Messages from World Rowing coaches conference
Rowing coaches from 24 nations came together in January at the annual World Rowing Coaches Conference with ‘finding the edge – talent and technology’ on their mind. The conference was held at Windsor, Great Britain, close to the rowing regatta venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Well versed in finding the edge was coach in the spotlight, Tom Terhaar, the United States head women’s coach. Terhaar has kept the US women’s eight at the top of the winning pile for the past few years and he shared his experiences. Terhaar acknowledged that in the US he has a very unique situation as he is able to draw on a huge and talented collegiate rowing system which feeds women rowers into the national team.
Terhaar said that finding the best crew was not about whether athletes loved rowing, it was more about their desire to win a gold medal. But this also meant that his athletes did not always stay at the elite level very long as once they had their gold medal they would retire.
The simplicity of the programme in the United States was a necessity said Terhaar and this approach fitted with the US culture. If Terhaar deviated from the plan there was a high chance that an athlete would sue him. “I have to be completely clear,” said Terhaar. One method is Terhaar’s use of singles and pairs rowing to formulate the eight.
Steve Gunn, who manages Great Britain’s Team Start Programme shared his approach on talent identification and development. Gunn said he looked for raw power, not technique and, unlike Terhaar, Gunn focused on the longevity of athletes in the sport.
Gunn advocated the individualisation of training programmes, rather than one programme for everyone. This means that the plan is developed as the athlete develops.
The second day of the conference looked at technology in sport with Dr Caroline Hargrove of McLaren Technology speaking. Hargrove gave an ‘outside of rowing’ view of rowing. She emphasised the need for athletes to learn the constraints of technical developments. Using car racing examples Hargrove said that once an athlete learns the limitations of technology, then they can use it more effectively.
McLaren Technology captures real time data so that they are analysing the athlete while they are racing and feedback is given at that time. Hargrove also talked about looking at these facets in an athlete; skill acquisition, mental energy and health and fitness, mental energy being a relatively new component.
Dr Andy Murphy from Imperial College, London, then described his research into the motion of the body, the kinematics, during the rowing stroke. Murphy looked at when major muscle groups were activated through the stroke. He found a big difference between high stroke rate pieces and low rating pieces. From this Murphy pointed out the importance of postural control at the higher stroke rates as his study showed that there was less control of the body, especially in the core area, at the higher rates.
Murphy also noted the suspension element of the stroke in terms of the timing of the heel movement. He found that there was a higher power output when the heel was down longer. Murphy used British national team rowers for his research. His research is ongoing.
The conference concluded with a visit to Dorney Lake where coaches could check out the venue for rowing at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2011 World Rowing Junior Championships. They also visited the Royal Holloway College, the accommodation facility for rowers at the London Olympics.
The presentations from the 2010 World Rowing Coaches Conference can be downlaoded from here .