I’m very sensitive to pressure and negativity and being stroke that obviously doesn’t help my boat. Tonight’s outing was horrendous for me but the others said they didn’t even realize I was having such a bad time because they thought it went great. This outing we were chased by another boat and they’ve come dangerously close to us at the last testing so obviously our whole crew, but especially me, is being affected. How do I keep calm, especially when chased?
I’m similar. I’m pretty hard on myself so even when I know our boat had a good practice, I’ll still nitpick everything I could have done differently to make it even better. I don’t mind races because I’m super competitive so I tend to look at every one as a challenge. That’s my suggestion to you. If they want to chase you, fine, let them, but be thinking the whole time “just try and catch us, keep trying, whaddaya got…”. Instead of letting the pressure get to you, accept their challenge. If the other boat(s) have come close to you in practice, don’t be intimidated by that. Instead, go out and row your ass off to intimidate them. That was always one of my favorite things when I’d race was to have a crew get close to you one day and let them think they’ve cracked you and then come back the next day and handedly beat them.
Confidence is huge. Communicate with your coxswain, keep the stroke rate steady, and focus. Concentration is key. Let your coxswain worry about the other boats and where they are. Your job is to focus solely on setting the rhythm and pace for the other seven rowers. If you’re spending too much time thinking about the other boat your boat is gonna be the one that suffers. When that happens the other boat wins, regardless of whether or not they came in first because psychologically, they’ve got you. Before each practice, piece, race, etc., take a deep breath and think about what you’ve gotta do. If you’re experienced enough to be able to maintain your rhythm and everything with your eyes closed, do that. I had a stroke seat once that would row the middle 1000 of a race with her eyes closed, which forced her to pay attention to only our boat when she couldn’t get herself to do it mentally.
The biggest thing is to just find a way to be motivated instead of intimidated. How you do that is completely up to you but once you get in that boat, all the nerves have gotta disappear. It might seem like a lot of pressure to have seven other rowers relying on you, but ultimately you were put in that seat for a reason. Your coach clearly thinks you have what it takes so just embrace it!