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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

You are a thing!

You want to experience longevity in your sport.

You want to continue to row for as long as your limbs, lungs and mind will allow.

Therefore, you will look for inspiration during those times when you are scraping the sides of the rowing bowl to savor the reasons why, just exactly it is, you do this rowing thing.

That inspiration can come in many forms.

This weekend I had the privilege and outstanding opportunity to be in a room with 40 masters women who were intent on developing their competitive selves. They were hungry for the knowledge on how to incorporate nutrition, land training, mental skills and injury prevention into their rowing regimen.

As my co-producer Vreni Hommes stated during the "At the Catch" symposium on rowing for masters women, "We are a thing."

Indeed we are.

More on this in a minute.

First, a little about the words I used in the beginning of that last paragraph.




Let's start with privilege.

My experience of being in the room and hearing about some of the experiences these women have with their clubs, coaches, and teammates was, by all accounts, a privilege. One rarely gets to sit with a group so determined to excel in their sport, so dedicated to each other, and each woman so personally powerful on an individual level.

The privilege I felt when I talked with them, or watched them absorb the information they were so hungry for, or listened to them share why they row, was palpable to me.

Yes, coaching IS a privilege.

If you are out there coaching masters women (or any group for that matter) I strongly encourage you to take one practice and dedicate it to a discussion with your crews about why they row and what makes rowing special for them.

Get off the water and dedicate the precious training time you have to this because it is indescribably important on many levels. It will inspire them, their teammates, and you.

What team, rower, and coach doesn't need a bit of inspiration from time to time?

Ask the question why?

Why does it matter? How does it affect them?

How has it changed them?

Where does it fire them up? In their heads? In their hearts? Both?

These personal stories matter.

This self-knowledge matters.

This moment of sharing will inform your coaching, as well as your personal knowledge of each athlete.

The insight you glean is a window into what motivates these strong women.

The knowledge you gain is priceless and well worth NOT being on the water for that period of time.

Sometimes the best coaching is done off the water and away from the erg.

I know, hard to believe right?

And yet the gains that are made by teams, athletes and coaches, the gains that have the potential to make people stronger competitors and more conscious athletes, are not always discovered during an on the water practice.

Remember, this is a privilege.

Treat it as such.

Give it it's due.


Now let's talk about opportunity.

Opportunity comes in many forms. It is sometimes obvious, and at other times it's cloaked within superficiality, so as to be unrecognizable.

Maybe it's the moment when a teammate is unable to be at practice or didn't show up so you get to be in "THE" boat. This is your opportunity to add to the crew in an X-factor kind of way or to soak in as much as possible from the experience of rowing at what might be a different level.

Notice I didn't say "higher" level. Rowing with less experienced crews can teach a more experienced rower more than they might think. But I digress.

Jumping in that boat is a recognizable type of opportunity.

This past weekend the opportunity, while seeming obvious, as in meeting many masters women, offering up educational resources, and spreading the good word about mental skills, was actually hiding a more important and impactful opportunity.

The opportunity to listen.

Listening to the why and the why not. Listening to the struggle, coupled with overwhelming joy and pure appreciation of the sport. Last, but never least, listen to the athletic expression of the fierce competitors that these women are.

We, as human beings, do not practice this skill called listening enough.


And especially as coaches!

We spend so much time talking, teaching, illuminating, correcting, directing, or thinking about what our response will be in a conversation that we forget to actually listen.

Take the time to ask deeper questions and listen to the answers.

Rowers, you too can also ask the question of each other. Go out after a practice and ask each other why you row, why it matters, etc.

There is nothing more inspiring than having a better understanding of what pushes and pulls your teammate to practice every day. If you are questioning your own process and/or progress in the sport, then knowing someone else's motivating factors can help to motivate you.

Take this opportunity to have this conversation with yourself as well. Ask yourself these questions and then listen. Listen deeply to your answers. The answers may surprise you. They may shed some light on the new you that you are learning about through rowing. They may help you to refine and define yourself as an athlete and a competitor, or to determine what is most important to you about this experience. They may open up a box of insight about what you can let go of and what you need to learn.

Ask the questions.

Listen to the answers.

Be inspired by what you find.


Now back to being a thing.

Masters women ARE A THING!

A big thing, actually.

More women are coming.

Every day.

Every season.

Every year there are more women joining the ranks of clubs across the country and the world.

This makes you, the masters woman, a thing.

You are relevant.

You are growing in numbers.

You are models and mentors for generations of masters women to come.

Thank you to all of the masters women that row.

From the 79yo who doesn't want to be anyone's inspiration (even though you are), to the 26yo returning to the sport she loves after a not so great college experience. From the women that are fighting and surviving breast cancer by rowing it out together, to the dial-a-boat competitors that will race from any seat, in any boat, at any time.

Thank you for the privilege.

Thank you for the opportunity.

We are listening.

And remember...


Row hard, Row well, Compete, Have fun!

Coach Knickerbocker

P.S. For any masters woman interested in sharing her story in a more formal way, Vreni Hommes mentioned above, is working on a project entitled "Why We Row".

She would love to incorporate your story into that project.

Click on her link to contact her directly.

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