As a coach, do you expect your rowers to be able to row both sides in a sweep boat? Should every rower be flexible or is it ok to limit yourself to 1 side only? I ask because we have 7 wks until WEHORR & after rowing for 2.5yrs exclusively on stroke side, my coach has asked me to switch sides & potentially row in 7 seat at WEHORR. I feel like it has huge potential to fail, particularly as it means my injured shoulder will be my outside shoulder on bowside … what should I do? Should I persevere?
I definitely think there are benefits to being able to row both sides and I do think that you should have a certain level of proficiency on both sides but during the actual season I think you should stick with the side you are most proficient on. In my opinion, the time to experiment with a different side is either over the course of the summer or during a light workout day on your winter or spring training trip. I think that seven weeks is definitely enough time to gain proficiency on a new side but compared to the 2.5 years you have on the other side, there is the potential to not be as strong on the new one.
Given the fact that you have an injury, that adds another layer to the mix. I read awhile ago that coaches who actually “study” the athletes to determine what side they’ll row on base their decisions on two factors – one being which side is their dominant side (are they right handed or left handed – dominant hand becomes the inside hand since feathering requires more fine motor control) and the other being whether or not they have or have had a shoulder, rib, or back injury that could be exacerbated by rowing on a particular side. Assuming your coach knows you have a shoulder injury, that makes me question why he switched you to bowside. If you haven’t already started rowing on that side yet, I would talk to him and say that you’re willing to try rowing in 7 (in the interest of learning a new side) but you feel that ultimately you’re going to be a stronger rower on your natural side. Also make him aware or remind him of your shoulder injury. I’m sure you already know, but shoulder injuries can wreck havoc on a rower’s career. If you find that having that shoulder be your outside shoulder is causing you pain, is making the joint hurt, etc. stop rowing on that side. Don’t try and “push through it” just because your coach wants you on that side.
It’s also worth asking why your coach wants to make the switch. Were you in stroke seat before and he’s moving you back or were you in 6 and he’s moving you up? If you were in stroke and he moved you back, but you find that rowing on that new side is uncomfortable because of your shoulder, ask if rowing in 6 is a possibility. That way, you’re still on your natural side and he gets to keep the person he switched into stroke in that seat. Since you said that he “potentially” wants you to row in 7, I’d take that as an indication that it’s not a definite yet. Talk to him about why he wants you in 7 and how badly he wants to switch you…is it basically a guaranteed thing already or is he still evaluating how good you’d be on that side? Keep the line of communication open with him and try to give and get some feedback after each practice. Tell him how it felt, what feels different, what (if anything) you’re having trouble with, how your shoulder feels, etc. Get feedback from him on what you’re doing well, what you can keep improving on, any noticeable differences between this side and your regular side, etc. All of this information can be helpful to him when he makes his final decision.
For the time being, I would cautiously persevere. Try it out and see what you think. Talk with your coach and get as much feedback as possible. Look at it as a new experience that could potentially help you in the long run (aka positively) instead of something that you don’t necessarily agree with (aka negatively). If I were a coach and I switched a rower’s side, I’d more than likely be much more willing to listen to their concerns if I saw that they at least tried to learn the new side and put some effort into it vs. someone who half-assed it and didn’t really try.