Question of the Day

I have some questions, but first … at my school rowing can be done for 4 years, 1st two years competing is in quads and the 3rd and 4th years are done in eights or fours. In my first year I rowed in the top boat for my age with three other girls, one in particular was stroke (call her Daisy) and I was three seat. In the second year, I rowed with two of the same girls again, this time I stroked and Daisy was in bow. We are half way into our third season, again Daisy and I are in the same boat, although this time in an eight, Daisy is now stroke, and I am switching between seats 7, 5 & 6. Lastly, Daisy and I are very similar, the only real difference is our weight in which I weigh more than her. So my questions are, What does this mean about Daisy and I? Why I am no longer stoke? How do you decide who should stroke? If I wanted to be the stroke of our boat, what should I do? Thank you!

To be honest, I don’t think it says much about either of you other than Daisy is good at setting a rhythm and you’re good at translating the rhythm and/or generating power. I highly doubt either of your weights has anything to do with it. You not being in stroke doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad stroke seat – your coach probably just felt that you fit better in 5, 6, or 7 … or they have no reason at all and just felt like moving you guys around. If you really want to know why you’re in one seat instead of the other, talk to your coach. I really don’t think this is one of those things that needs to be treated like some super big secret so hopefully they can clue you in on their thought process as to why they like you in the seat you’re in now vs. where you were before.

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?

I’ve previously talked about lineup positions in the post linked above so check that out. The fact that you’ve moved around a few times really isn’t a bad thing, although most people tend to perceive it that way. Over time I’ve come to conclude that in most cases, if your coach is doing it with purpose and not just randomly, it means that they think you’re an all around good rower who works in whatever seat they put them in. Some rowers, for whatever reason, only do well in certain seats, most often because they’re only able to row one side. If you can row both sides you can pretty much bet on being moved around a lot (at the very least within whatever four you’re a part of – stern, middle, or bow) because the coach knows you can function pretty much anywhere.

In terms of deciding who should stroke, I kinda discussed that in the post I linked to. The biggest factor for me is someone that has good technique and is able to set and maintain a rhythm immediately on the coxswain’s command. They’ve got to be a leader and have good communication skills because on the boat’s hierarchy totem pole, they’re right below the coxswain (in my opinion, at least), followed up by the bow man and then the middle six (sorry guys). As a coxswain I rely pretty heavily on my stroke to give me feedback on how they feel the boat’s moving, does it feel rushed, etc. so good communication between the two of us is key.

They’ve also got to be a leader because they literally have seven people following them at any given time. If their stroke isn’t good, bets are that a few other people’s won’t be either. If they’re slacking, other people probably will too. Knowing how important my relationship is with my strokes, I think it’s important to get the coxswain’s input too. If, for whatever reason, one coxswain and one stroke just do. not. get along in the boat, it’s going to take a lot to get me to put them together unless it’s completely unavoidable (like, if it’s our best coxswain and best stroke and they’re both 1V material). Bottom line, there are a lot of factors.

If you want to stroke the boat, again, talk to your coach and see why you’re in the seat you’re in and ask if that’s likely to be where you’ll stay throughout the season or is there a chance that you could try stroking again. My first question to you in this situation would be why do you think you should be the stroke? I’m looking for real, concrete answers here with some legit data to back it up. Saying you just want to be stroke because it’s the most recognizable position in the boat besides the coxswain ain’t gonna cut it. Saying you stroked the quad last year, won a decent amount of races, etc. also isn’t going to cut it. I want know whether or not you think you have a good working relationship with the coxswains (all of them, not just the one you’ve been with the most), how you feel your technique is, how comfortable you are with being able to go from one stroke to another within two strokes max, what kind of leadership you can bring to the boat, etc.

If you can give me good, well-thought, genuine answers to all of those questions, I’d probably consider trying you out in the stroke seat for at least a week to see how you did. After that, I’d get feedback from the coxswain, crew, and you, of course, and then decide whether or not a seat race were in order. Whether or not that’s the process every coach would follow, I don’t know, but I’d have answers on hand to those questions just in case.

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