Getting SMART for the new season

Successful athletes are regularly employed by businesses and other organisations as motivational speakers – explaining how they achieved their success and highlighting the parallels between their success and success in the business world.  Sadly, they are less regularly employed by rowing clubs and I feel this is our loss, because successful athletes from outside rowing have more useful messages for aspiring rowers than they have for aspiring sales managers.

One of their most fundamental messages is the importance of setting a clear objective.  Focus on a clear objective, which for Olympic athletes may be years ahead, informs everything they do.  Even at the more modest level of club rowing, thinking about your objectives for the season ahead is a key to success.  Both individually and as crews, rowers need to think about and agree what they want to achieve, if they are to maximise their chances of a successful season.   It might be a particular event, it might be the level you want to row at, it might be the times you want to record – whatever your objectives are, you, your coach and your crewmates need to discuss, agree and commit to them if you are to have the best chance of turning them into reality.

Generally speaking the shorter your list of objectives and the clearer and more measurable each objective is, the more progress you are likely to make.  It might even be a good idea to steal some ideas from the world of management and think about SMART objectives. SMART objectives are:

  • Specific – clearly defined (e.g. not ‘row better’)
  • Measurable – so that you can know when you have achieved them
  • Aggressive – requiring significantly above average performance
  • Realistic – within your capabilities, given available resources.
  • Time-limited – deliverable within an agreed timescale.

These concepts will be familiar to many from their lives outside rowing and if you mean be more successful as a rower, as a squad or as a club, they can be employed in your early season planning without making you feel too much as if you are back at work.

Let’s suppose then that you set an objective which represents a significant step up in your performance over last season.  You make sure it is SMART and you write it down (every member of the squad should have a copy).  So far so good.  Where has that got you?  Well, for a start, if your objective requires a significant improvement in your performance then it follows that from the first day of training in the new season you have to make a similar step up in your committment and effort.  You have to expect to train and perform like the crews who you want to be your peers, the crews who were ahead of you last season.  Training the way you did last season will (surprise surprise) deliver about the same results as you got last season.

Every season starts as a new beginning and an opportunity to change and improve. Just as sports training and success can be relevant and motivational in the business world, tools and techniques taken from the business world can be relavant and motivational in sport.  A little bit of collective “businesslike” thinking at this time is a worthwhile exercise to get everyone focussed on delivering the performance you are going to need to do better.


2 thoughts on “Getting SMART for the new season

  1. I love this message. I am a Board member, parent, president of a Rowing club’s junior program, and in my real life a corporate board member and former CEO. I am constantly urging the coaching staff to think this way. First, there are SMART goals to commit to themselves, then to the coaching staff as a whole, and then with their respective squads, and all have to be integrated and consistent. It seems to be the only way to know that you are building a world class organization and developing the best possible junior athletes.

    • Hello Annette and thanks for your comment. The deployment of some management tools and techniques in the context of developing a competitive rowing club has always seemed like common sense to me, doubly so given the often untapped wealth of skills and experience available among rowers, parents, coaches and committee members. That said, in my personal experience there seems to be a real reluctance for clubs to be too ‘business-like’ – as if it would somehow corrupt the pure devotion of the amateur rower to his or her sport. However, if we can show that these tools bring positive results at the level of coaches and squads, who knows, we may yet see this change.

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