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Practice FAQ

Carpooling

Is it possible to carpool with other families to/from practice?

TRC doesn't specifically manage carpooling, but requests for carpools are published in the TRC weekly newsletter.   Send an email to newsletter@trianglerowing.org with your request and provide as much information as possible.  Here are questions that should be addressed in your request:

  • What team is your rower on and what days are you looking to carpool?
  • Is this to practice, from practice, or both?
  • Where are you carpooling from/to and is there any flexibility (meaning you could meet at some alternative location if needed)? 
  • Are you comfortable with an athlete driving your child? 
  • Are you able to split carpool duties?  If not, are you willing to pay for gas?
  • What's your name and what's your contact information?

Practice: General

Why does my ROWER insist on getting to practice as early as possible?

There are many tasks that need to be completed prior to getting out on the water. The quicker the oars are down the hill and warm-ups have been completed, the quicker they get on the water! It is the goal of everyone that they have as much time on the water as possible. Also, since coaches move rowers from boat to boat, and boats vary in the number of athletes, they want to have a little time with all of their friends before practice begins!

Why isn’t my ROWER ready to go at the scheduled end time for practice?

There are times when the coach will want to talk to the kids after practice as a group to discuss an issue or prepare them for something coming up later in the week. Sometimes your rower may have a particular issue that s/he needs to talk to the coach about. When practicing on the water, it may take longer than expected to dock all the boats and to put up oars and boats in the racks. Most parents bring something to read, make calls, or get out and chat with other parents.

Why is it such a big deal to miss practice?

Unlike most sports that high school rowers participate in, a lot of our rowers are rowing for the first time and are trying to go from learning basic skills to being competitive at regional and national levels in a few short years. Missing building blocks can cause a rower to fall behind. Secondly, when rowers are practicing on the water, coaches plan the line-ups carefully. When a rower is unexpectedly missing, the entire line-up is messed up. Or worst case scenario, they end up short a rower (you can’t row an 8-seat boat with only 7 rowers). This keeps the other rowers from practicing on the water (which can be very disappointing for the other rowers because land practice involves lots of running and conditioning drills).

My ROWER is sick - whom do I tell?

If your athlete is in high school, it is their responsibility to let the coach know if s/he is missing practice. Ideally, your athlete will text their coach as early as possible, so the coach will have time to adjust the line-ups. If your rower is younger, or too sick to do this, you should contact the coach.

What should my ROWER wear to practice?

Spandex shorts, running tights, or form-fitting leggings and a comfortable, wicking shirt that is not too long; the boats operate with a seat on a mechanical slide (i.e. seat moves). Long, loose shirts may get caught in the slide and slow the row, they may rip or end up covered with grease.

Running shoes/socks and shoes that can get wet i.e.; sandals, Crocs, Chaco’s, Teva’s, etc. Remember- your rower does not know for certain whether they will be on the water or on land on any given day - so they need to be prepared for either. Some athletes are self-conscious in the beginning about wearing spandex - but loose shorts (basketball, soccer) or sweatpants or anything else with a lot of fabric flow will likely get caught in the seat mechanism of the boat when rowing. Don’t worry - they get used to it quickly!

What else should they bring with them?

Most rowers have a backpack dedicated to rowing. This works best when trying to keep all of their items together. Things you should generally find in a rower’s backpack are a layer of clothing to stay warm on cooler days, a waterproof jacket on rainy wet days, extra socks, one or more FULL, non-metal, reusable water bottles, bandaids, and athletic tape. If appropriate - extra hair ties, necessary medications (inhaler, epi-pens, etc), and a nutritious snack to eat right after practice.

Is it okay for parents to come down to the docks where the rowers launch or to the top of the hill where they meet for practice near the boat shed at the end of practice?

Not really and not unless the other members of your rower’s team have left. The coach is probably talking with them and your presence can be disruptive and/or embarrassing.

Is there a lost and found?

When items are found at practice they are typically put in the boat shed and your rower can check with the team captains for help. At regattas, items that are left at the tent, around the trailers, etc. are gathered up and an email is sent out with a list/pic of items found. Arrangements can be made for your athlete to pick up at the next practice. Please encourage your rower to put his or her name on everything s/he wears to practice. This will increase the chance of the item being identified.

