Coaching adult beginners

Coaching for adult beginners is an extraordinarily variable experience as different clubs approach it in a wide variety of ways.  Some put beginners in boats on their first day, others start with the gym, rowing machines and / or (if available) a rowing tank.

Personally I favour the latter approach.  A boat is a complex and challenging environment for a beginner, so some early sessions on the rowing machine offer a simpler, more controlled environment where he or she can concentrate on one thing at a time.  The teaching plan for the first few sessions usually runs approximately as follows:

In the gym:

  1. Standing – neutral spine posture
  2. Sitting – neutral spine and active core
  3. Wall bars – sit holding wall bars with straight arms and raising body using only legs against wall

On the ergo:

  1. Posture – This is the foundation of good rowing – head up, shoulders down, core active.
  2. Stroke sequence – catch, drive, extraction, recovery
  3. Correct use of legs to drive the stroke
  4. Stroke shape – two straight lines, two semi-circles in a bicycle-chain shape.
  5. Rowing together – choose one rower as ‘stroke’ and have the others follow him/her

In the tank:

  1. Tapping down – getting the blade out of the water to recovery height
  2. Floating the blade – using the blade’s buoyancy to find the correct stroke depth
  3. Posture (again).
  4. The catch – using the legs, keeping the arms straight
  5. Basic coxing commands
  6. Stroke sequence
  7. Stroke shape
  8. Feathering
  9. Rowing both sides of the boat – everyone changes sides between exercises

First boat session:

  1. Boat layout
  2. Seats, slides and rigging
  3. Blades
  4. Coxing commands
  5. Lifting the boat
  6. Carrying the boat
  7. Putting the boat on the water
  8. Getting a crew into the boat safely
  9. Getting a crew out of the boat safely

Second boat session

  1. Coxing commands
  2. Sitting the boat level
  3. Raise and lower hand heights on each side to show effects (boat stationary)
  4. Square blade rowing in fours or pairs while remaining four or pair sits boat level
  5. Feathered blade rowing in fours or pairs
  6. Individual coaching on stroke sequence

By the time beginners are able to row a four or an eight using half of the crew they are into the routine of regular coaching like all other crews and progress from this point is up to the coach and crew.


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