May 08, 2001

Rowing in the twilight zone

Help! My coach has been abducted by aliens!

Do you remember the storyline in the old Bloom County comic strip where Steve Dallas got abducted by a spaceship and returned a different person, as if he’d had Alan Alda’s personality grafted into his body? It was sort of like that.

Coach DI didn’t show up this morning, and we had a fairly small turnout -- just Yosemite Sam, a Mixed Eight and a Men’s Quad. This morning’s workout wasn’t too heinous; 2x20 minutes at 60% plus 1 10-minute piece, also at 60%. It would have been 3 twenties, but we ran out of time. (I almost said the workout was fairly easy, but then got up and walked to the restroom; from the lead weight of my legs, and the 5 blisters on my hands, it wasn’t all that light.) We got on the water on time; one of Y. Sam’s virtues is punctuality.

Sam split his time evenly between the two boats, which in itself is unusual (the Men’s Quad generally gets very little coaching, presumably on the theory that they’re good enough to correct themselves), but the really spooky thing was that he said very little. He made a few comments about hand heights and timing, and one joke with our coxswain, but that was it. T said, "He followed us for a while and I’ve never seen Sam go so long without saying anything." Even odder than that, he complimented us -- he told us we were doing very well, and when I asked if my body control is getting better, he told me it was and that the only flaw is that I was looking around too much. (Well, I was, and only part of it was because I nee to start wearing sunglasses now that the sun rises early in our practice.) But it was .... spooky.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not complaining. Most of the things Y. Sam did this morning are things we’ve all wanted our coaches to do for some time: getting us on and off the water on time, so we can have a full practice and still not get to work late; paying attention to all boats out there; telling us what we’re doing right. Also, he spoke privately to one rower about something she’d been doing wrong, off the water so he could explain something complex, and not at top volume in front of everybody.She’s still fairly new at this and that was the perfect way to handle it. But it was downright strange to have Sam so quiet. It was a very good practice, but not uniformly outstanding, and there were certainly some things he could have corrected.

One possibility is that it was deliberate; sometimes rowers start to tune out if a coach makes too many comments, so it can be good, during steady-state distance pieces, to be quiet and let people try to fix their own failings. T and I, when our classes get a bit farther along, like to do lots of drills Saturday then just let people row on Sunday. So maybe he was quiet on purpose.

But it was still spooky.

Posted by dichroic at May 8, 2001 09:31 AM
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