I need to talk to the coach - should I just grab a few minutes before or after practice to talk to him/her?

A lot is going on at the end of practice and you will probably be waiting for a while before the coach is free - s/he may or may not have much time.  The first thing you should do is ask yourself if the question/topic should be handled by your rower and give him or her the chance to address it before you get involved.  If it is something you need to ask, it is usually best to email or text the coach and ask when it would be a good time to talk.

Please remember many of your questions can be answered by your parent liaison, by another parent, or by a Board member. Please feel free to reach out!

Practice: On The Land

How can ROWING practice be on the LAND?

Rowing involves stamina, strength, and technique. Running, weightlifting, and rowing on a rowing machine (a.k.a “erg”) help to build these. The work done on land helps to maximize the experience of being on the water. Also, a lot of team bonding happens during these land activities.

Why do kids roll their eyes if I mimic rowing by moving my arms back and forth or comment on how they must be building up their arm muscles?

Although it is not obvious when you are watching someone row, rowing is a pushing sport, not a pulling sport. Most of the power comes from the rower’s legs (about 60%), followed by the core muscles (about 30%) and the arms (about 10%). Since only rowers know this, they feel much smarter than you when you talk about their arms (which ARE getting much stronger by the way!).

What is an ERG?

An ergometer or “erg” is a rowing machine. Erging is rowing on a rowing machine. The rowing machine measures the time you rowed and how much power you generated. It calculates a presumed distance rowed from that information.

Can you really learn to row on a machine?

You can’t learn everything but you can learn a lot. The erg allows you to get a feel for how the parts of the stroke fit together without having to worry about the motion of the boat or coordinating your actions with another rower. Also, erging builds stamina and strength.

How come when I ask my ROWER about practice, s/he starts spouting off random strings of numbers?

Honestly, many of us spend over a year just nodding our heads and trying to judge from our athlete's expression whether we should look happy or sympathetic. 

So your rower probably says something like,

“We did 2 times 3K and for the last 500 of the second piece I pulled a 2:05.8.” Or “we did 5 by 5’s and I broke 2”.

When the rowers practice on the ergs, the coaches instruct them to do a set of exercises (called “pieces”) that are either to see how fast s/he can do a preset distance or how much distance s/he can cover in a given amount of time. Usually, a piece is done multiple times in a single practice with a short rest in between.

  • The first number is the number of times the piece is done.
  • When a number Has a “K” in it - the piece is a test of how fast your rower can row a certain number of kilometers (rowing measures in kilometers or meters). So in the example above the kids rowed three thousand meters two times.
  • The last number represents the time it takes to row 500 meters (also called a “split”). The time is measured in minutes, then seconds, then tenths of seconds. In the first example, it took the rower 2 minutes, 15.8 sends to row their last 500 meters. In the second example, the rowers did 5 sets of 5 minutes, usually with some rest period in between, and some portion of the piece where s/he was rowing was at a pace which would complete 500 meters in less than 2 minutes.
What is a 2K test and why is my ATHLETE FREAKING out about it?

A 2K test is the standard method of comparing the power of various rowers; it is sort of the SAT of rowing. It is a test of how fast a rower can go 2000 meters on a rowing machine. Although a good 2K time does not guarantee that someone will be a good rower on the water – it is indicative of their power, which is a very critical element of rowing.

It is often dreaded by rowers because, first, it is HARD. Rowers are expected to give it everything they have – imagine sprinting for seven to ten minutes! Second, it is fairly public – your teammates know how well or poorly you do. Finally, it is a key element in how coaches evaluate rowers and is used by them to help determine what boats rowers will be placed in.

What’s a PR?

PR is an abbreviation for Personal Record. It refers to the best time a rower has gotten on the erg for a particular type of piece. A PR is always good news. A PR on a 2K is great news!

PRACTICE: ON THE WATER

Rowing shells (boats) are called by the number of rowers in the boat. Most novice rowers row in an eight-person boat (“an eight”) so all the following answers refer to that size of boat.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT MY ROWER IS "STARBOARD" OR "PORT"?

