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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Spring Forward

It's early March and there are a lot of rowers out there that are looking ahead to Spring.

Spring holds the hope of many a masters rower. The hope for re-establishing some boat feel and awakening those calluses on softened palms. The hope for some good pre-racing season practices. Maybe the hope for a trip to The Crew Classic or maybe just the hope for some warmer, sunnier days.

Whatever your hope is for this soon to be Spring decide to welcome in the new, re-new your story and start with a blank page.

Here's what I mean.

One of the most prevalent practices among athletes in general, and of course rowers as well, is to track progress, record erg scores, highlight the PR's we've achieved, know what we've accomplished over the last year and therefore also know where we want to go. All good athlete practices.

We also hold a history of races in our heads, from the most recent season, to races long since past. Head races, sprint races, regional championships and Nationals. Whether it's The Henley Royal Regatta, or The Head of the Charles, or the Bumps, or The San Diego Crew Classic we tightly grip the memories of our competitions that we hold so dear. We sometimes remember the exact finish times or the experiences we had in the race, good or bad. We remember the boats that we left our blood, sweat and tears in. We remember the women that raced with us, shared our experiences, and either won with us or lost with us.

These memories are usually a mash up of emotions, a little reality, faulty recollection, and a few still shots in our mind's eye of these singular moments. All of this is great. It's nostalgic and helps us to feel part of a history of sorts. An "I was there when..." type of storytelling.

But on occasion it can be beneficial to hit re-start. To unplug yourself and then plug back in, in order to reboot your own history and to become a blank page.

In other words, how about starting out as a new you? How about making the conscious decision to say, "I am starting out new from this point, today, this first Spring practice. I am a blank page and I'm writing THIS season's story anew, not based on, or colored by, any previous season."

You get to do that.

Whether you are a rower or a coach.

This does not mean forgetting about what has come before but rather rising above it and not letting it dictate in your mind or body for that matter, what this next season's experience is going to be like. It means not repeating to yourself what happened last season, what you did or didn't accomplish, what boat you did or did not make it into, what regattas you did well or poorly at.

Many of us use our previous experiences as a barometer of what the next experience is going to become. employing them as a predictor of what this similar experience is going to be, as opposed to looking at each experience, no matter how similar, as individual occurrences that bring something unique into our worlds .

Sometimes we lean back on the successes from a previous season. Reminiscing about the last few seconds of a big push to take first place, or the start that was "amazing", or the call that the coxswain made to stave off a push from a competing crew.

Or maybe you are haunted by bad races long since passed. Unable to forget the crab you caught 250 meters from the finish line, or being disqualified from a race because your boat was late to the line, or maybe your mind is not able to release the experience/memory of a season ending injury, even though it is now a new season and the injury is long since healed.

No matter which direction you see these moments from, the positive or the negative, you to some degree, set yourself up with a pre-planned emotional picture that can color this new season's experience. It is essentially an imprint on your brain and therefore, when you consistently bring it back into the present, you then in a small but significant way, unconsciously influence the present moment.

Here's what I suggest.

Re-introduce you, to you.

Every season is a new opportunity to reset and re-establish yourself, not just to your teammates, your coach, or your competition, but to yourself as well. You can, in fact, make the conscious decision to be a new you, but it has to be an intentional reset.

In order to establish a new ethic in your rowing, or a new attitude about competing, or a new approach to how you internalize the coaching you are offered, you must not look back and wallow in past successes or failures.

In the positive, stop telling the same old glory days stories.

In the negative, stop reliving the times you wished you could've jumped out of the boat and disappeared.

I understand enjoying the memory of a good row or a great race, and there are certainly times and places for that, but using those positive memories as a way to prop yourself up is not going to sustain you through this season's seat race or erg test, and letting those negative recollections unconsciously keep you down is not going to help you define yourself as a stronger, more technically proficient competitor.

The same can be said for coaches!

It's dangerous from a coaching perspective to NOT reset yourself. You have a responsibility to your crews, fellow coaches/colleagues, and most importantly, yourself, to do a strong reset. Try seeing your athletes in a new light. Try technically training from a different perspective, literally and figuratively. If you always drive your launch on one side of the boat while you're then change it up. If you are always running the same drills in the same order, change it up. If you are emotionally holding on to a conversation with a specific athlete, unplug from that and reboot.

Take a long hard look at yourself, your coaching, your opinions about your rowers and pledge to unpeel yourself from that same sticky technical plan or coaching approach.

Change your language and the words you use to describe yourself. Maybe last season you had trouble with your slide but this season you are a master of the slow slide.

Try not to consistently repeat the story of your challenges or failings or technical low points.

Same goes for you, the one that holds herself in high esteem because she was in the boat that went to Nationals. Yes, that's awesome and that's not this present moment.

Anything can happen to any athlete, at any point in the season. Someone standing right behind you could be stronger or faster than you. Your responsibility is to stay looking forward to what's next for you and prepping for that, if in fact you are determined to not stay in the same place.

Say hello to YOU, as a new you.

Introduce yourself to YOU, and make the intentional decision to be a blank page.

The Spring season that you are looking forward to can be anything you want it to be.

Consider it a new beginning.

Not a repeat of the old season, but a season reborn, an opportunity to be the kind of rower/coach/teammate that you have never been before.

Make yourself anew.

Welcome to Spring!

Row hard, Row well, Compete, Have fun.

Coach Knickerbocker

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