Friday, September 18, 2009

You Suck Today...

...but that's ok because tomorrow you'll suck less"

As of tomorrow, my rowers and I have officially made it through the first two weeks of training.  AND everyone keeps coming back, which is always fun for a coach.  My team is trying their best to row their best.  Of course, they aren't.  Nowhere close, in fact.  What matters is they are trying....and sucking.  So what?  I expected them to be pretty bad right now.  I don't want them awesome right here, right now....or even next month.  I want them be awesome in May.

That being said, I've remembered one of my first "lessons" over the past week--part of coaching is managing expectations. Perhaps most importantly, I need to manage my own expectations.  I would love it (what coach wouldn't) if the top 8s of nationally recognized programs like Harvard or Cal were filled with my rowers.  But I realize that this is not the hopes and dreams of all my rowers.  Some are just happy getting into a boat and having a good row.  I can't honestly expect those kids to row national team 2k times or even finish in the top six of their races.

I also need to manage each rower's expectations.  I think each of them are phenomenal high school athletes, but not all of them would cut it at Harvard or Cal.  But they could be fierce competitors for small college or club programs.  Part of coaching means being honest and helping my rowers choose attainable goals, ones that I can help them work towards.  Otherwise, I could be setting them up for frustration, or worse, failure.  Your team won't perform their best (I don't like to say win because winning and performing your best are totally different things...I'll talk more about this later) at championships when they feel down and like crap.  When was the last time you did something awesome when you felt like a loser?  Probably never.

So tomorrow, we'll be doing our first 5ks ever.  Most of the team has never done an organized 5k for time and that led to some freaking out.  It didn't help when I told them the gold medal splits were between 2:00-2:05.  So I said,

“I don’t expect all off you to row that. In fact, I think you are all going to suck. And you should suck. But I don’t care, because all I care about is that the next time we do 5ks, you improve.”

Funny enough, they were all okay with that. Tomorrow, I’m going in with full expectations that my team is going to suck. But I also expect each and every one of them to have fun doing it… and maybe even surprise us. 

See you on the river. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who Knew.

ME: "How's the four doin'?"
ASSISTANT: "Good, except that their rudder is stuck... they can go straight, they just need to use pressure to steer."
ME: "WHAT do you MEAN the rudder is stuck? [sighs] Check if its tangled in some weeds."
ASSISTANT: "We did and its clear... she can't move the steering stick is all, its like its locked."

First day on the water as a head coach and that happened to the boat.  It turns out the rudder was actually "locked" (who knew!); probably because the shell wasn't rowed all summer the steering cable somehow got stuck in the cable tube and just needed a coach's touch to work again.

Since this is my first post I figure I should tell you a little about me and what's going on here at 'the boat' (I will think of something better to call it, I promise!).  My name is Tom and I was just promoted to the Head Coach/Program Director position at a high school program in the Philadelphia area.  I am new to the responsibilities but I am not new to the sport.  I began rowing in high school and continued all four years in college.  I fell into coaching as a way to help make some money as I looked for a 'real' job (I successfully survived both law school and two bar exams).  Three years later and I still haven't set foot into a courtroom but I have successfully coached a Stotesbury medal-winning boat.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while now, but with my new title I figured why not now.  After being around the sport for over ten years, I firmly believe there are two groups of coaches... the first group is a small, but extremely successful and influential group, of coaches who rowed for the best programs and the best coaches and now carry their success to their alma maters or other strong and storied programs.  Then there is the second and much larger group.  In this group you will find the coaches who learned to row at a small college club team or even in a masters program and who fell into a coaching position.

I am a part of the second group and this blog is for all of you who came into coaching like me (who knows, maybe even some from the first group will find a few good pointers, too, or can at least come to commiserate).  All we know is we love the sport and we think we know what makes a boat move fast.  Hopefully I can share with you some ideas, drills, workouts and anything else to help make our boats go a little bit faster.

See you on the river.