Coxswains often say, ‘keep your eyes and head in the boat.’ Rowers can take this both literally and figuratively. Rowers must focus and concentrate on their own rowing stroke at all times. Looking straight ahead and focusing on anticipating and matching the movements of the rower ahead – hands away, body forward, slide, catch, push with the legs, back swing, arm draw, finish, tap down. Repeat.
It is critical that rowers do not talk in the boat unless the coxswain asks a specific question or if there is an equipment issue. Rowers should not call out things like ‘it’s down on stroke side’ during practice, or encouraging remarks such as ‘come on, we can do it.’ Even though these comments seem positive, they can be distracting and will disrupt the rhythm in the boat. Rowers must trust that the entire crew is doing their best and that the coxswain will communicate as needed.
Concentration & focus
Rowing is a team sport and requires that each team member reflect the movements of the stroke oar in all kinds of situations, such as:
- changing wind and water condidtions
- an unbalanced boat
- a race
Poor concentration, unfocused attention, and distracting mental thoughts often contribute to poor technique and poor boat performance. In order to improve the rowing stroke and minimize mistakes, rowers must be able to focus on what they are doing and block out everything else out – including other boats.
Rowers are often caught looking around, which is a sure sign of poor concentration. Other issues are harder to see – doubts about technique or conditioning; thoughts about work, school, and social events.
Coxswains will often remind rowers to concentrate but how do rowers do this? What do they focus on?
Focus on a perfect stroke
When practicing, rowers can focus on improving each aspect of the stroke so they get it perfect.
- Focus attention on the recovery sequence and following the rower in front of you
- Move attention to the catch and focus on the unweighing the oar handle, timing of the hands and legs as they lock the blade into the water, and the boat’s reaction to the catch
- Focus on a good connection and a powerful drive
- Finally, focus on a long, strong, finish and clean release of the blade from the water
Focus on relaxation and confidence
It is important for rowers to relax and have confidence in what they are doing. Self-doubt and fear of failure are often the biggest distractions and can lead to the biggest mistakes. If a mistake is made on one stroke, forget about it and refocus on the next stroke.
Focus on timing, balance, and power
Learning to concentrate on the right things is critical for rowing.
Timing. Rowers must concentrate on moving with the rower in front of them. This includes stroke rate, ratio, hand height, entry at the catch, and tap down at the finish. This is not easy and requires full concentration.
Good timing is critical to good balance. When the balance is poor, a high level of concentration is required to correct it.
Power is dependent on timing and balance – without them a rower cannot effectively apply power. The application of power must be consistent with timing and balance. Without timing and balance, power is wasted.
Focus on teamwork and support
It is important for rowers to support each other. Feeling like ‘everyone is looking at me’ in the boat can be very distracting. Focus on what you are doing on each and every stroke, leave the coaching to the coaches and the coxswain, and cast all negative thoughts aside.