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3-on-3 with Sandy Armstrong, Casey Galvenek, and Marc Mandel

In 3-on-3, our sports top experts will answer three questions and offer unique insights, which have helped them and others along the way. Right before their teams left for the 2015 USRowing Youth National Championships we asked head coaches Sandy Armstrong (Marin Rowing Association from Greenbrae, Calif.), Casey Galvanek (Sarasota Crew from Osprey, Fla.) and Marc Mandel (Gonzaga High School Crew from Washington, D.C.) to reflect on what’s important in training, how to handle nerves, and what programs can do it to make it to the big stage.

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1. Which aspect of your training program do you believe to have been crucial in your programs recent success?

Marc Mandel (MM): “Teaching.  We take a very patient, long-term approach to the season, choosing to spend the fall focusing on fundamentals rather than specifically preparing for the various head races. If we can spend September, October and November laying a solid technical foundation, particularly with our younger varsity athletes, the upside in the spring is much higher.  I would also credit our coaching staff with spending as much time coaching the athletes on the erg in the winter as we do when we are on the water in the fall and spring.  It keeps the athletes constantly thinking about the best ways to control their movements and apply power.

Sandy Armstrong (SA): “As many people will agree, Marin has the advantage of being on the water all season. While I could effectively argue the pros and cons of this, it does allow us to fully enjoy the sport and take lots of (hopefully) quality strokes. I think having the ability to row well is one crucial part of our success. In terms of training, the one aspect that has had the most influence on our speed this season is our depth. The competitiveness at the V and JV level was super intense, making selection a bear but it sure kept the girls on their toes and working hard; every stroke mattered. With all of the access to training plans and how to build a training program I can’t imagine any of us are doing anything super special with that. That said, I have heard of junior coaches doing some crazy workouts in terms of volume and intensity; be careful with that!”

2. What advice would you give a young rower who is nervous about racing in an important regatta?

SA: “Don’t be! Nervous about what? Losing? That takes away from the entire reason sports are enjoyable and challenging. Get excited! The portion of the sports pie that might include a loss is minut compared to all the enjoyment of training, pushing yourself, competing, and being a part of your team. Put it on the line and see what happens, enjoy pushing yourself, don’t judge yourself before you even get started!

Billie Jean King has often said, ‘Pressure is a Privilege.’ Enjoy the challenge, focus on the process of applying what you’ve learned and look forward to doing the best you possibly can. You’ll either get challenged and pushed by someone who can do it better, or you’ll fully relish in finding that your competitor has brought something out of you that you didn’t know existed. If you win, great job and appreciate those that pushed you to get better. If you lose, take something from it that you can work on and congratulation that team who was able to find the success. You’ll remember the overall experience far more than the win or the loss. We all want to win, that’s the American way, but remember that there is SO MUCH MORE to learn from losing, and then fixing it is the fun part.”

CG: “Make sure there is proper preparation. That way, the nerves are reduced come regatta time. Practice what you want to execute on race day long before race day. There isn’t magic pixie dust for a championship regatta. Do what you’ve practiced a hundred times all summer long.”

MM: “Embrace the nervousness!  Athletes, and definitely coaches, get nervous because we have invested countless hours preparing and we are doing something we are passionate about.   So, welcome the nerves as a positive sign that you are in your element.   To try to alleviate at least some of the anxiety on race day so you are not too uncomfortable, boost your confidence by reminding yourself of all the work you and your teammates have put in throughout the year.  Get specific – think back to a particularly grueling practice or well-executed early season race.  Additionally, adding quiet meditation into a warm-up routine for both practice and race-day can help calm the nerves to an extent.”

3. If a young coach or new club is looking to compete for a spot at Youth Nationals, what should he or she definitely focus on?

MM: “Developing program depth.  Certainly a program can focus on recruiting and retaining more athletes, but my idea of depth goes well beyond simply increasing numbers on a roster, because in the end you can only worry about the athletes you have rather than the ones you wish you had.   Facilitate technical depth in your program with a focus on teaching fundamentals and boat feel.  Focus on depth of character by clearly communicating and modeling your values to your athletes.  Once a strong culture and sense of accountability have taken root, the sky is the limit.   Finally, give your athletes depth of experience by scheduling challenging races throughout the season so they are prepared for the level of speed at the championship regattas.”

SA: “Firstly, start with a focus on development. Athletes need time to gain the emotional, physical, and technical skill to successfully compete at the national level. Next, find the athletes in your program who you feel might be ready and focus them on the event that fits the number and skill; do you have one athlete? Two? Four? Eight? Find the right event and train them for that event. That doesn’t mean overlook everyone else! You have to coach the whole, but the team will be able to see the work ethic, dedication, and skills development required to try reach the National level. I am a big one on quality and safe training for high school athletes and do not believe coaches should impose their need to go to Nationals on their young athletes too soon. I believe this creates an environment of aggressive coaching, frustration for all, and over training; none of which will bring you the success you are looking for.”

by Jules Zane, jules@usrowing.org | Jun 16, 2015

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