The inflexible fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and that both rowers and coaches tend to have other demands on their time, tends to limit the time coaches and crews have together before and after outings. Time on the water is so precious that the tendency is generally to get the outing under way as soon as possible and to extend it to as nearly as possible fill the alotted time. As a result, the time available for post-outing talks tends to be limited. This is not entirely a bad thing. Rowers will generally learn more on the water, rowing, than on the landing stage, listening.
Both forms of learning, however, have their place and given that the time available is going to be limited, I thought some aspects of the post-outing debrief deserved a mention.
- Know what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Post-outing comments should reflect the coach’s view of the outing and should be consistent with the coaching given during the outing. This is an opportunity to reinforce messages, not to introduce new ideas or raise fundamental questions.
- Choose your words with care. Don’t focus entirely on faults. Keep a sense of proportion and praise individual and/or collective progress as appropriate.
- Listen for feedback. I think it is important that your squad knows that at the very least you are willing to listen to their feedback and even acknowledge good ideas when you hear them.
- Always find something good to end the discussion with. Crew motivation is an important asset and you should always be aiming to increase it rather than diminish it.
- If the crew includes a cox, make sure that he or she is included and THANK THEM.
If you get five minutes for a post-outing talk then you are doing better than I usually do, but provided that you keep your words brief, positive and consistent you can make good use of a limited opportunity.