My first water session for scullers tends to be very different from the first water session for rowers. Whereas the rower will have spent some time on the rowing machine and in a rowing tank to get used to the basic stroke sequence and body posture of rowing, the first – time sculler gets none of this preparation. The reason for this is that in a single scull, learning to balance the boat (i.e. learning how to avoid capsizing) is such an overwhelming priority that everything else has to wait until this basic skill has been addressed.
The key message in the first and subsequent sculling sessions is: ‘keep your hands at the same height’.
In sequence, the techniques I coach are:
- Getting into the scull
- Sitting the scull level
- Body posture and core stability
- Slowly raising and lowering each hand to see the scull’s response
- Confidence-building exercises based on (3)
- Arms-only strokes (very light pressure)
- Spinning the scull (backing down / pulling on, first on one side then alternately).
This is usually quite enough for a first session of 60 – 90 minutes – possibly shorter for juniors. The level of concentration required to stay upright in a single scull is a surprise to many new scullers and can be quite tiring. The good news is that confidence rises quickly as the sculler gets used to the feel of the boat and learns appropriate responses to it’s movements.
One of the most important lessons is to move SLOWLY, especially when the unexpected happens. Rapid instinctive responses which are entirely appropriate on dry land are usually the quickest route to a capsize on the water. In my view, a good coach will focus on building ‘attentive confidence’ first and range of movement second.