Next weekend is the last race of the season. I’ve been stroke all year, but for this last race I’m suddenly put in bow seat. I can row both sides that’s not an issue, I just sort of feel useless because I don’t have the same responsibilities anymore. I really want to ask my coach about it, but I don’t want to sound ungrateful or cocky. How should I approach this?
If you want to ask your coach about it just be straightforward and to the point. As long as you aren’t whiny or accusatory, there’s really no way that you can look bad. Just say that you’re curious why the lineup was changed for the last race, if this is indicative of something you need to work on, etc. and listen to what they have to say.
Related: Hey, as a coach you might be able to tell me, in a quad how do you decide who goes where? And the same for an eight? Where you’re placed in the boat, should this tell you anything about where you “sit” compared to the rest of the crew?
Without knowing your coach’s motives, here’s my take. As the stroke, you had one job – set and maintain the pace for the crew. Because strokes tend to spend so much time thinking about this their technique can start to falter, which is why sometimes coaches will throw them back in 6-seat for a practice or two to relieve them of the pressures of stroking and let them re-focus on their own rowing and technique. In bow seat your technique needs to be solid because you have a much more profound impact on the set because the boat is narrower there vs. in the middle of the boat or in the stern. So, if you’re moving from a position where you could theoretically get away with having okay technique to the spot in the boat that requires some of the best technique, that’s a sign that your coach is confident that you can contribute from any seat in the boat. I wouldn’t be too upset about that since that’s a good thing.
Plus, the whole point of the sport is that no one rower contributes more than another so regardless of what seat you’re in, you’re not useless just because you’re not the stroke.