I love sport – I’m a massive fan of Rugby, Soccer and GAA – I have huge respect for all athletes and recognise the benefits of being involved in team sports, both on and off the field. However, in this blog I’m going to argue as to why I believe rowing is the ultimate team sport!
Rowing is all about boat speed – it’s such an awesome feeling when you’re in a boat with 1, 3, or 7 teammates, you’re connected to each other and the boat all at the same time – pulling together in perfect harmony, one set of hands, one set of legs, working together in one rhythm. That search for boat speed cuts through everything! There is no room for hierarchy or personal dogma. There is no man/woman of the match, no top goal scorer or no solo run. No individual piece of brilliance will win a race. Every rower has a role to play and there is true parity of esteem for all crew members. Once selected you have to be prepared to strip yourself, rid yourself of any individual sporting ego and reconstruct as a crew. That feeling of connection that is required to make the boat move fast means that you must be completely in sync – dialed into your crewmates with immense precision – nothing else matters!
Proximity also has a huge part to play in crew dynamics – you’re no more than feet away from your teammate for long periods of time, every day. However, not every crewmate is, or even needs to be your best friend – in fact, they are often your biggest competitors. Nonetheless, that fundamental drive for boat speed, combined with the proximity within the boat means that a language and communication style must develop that is respectful and positive. If you want the boat to move faster you must work with your teammates. Regardless of whether you are trying to motivate your crew to increase speed or correct stroke rate to stay in sync, you must remain positive – consistent positive communications will cement that team bond!
Teamwork and communication are critical, but being the fastest boat on the water also means that you deploy at about 95% of your max effort throughout the entire race. You are working at almost maximum capacity for about 6-7 minutes which essentially means that you need to be able to push yourself to complete exhaustion. What is really critical here though, is knowing that your crewmate will do the same. To push yourself to your ultimate max you need to trust that your crewmates will go to their physical limits too. This level of trust is built in the hours, days, weeks and months of training side-by-side, in the gym, on the erg and on the water. On the darkest, coldest, winter mornings you show up for yourself, your crew and the entire team – “Today we will do what others won’t, so tomorrow we will do what others can’t.”