The best of us could make mistakes and coaches are no exception. Learning is a continuous process. I have tried to list down here some of the common mistakes I have noticed amongst some of the younger coaches. They may look trivial but could turn out to be costly errors. Therefore, watch out!
1. Using of Pitch Gauge
2. Measuring of Overlap in the Sculls
3. Measuring rating
4. Setting of foot stretchers
5. The correct Gearing
6. All Scullers to row left over right
7. Excessive weight training
Using of Pitch Gauge:
One of the reasons for a wrong reading when measuring the pitch on the face of the swivel is because the pitch gauge is flipped after leveling the gauge on the boat. This is a very common error and will give a totally erroneous reading. Thumb rule: Stand on stroke side and level the pitch gauge with the gauge facing you and ensure that the gauge continues to face towards stroke side when taking the readings.
Measuring of Overlap in the Sculls:
The overlap in the sculls is especially important because of the crossing over of the hands; and an overlap that was not intended could lead to problems for the sculler. For instance, if the intended physical overlap for a sculler is 15 cm and the inboard of the sculls has been set at 85 cm, what would the span (distance from pin to pin) have to be?
Theoretically it would be 85x2 = 170-15 = 155 cm. Now, if the coach sets the span at 155 cm then the hapless sculler would physically have to cope with an overlap of almost 19 cm. Why? The coach forgot to take into account the width of the swivel/oarlock. Therefore, to achieve the intended physical overlap that the sculler is required to handle; add the width of the swivel to 155. Set the span at that figure and your sculler may just begin to smile.
This might look very elementary but it is not uncommon to see mistakes being made here. What is written on the watch is probably the source of the confusion. The rating watch says that it is based on 3 strokes. To complete 3 strokes you have to count 4 entries or 4 finishes. Pretty simple; but we often fall prey to simple things.
Setting of foot stretchers:
This is an area where many coaches show little importance. They simply leave it to the comfort of the rower. Remember that comfort is very often what you are accustomed to and does not indicate correctness of the setting. The setting of the foot stretcher determines the rowing arc. In a crew boat it is important that everybody has a similar rowing arc. One simple approach to the problem is to ensure that all rowers finish at the same point and in a strong position.
The correct Gearing:
During the training camp in Chandigarh for the 2000 Junior Asian Championship there was a crew that insisted on rowing with an inboard of 110 cm !!! It took a lot of convincing to get them to change to a more sensible gearing that would suit them. Gearing has got to be done with the crew in mind, primarily the strength and leverage component of the crew. Do not blindly follow the rigging used by some other crew. The ingenuity of the coach lies in finding the correct gearing for his crew taking into account all the factors involved. Remember, while good rigging cannot make a bad crew win, bad rigging could make a good crew lose.
All Scullers to row LEFT over RIGHT:
At the AGM of the RFI, 1997, Chennai, it was passed that the National Sculling style would be LEFT over RIGHT. As coaches it is important you insist that all scullers in your region, especially the new scullers, are required to row LEFT over RIGHT. With the double sculls being part of our national racing circuit and quadruple not far away, it becomes doubly important to adhere to this. You do not want to be caught having to combine a left over right sculler with a right over left in the double or more. Our double sculls that took part in the World Championship 1990 is an example of what should not be.
Excessive weight training:
This is a common and costly error made by many coaches. Weight training to develop big popping muscles is believed by some to be the short cut to a fast crew. In fact just the opposite happens especially when you have to row the standard distance of 2000 m. Big bulging muscles belong to another sport. Weight training could be useful if it is done with the correct knowledge of what is required. Ensure that it does not become counter productive. Remember that excessive or improper weight training could lead to mitocondrial dilution which could only be disastrous for performance in our sport.
As Indians we are not fortunate to be as physically endowed as people of many other nationalities. We therefore need to make our technique as efficient as possible so that every bit of our strength and fitness element is put to effective use in achieving boat speed. Although every crew can benefit from good technique it is all the more important for lighter crews. We cannot adopt the strategies and methods adopted by some of the physically endowed countries as it would not suit us. This is an area grossly neglected with some of our national teams, an area where there is lot of scope for improvement. It is often remarked that while physiology is the engine, technique is the gearbox that has to efficiently transmit the power of the engine. Without sound technique no team can hope to reach the top. Technique has to be taught by a specialist and the earlier it is instilled the better.