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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Be Curious, Rower!

How often do you ask yourself questions about you? How often do you play with discovering more about who you are? Do you ever get curious about your approach to rowing or your approach to other parts of your life?

Something that is universal for most human beings, is enabling the improvement of ourselves to be blocked by listening to the doubting voice as opposed to the confident voice.

But what if you are unable to access the confident voice?

How many times have you gotten on the erg to do a new piece, one you've never done before, and the first thing you think or hear inside your head is, "What if I can't finish?" or "This is going to hurt." or even the extreme of "I hate these erg days."

If you're finding it difficult to shift your attitude then try using your curiosity.

I find that we are not curious enough about where we are headed, what the trail looks like, or how best to approach our progression on the trail. Especially when we are faced with what we perceive to be a challenging project or activity. We expect a lot from ourselves and most of us have high bars that we are pushing ourselves to reach.

This constant reaching and pushing can wear one out mentally, physically, and emotionally, so how about trying a lighter approach once in a while.

Try just being curious.

Sound weird?

Consider the messages you've got about being curious. There's Curious George, the monkey that was always getting himself into trouble because of his curiosity. Or how about the phrase "curiosity killed the cat." No wonder it sounds weird or doesn't quite feel like it's an approach or strategy that's got a strong enough work ethic.

Let's reframe curiosity a bit and hopefully come up with a new headset.


What does it mean to be curious?

To me, being curious means your engaging in an experience and are interested and/or excited to see what the outcome is, no matter what. You're stepping to the side of fear or anxiousness or doubt and making the intentional decision to just see what happens without judgement or expectation.

To me, being curious means you are not attached to the outcome in an emotional way, but rather in an inquisitive or interested way. You are ready to do the thing just to do the thing, and to take away from that thing a satisfaction of having learned something about yourself, your teammates, pick it.

Curiosity helps to get us to our next level by allowing ourselves to explore and play with whatever it is we are doing. Curiosity is killed when we take all of this too seriously.

Yes, of course there are times when it is about being serious and investing in the outcome and putting yourself on the line in order to reap the benefits of all the hard work you've put in, but there are also times when it's good to lighten up and have an openness to exploration without any pressure. This is what being curious allows you to do.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about.

Today you show up at the boathouse and for whatever reason the coach has decided that it's better to stay off the water and do an erg piece. She pulls out a piece that you've never done before and states the parameters she wants you to work within. Immediately your brain goes into overdrive, and your weak voice kicks in with all manner of resistance, excuses, complaints, etc.


That's the perfect opportunity for you to use this three step process:

1. STOP. Take a moment to stop and notice what your brain is doing.

2. RESET. Acknowledge that your weak voice is too loud and say to yourself in your head or out loud, the word "RESET".

3. BE CURIOUS. Immediately after saying "RESET", say to yourself or out loud, "BE CURIOUS AND EXPLORE". In other words, have fun with it.

Feel free to pick other words that work for you in this exercise, but essentially create a moment to quiet the doubt and open up to the possibility. Curiosity is possibility. Curiosity takes the expectation of what is "supposed" to happen and let's you engage in a task with a lighter attitude. This in turn relaxes your physiology, takes away some of the anxiety, and thereby results in better performance. See how that works?



Giving oneself the opportunity to explore something means you're stepping back from having an expectation of a certain performance level. So many times, in fact probably all the time, rowers are pushing themselves up to the next level, expecting themselves to either do better than they last did or to at least be comparable to what they last did.

But this can't always be the case, and the pressure this places on the rower can get pretty exhausting. So consider lightening up, exploring, and just feeling good about THAT!

If it's a new piece on the water, on the erg, or a new drill, try letting yourself be curious about your performance and play with it. Obviously the first time you do something, you will make mistakes and not be as skilled as when you do it the second or third or fifteenth time, so let that be ok by taking this " being curious" approach.

Take the pressure off and step into a beginner mindset by letting go of any preconceived notions of how it's going to be or what it's going to feel like.


Be curious, no matter how much experience you have.

But what about something I've been doing for a while coach? What if it's a workout or an erg piece I've done before, or a seat race, how do I bring curiosity to that?

Great question rower!

Would you agree that you're always learning when it comes to rowing? Would you agree that building skill within this sport is THE neverending story?

I'm going to assume that your answer is yes to these rhetorical questions.

Then if we all agree this is the case, it's almost impossible not to be curious about how much more refined, or skilled, or proficient, or strong, or fill in the blank, one can get.

What I'm saying is that the mindset of curiosity is a more forgiving mindset at times than the mindset of being driven to get to a particular end point. We tend to lose track of our own curiosity as it's covered over by trying hard to be competent and exhibit a specific level of achievement.

Being curious is endless. You can get curious about as many aspects of this sport, or your profession, or your life, as there are stars in the sky. By doing that, whatever you are curious about, never becomes a dull slog, and in fact can then be seen by you in a different light which can end up being positive.

So, if you are an experienced competitive rower who feels pretty seasoned, and maybe considers yourself an old dog with no new tricks, consider these possibilities:

Get curious about using your expertise to coach.

If you have always only swept or sculled then get curious about the other.

Get curious about developing your athletic mindset or your positive self-talk.

Or just get curious to see how many strokes you can take in this practice, that feel like your best strokes.

If you're seat racing then get curious about your power. Ask yourself what would happen if you gave 3% more on the next stroke? Then see what happens. But see what happens with a non-judgemental, easy attitude. Take in the information and then use that information at a later date for performance enhancement. For today, just be curious to see what happens.

There are so many ways to bring curiosity into your pursuits, and so many ways that it can benefit you.

Give it a try.

Coach Knickerbocker

Row hard, Row well, Compete, Have fun!

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