But one of the main focuses for the German Federation is how to develop these young athletes to the under-23 and senior level. “This year we are trying a new method to interview each of the athletes to see what their plan is. We want to know about their future, their life plan and then we can help them to include rowing if that is what they want. Then we can help steer them in a certain way,” Woldt says.
Naske is one of the junior scullers keen to continue in the sport. “I still have one more year of high school, but in the next few years, I can’t imagine a life without rowing.”
Naske will compete in the A-final of the men’s single sculls at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Hamburg, Germany on 10 August at 15:00 CET. Germans rowers will race in all A-final beginning at 11:30 CET.