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Boat Selection Reminders for Busy Coaches

The beginning of March signifies the start of spring racing season for many clubs, which also means it is becoming time to start working on boat selection. This time of season can be difficult to navigate when fielding challenges from both athletes and parents. See, it is this point in the season when we can start feeling out what lineups are going to be our most competitive ones to give the athletes the most successful season, but it is also now that we start to see the challenges approaching with not being able to get all the athletes in boats that they want to row.

As coaches, it is important that we account for athlete wellness, but this doesn’t mean that we should reward athletes with seats that they haven’t earned. We can approach athlete wellness from other angles. For example, as we start to see lineups come together, we can communicate with the athletes we know are on the cusp and inform them about where they are and what they would need to do to earn the seat for the next regatta. Communication is key. Sometimes, as coaches, it can be easy to forget how obvious some decisions are. Taking time to talk things through builds a relationship with the athletes that can better guarantee they will work hard no matter the line-up they end up in.

Relationship building with athletes is important because it has a run-on impact with parents too. If the athlete feels positively about their coach, despite maybe not being selected into the crews they are going for, parents may be much more understanding of the decisions that are made. Parents can be challenging in various ways through the racing season as many do not understand the challenges of balancing line-up selection as well as boat assignment challenges. For example, those who are working at clubs with smaller fleets may not have the ability to boat multiple entries in certain events due to the amount of equipment they have. However, to minimize issues here, the rule again is communication.

While my presence in the rowing scene has been over ten years, my time as a coach has been limited and with an abrupt change at our club, I have been busy learning on the go as I enter my first spring as a head coach and program director. However, I think that being fresh out of the competitive rowing scene and new on the job provides me with a good perspective. Therefore, the rule that I have followed (and seems to be working so far) is that I don’t make any decisions that cannot be backed up. While I may be confident that a lineup is the fastest, I will still make switches with athletes knocking on the door to check and clarify and then after the practice I will discuss the findings and what they can do to continue to improve. Providing all athletes with opportunities creates a space of inclusion and minimizes the division between crews as we move through the spring. While many of you reading this are much more experienced than me regarding these challenges, I hope that this perspective resonates with you as you move forward in the selection process.

Jessica Brougham

Currently studying at University of Florida as a Doctoral Student towards a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Health and Performance. Rowed at High School in New Zealand and in College for Washington State University.

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