EPISODE .1. CREW SELECTIONS
How much emphasis does your coach put on your erg scores?
Decent erg scores are attractive to coaches and more often provide these athletes with better opportunities to prove themselves on the water. The reality is that although 'ergs do not float' they do showcase critical qualities as well as outright power and endurance which if transferable, can benefit the overall crew. For the lighter athletes out there that feel they are at a disadvantage then it may be reassuring to know that most coaches will always factor in power to weight. Sports science has moved on dramatically in the last 20 years and the days of picking the biggest brutes to pull the boat along has mostly diminished!
Crew selections can be complicated, time consuming and critical to getting the best results. For us, this highlights the importance of spending time during the winter months assessing your athletes in every aspect of their training and performances. In basic terms this includes:
- Progression rate on the erg
- Progression rate on the water in small crew boats
- Dynamic partnerships in small crews and how this can be applied to larger crews
- Individual personalities and what they bring to the boat
- Technical qualities and how that may influence boat speed
- Race results throughout the winter months
If you can obtain objective and subjective data from the winter months, this gives you a better understanding of your squad and a solid foundation for crew selections later in the year. As a coach I have had few occasions in which I was unsure of my final crews prior to crew selections. Taking time getting to know your athletes as well as monitoring performance using multiple criteria's has been absolutely critical in giving me a heads up in advance of the sharp end of the season.
If your club is lucky enough to have Telemetry/Peach systems then this can be a game changer in making crew selections. The goal is to have as much objective data as possible to reinforce your subjective decision making. This also provides transparency to athletes and why they have or have not placed in certain crews. There is no 100% perfect way to seat race and that is fact. There are too many external variables to control which simply cannot be controlled and this falls on the coach or selection team to make the best decisions. Seat racing can come in many different formats but at the end of the day the athletes need to showcase their performance on that given day.
Although erg scores are attractive and may provide better opportunities, they do not conclude final selections. This is particularly true in larger squads when the margins between athlete can be minimal. Make sure all areas of your training are as good as it can be, there are many factors which contribute to crew selections and sometimes the smallest margins can win you your seat. As Bill Zack says 'raw erg scores are a prerequisite for boat selection rather than a determining factor for boat selection'.
Finally, even though most reading this are likely to be domestic, club level rowers, I think it is also important to mention that most national trials are initially based upon erg scores. To even get your foot in the door you do have to make the respective cut-off times to make an entry. There are many athletes that claim they would do well at trials if they were given the chance, however, at the end of the day, the lack of power will always catch up with you. The goal of a national team is to provide the best athletes from their nation to compete against the rest of the world. IF you get to this stage you'll quickly realise that these people don't have an 'off the pace' erg score. Scale this back to domestic events and you'll have a similar situation.