Starboard rowers row to their left. Port rowers row to their right.

When doing sweep rowing, each rower uses one oar.  Most rowers feel more comfortable on one side or another and usually settle into being a port or starboard rower; however, it is not uncommon for a coach to switch a rower from one side to the other. 

I was watching practice and only six of the rowers were rowing. Why?

The rowing stroke is a highly precise and technical set of movements and can be challenging to learn. It is more difficult to learn if the boat is leaning to one side or the other. For this reason, one or more pairs of rowers may be asked to sit out for a period of time to “set” the boat – i.e., help stabilize it ‐ while the others work on their stroke. The people sitting out are rotated so everyone gets more or less the same amount of time rowing.

WHAT DOES A COXSWAIN DO?

The coxswain (pronounced “cox-in”) or “cox” is the person in charge of the boat and the rowers. They usually sit in the stern (back) of the boat and they are the only person without an oar and the only person facing forward. Coxing is not easy because they have so many varied responsibilities:

Steering – An eight-person boat is almost 60 feet long – longer than anything most of us have ever driven. Now imagine driving something that long where there is a delay in the steering, may have more power on one side (which pushes your vehicle to the opposite side), is greatly affected by wind and current, and instead of an accelerator and brakes, you have to control speed by telling your vehicle to speed up/slow down and use more/less power. Oh, and did we mention that you are probably short and can’t see the front of your vehicle over the heads of the eight people in front of you but must avoid hitting other boats, logs, sandbars, and other debris at all costs?

Running drills – A typical drill in a boat will be to have six rowers do one part of the stroke for X strokes, then add in another part of the stroke for X strokes, until the rowers are doing the full stroke. Pairs of rowers are switched in and out so that every rower does the drill three times and sets the boat one time. The cox (while still steering) has to keep track of the number of strokes and switch rowers in and out of the drill. Alternatively, a drill will be for all rowers to row at a set rate (e.g., 20 strokes per minute, and after X strokes increase the stroke rate to 22 strokes per minute.) In this case, the cox (still steering) is counting strokes and watching the monitor to keep track of the stroke rate.

“Coach in the Boat” – The coxswain is also responsible for giving feedback to the rowers. He/she can tell whether they are moving together, whether they are at the correct stroke rate, whether one side of the boat is rowing more powerfully, etc. Additionally, the coxswain is expected to be able to motivate the rowers – knowing what to say when they are ready to give up, or bringing them back into a unified motion when they lose focus. In a race, the coxswain is responsible for the execution of the race plan and for making adjustments to reflect the actions of his or her own rowers and that of the competitor boats.

Safety of the Boat – The coxswain has overall responsibility for the safety of the boat when it is on the water, coming into dock and being moved on land. The cox is the person you will see walking by the boat when the other are carrying it, giving instructions to the rowers to make sure they are all moving together.

WHY IS MY Athlete ROWING IN A DIFFERENT SEAT?

In rowing, the idea is for all eight rowers to be rowing in perfect unison with no motions that interfere with the forward motion of the boat. 

More than just being in unison, the different positions in the boat have slightly different roles to play. Although any rower should be able to row any position, the coaches will switch the rowers among seats to find out which rowers excel in which positions and which combination of rowers can move the boat fastest.

All the rowers need a combination of strengths: technique, rhythm, power, balance, and the ability to adapt to the motion of others. Each seat makes slightly different demands on the strengths of the individual:

Eight seat, also called “Stroke”, sits in the rear of the boat (or “stern”) nearest the coxswain. Since everyone sits backward, this is the rower that all the other rowers must follow in order to row together. The stroke must have strong technique since the others are matching his or her motion, and a good sense of rhythm since he/she is responsible for adjusting the stroke rate in response to instructions of the coxswain.

Seven seat rows on the opposite side of the boat as stroke (i.e., if the stroke is a port, seven-seat will be a starboard) and, like stroke, needs strong technique plus the ability to mirror the motions of the stroke (but on the opposite side). All the rowers who row on the same side as the seven-seat mirror his or her actions. Stroke and seven-seat together are called “Stern Pair”.

