Ergometres, Training, 2016 World Rowing Cup II, Lucerne, Switzerland
Ergometres, Training, 2016 World Rowing Cup II, Lucerne, Switzerland

For some athletes, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games means waiting that bit longer for their Olympic or Paralympic debut. For others, it means delaying retirement by another year. For all, motivation has become the main concern.

World Rowing talked to FISA coaching director, Gianni Postiglione about how to keep training and how to keep it relevant and interesting.   

World Rowing: Now that the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed, how are your athletes feeling?
Gianni Postiglione: The majority of rowers on teams were preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regattas. They were training with high motivation, looking to seize the opportunity of going Tokyo. They now are feeling pretty bad because they have for the last six months suspended their studies and jobs to participate in the Olympic Qualifications 2020. They were very disappointed to know that the rules of Qualifications could change due to this emergency – even if they understand the special circumstances.

WR: What can a coach can say to an athlete that has been training for a long period of time to prepare for the Games?
GP: I don’t always use the same sentences. The same words repeated many times lose their meaning, although repetition is the mother of learning. Our main philosophy is based on how to maintain the alert on the preparation for the next international events. Those are not yet known to us, but we know they will happen. As rowers, we are used to rowing very hard without looking at the finish line. This is the right moment to face your level of motivation, there is no interference of coaches. There is only the rowers, the training programme and their dreams.

WR: What is the priority for the athletes right now? Resting or keep training?
GP: Now it is a moment of reflection on what is really happening around them and their families. It is a hard moment for everybody, but we all have to focus on the future – and the future of the rowers is the Olympic Games. When they know when their next target is they will jump on an erg or a boat and will row with the usual motivation. 

WR: Now with a lot of countries in lockdown, how can rowers still find the motivation to train inside?
GP: The only motivation is to know when the next race will take place. If it is too far the motivation will be low. If it is closer the motivation will be higher.

WR: You have been creative with your athletes to keep them motivated. What are you doing?
GP: In these extraordinary moments, when no one knows what to do, I use it to work on theoretical aspects of training. It is important to give higher value to the knowledge of rowers. I asked them to prepare their training programme for the next two weeks. I know which model of training they like the most and if they understand the theory of the rowing training methodology. I organise meetings on theory to make them aware of what is needed to be a good rower. It is like a soup, they put in all ingredients, I put only some salt.

WR: How can this creativity help them in the future, when ’normality’ resumes?
GP: My parents told me about the efforts they made to move on during the Second World War. Some episodes were very scary. In the view of a little child they were heroes to come out of such critical situation. I think this generation will be the next heroes describing the importance of the individual discipline for the survivor of mankind.

WR: What about you as a coach. How are you keeping motivated?  
GP: I am motivated because my rowers are watching me. If I stop supporting them on a daily basis, they will lose their reference point. This is what I believe. Maybe it is not necessary, but even if it is for only one rower for me is enough. 

WR: And what kind of support are you getting? 
GP: A great psychological support from my family, my coaches, rowers and a lot of former rowers of my past activity in Italy.  We stay in touch through all kind of technologies which allows me to have live feedback of the training of rowers.