Guide to Boat Selection
What qualities do we look for in an athlete?
At NSBR, we focus on fostering the experiences that help our athletes learn the best lessons the sport has to offer. Leadership, sportsmanship, perseverance, competitiveness and compassion are all important qualities in rowing, and we look for our athletes to demonstrate these qualities over the course of the season.
Rowing is an extremely challenging sport, both physically and mentally. We are looking for people who are up to the challenge and are ready to approach the challenge enthusiastically.
How do we determine who makes the top boat?
The coach's goal is to make everyone the best rower that they can be. We use a wide range of data to ensure that the people who make the boat go the fastest end up in the fastest boat. There are many things that make a great rower. We want our athletes to strive to excel at all aspects of the sport. These are absolutely critical:
Attendance at practice
Having a good erg score but a bad attitude will probably not get you into the boat or the seat that you desire. Similarly, having a great attitude and a great erg score but bad technique won’t get you there either. We want to see progress across each of the key areas and this can only be achieved through regular attendance at practice.
“Erg testing is to rowing as the SAT is to college admissions, you have to have a competitive score, but it is only one part of the puzzle.”
Physical testing on the rowing machine allows athletes to demonstrate fitness, endurance, power and mental toughness. NSBR coaches will primarily use timed tests of 30 minutes and distance tests of 5-6 kilometers in the fall, and transition to 2k tests in the spring. These distance tests last anywhere from 19 to 24 minutes.
In the spring, athletes will test 2000 meters. A great target 2k time for boys is 6:15, and for girls 7:15. For lightweight boys, a good 2k time is 6:30, and for girls around 7:30.
We understand that not everyone is capable of pulling these times right now, but we are always looking for improvement over the course of the athlete’s career. In general, an athlete capable of producing one of those scores is a junior or senior who has been athletically competitive in rowing or another endurance sport for 3-5 years. It is important that no matter where the athlete starts out, they are continually striving to improve as the training continues.
Technique in the boat is synonymous with being effective. Coaches spend a great deal of practice time working on drills and giving feedback to help athletes understand the best way to move the boat. It is important that the athletes are listening during the drills and other instructional parts of practice so that they can gain an understanding of what the coach is looking for.
With technique, coaches are looking for improvement, response to the coaches' instruction, “coachability,” and for the athlete to take individual ownership of his or her progress. All athletes will receive feedback on and off the water; however, when an athlete is not responding to the feedback, coaches will eventually move on to athletes who are responsive and who seem to care about making the requested changes, and selections will be made based on that experience. Practice will include many drills and concepts that athletes can do on an erg on their own.
The boathouse is equipped with mirrors to provide immediate feedback for them to make changes, as long as they understand what the coach is looking for. It is important that every stroke they row on the erg is reinforcing good technique. Even when the coach is not speaking directly to him or her, the athlete is still being evaluated and their rowing analyzed.
Seat racing is on-the-water testing of one athlete’s boat moving ability versus that of another. Generally seat racing will involve a series of intervals of a set time or distance. After one interval, the two athletes will switch boats and race the interval again. The coach will look for the change in margin between the two intervals to determine which athlete had the greater effect on boat speed and thus makes the boat faster when he or she is in it.
Seat racing can be useful in certain situations, but it is certainly not the sole deciding factor in who makes the boat. Seat racing can be used as a final selection procedure, often between two athletes who have performed similarly when all aspects of the selection criteria are taken into account. Some coaches like seat racing, others prefer not to use it.
No one is entitled to a seat race and it is impossible to seat race everyone against everyone
The coaches will do their best to determine the talent on their team and conduct fair seat races with transparent outcomes when, in their opinion, they feel it is necessary.
Attitude, Work Ethic, Attendance, Competitive Spirit, Enthusiasm
Rowing is physically and mentally demanding. Coaches are constantly challenging athletes to be the best they can, and through the response to this challenge athletes gain a level of competence, confidence, determination, strength, and mental toughness that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
We look for athletes who work hard, who do not take the easy way out. We want athletes who display respect and esteem for their team, their coaches and for themselves. Our athletes are team players who bring a positive, enthusiastic, can-do approach to practice.
Furthermore we look for athletes who will handle the competitive nature of the sport with grace and have the self-discipline to react well to the difficult situations that come with training, selection and competition. We want athletes who demonstrate the desire to achieve their best performance when it's needed because they know they have done everything needed to make them the best that they can be.
Finally, we must reiterate how important it is for athletes to come to practice. We understand things come up and that students have many competing demands.
Attendance at practice is crucial for making progress and contributing to fast boats
Missing practice or practices impacts the lineups we row at practice and how well certain lineups row together is one of the things coaches use for selection for races. Missing practice means missing an opportunity to help make your boat the best that it can be in competition.
We are lucky to have a highly experienced junior coaching staff at NSBR. Our coaches have been successful at the international, national, collegiate, and youth levels both as athletes and coaches. We trust them with all aspects involved with teaching, training, and assembling the fastest crews we can possibly put on the water. In certain circumstances when two athletes are extremely close, the coaches may be forced to make a judgment as to who is a better fit in a particular crew.
Example: Athlete A is just a little smoother and more experienced technically than Athlete B, but A is slower on the erg and narrowly lost a head-to-head seat race versus B. However, Athlete A demonstrates the ability to blend in better with the top lineup of athletes and ultimately makes that boat go faster. In this example, Athlete A might allow the other rowers to row technically better, and thus he or she adds an element that is hard to extract though the other parts of the selection process. In this example the coach will have to look at all the data and ultimately make a judgment call about what is better for the crew.
Coach Simpson once selected a woman to a quad who had probably the 6th best erg score on the team and who couldn't win a seat race in double-sculls. However, her bright personality was such that she lifted the performance of the other scullers and the quad always went faster when she was in it. The quad, with her in it, won the World Championships, and such was the caliber of the women she beat out, that one of them won the silver medal in the single-scull at the same Championships.