The four middle rowers (sixfivefour, and three seat), while still demonstrating the combination of strengths, are generally the most powerful rowers, with six and five the stronger pair. You will sometimes hear the middle rowers referred to as the “Engine Room“.

“Bow Pair” is made up of two-seat and bow seat (who is for some reason not called one seat). Among the pair’s strengths is the ability to excel at “setting” or stabilizing the boat to ensure effective forward motion.

And, by the way, it’s pronounced [bou], as in to take a bow - not [boh], as in what you put on a present.

MY ROWER OFTEN COMES HOME WITH TERRIBLE BLISTERS.  WHY DON'T THEY WEAR GLOVES?

Blisters are part of rowing and comparing blisters is a common rower activity. Rowers typically don’t wear gloves. Rowers need to keep a connection with the oar, and gloves would prevent that. The best thing is to keep blisters clean and leave them uncovered during the school day so they dry out. Blisters turn into callouses and usually become less of an issue once your athlete has been rowing for a while.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN MY rower TALKS ABOUT "CATCHING A CRAB"?

When a rower says that someone “caught a crab” they are describing a situation when someone has a stroke in which the rower is unable to release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat. Because the boat is still moving the handle of the oar tends to come back with force and the rower will often end up lying flat in the boat (or possibly even ejected from the boat). It can be difficult for the rower to get the oar back into position until the boat has slowed sufficiently and the pressure on the blade has been reduced. Almost every new rower will catch a crab at some point in their learning process.

Why do I sometimes see the coxswain raising his or her hand while in the boat?

The coxswain raises his or her hand to signal to a coach or race official that they have heard an instruction and understand it. In races, the coxswain may raise a hand to let officials know that the boat is not ready to begin the race. After a race, a coxswain may raise his or her hand to indicate a problem with a crew member or to protest the results of a race. 

Is the boat likely to tip over?

No. Most people go years (and perhaps their whole rowing career) without having a boat tip over. Also, the eight is the most stable type of boat which is one of the reasons it is used for beginners. Although the boat is narrow, the oars extending out on either side provide stability and make it fairly difficult to tip over an eight-person boat.

WHAT IS "SEAT RACING"?

Seat racing is one tool that coaches use to figure out the final line-up for a boat. By having two boats race during practice, then switching just one rower at a time in the boats - then having them race again, the coach can see what impact a specific rower in a specific “seat” has on a boat and what combinations of rowers are most effective. Seat racing most often occurs in the lead-up to a regatta. 

My ROWER talks about Catches and Releases, are they talking about fishing?

No, your athlete is not talking about fishing but rather the parts of the rowing stroke.   The “catch” is when the oar is dropped into the water or catches the water.  This occurs when the rowers are at full compression with the knees up, their back forward and their arms fully extended.   The rower will then ”drive” the oar through the water by first pushing down with their legs, followed by an opening of the back, and finally pulling the arms into the torso.  The oar is then “released” from the water at the “finish”. The rower begins the “recovery” where, with the oar out of the water, they will extend the arms, swing the back forward and raise the knees to come to the catch and begin the process all over again.

During the recovery, the rower will “feather” the blade or rotate the oar so that the flat part of the end of the oar (the blade) is parallel to the water.  This reduces wind resistance and also makes it less likely that the oar will accidentally hit the water during the recovery.  The rower then “squares up” the oar (blade perpendicular to the water) before dropping the oar into the water at the catch.

Another important term for the rowers is the “set” of the boat.  The boats are narrow and tip easily to either side so that the oars will drag on the water making it more difficult to row.     When a boat is “set” it is balanced so that none of the oars are dragging on the water.  This is a challenge and requires all rowers to work in unison and hold their oars at the proper height during the drive and recovery.

My rower said a teammate caught a crab today. Are there crabs in Lake Wheeler?

There aren't any crabs in Lake Wheeler. When a rower says that someone “caught a crab” they are describing a mis‐stroke in which the rower is unable to release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat. Because the boat is still moving the handle of the oar tends to come back with some force and the rower will (get the oar out of the water) often end up lying flat in the boat. It can be difficult for the rower to get the oar back into position until the boat has slowed sufficiently and reduced the pressure on the blade.