The dynamic world of throwing rowing

Ahhh ha, That's right today has already been an intriguing and eventful one and it's only 10.30am. While watching a few races while out in the shed training it hit me like a sledge hammer. While watching the USA eight at the 2004 Olympic games I noticed how Bryan Volpenhien was rowing in the stroke seat. Obviously the stroke seat of most boats stands out because they are so clear to see and usually they are a person in that key seat for a good reason. Well there was this section of the footage where the USA is moving clear of the field. The camera then is turned to a close up the USA crew and Volp is lead the crew perfectly.

What I loved seeing was how he appeared to be performing a throwing action. Almost like picking an object up from where he would stretch to and then he would unfold with a sling shot like action which struck me to be closely associated to a throw. Now this may all be in my mind but the whip like effect of the arms was so rhythmical. So then I started to think about how I could create a similar action on the ergo. What was interesting was when I stay focused on the throwing rowing action I feel dynamic and elastic. The score on the screen actually improved 2-3sec per 500m split.

This realisation does not stand alone in my mind as I have had a similar thought before during certain session and the odd race when the sling shot feeling is present. Also I have seen it before and I think that another crew and probably athlete has stimulated this idea many times when I have watched their performances. The Danish lightweight four with Eskild Ebbesen is a great example of how dynamic rowing can be. When I have watch Eskild I find the unique throwing style with a whip like sling shot appear to in play.

This is about time I need to acknowledge that I believe the stroke seat lends it's self to this approach. It is the type of movement leadership that's required to perform at the highest level as a crew. Now I may be a little bias but when it comes to following I tend to find that have a dynamic, throwing movement to follow enables me to feel confident in matching up and managing the harmony. This is particularly relevant to the pair, but I think it applies to many of the crew boats. Having rowed rowed in many seven seat of eights I always found that when the person in front of me was right on setting and creating a dynamic rhythm the best I could do was to follow and support it. If I attempted to be more dynamic then often it felt disruptive the the initial stimulus being served up in front.

To ensure this is not confusing I have to point out that have a dynamic stroke does not mean you can sit behind and take it easy. Quiet the opposite it is important to follow them perfectly and to add length and power through the mid drive. The USA eight had every body look like the were driven and purposeful behind Volp and each person was giving each stroke everything. The were confident to follow though and staying within the framework. Each stroke has an enormous amount of energy being put into it. The bowman of the USA crew, Jason Reed or JR as he is know is not a big rower on the outside, but every stroke he looked like he was right on his game and very intent on staying inside the the movement while giving everything he had each stroke. He followed the throwing action perfectly and added his own dynamic energy to the collective movement.

The dynamic world of throwing rowing is something that I guess is a little quirky, maybe even unclear, but when you see it you know it. Some crews get it and create the balance between fast, dynamic and hard, heavy rowing. It seems to look achievable when an athlete in the stroke seat know how to create the movement that will lead the crew. It requires great support form every person in the boat to the maximise their output and drive while staying true to the framework of the rhythm. Even as I see it it strikes a cord with me that when used as a method on the ergo can produce great results.

As I said this has been something I have thought for a while but today it really hit home. When I consider other sporting movement and how rowing relates I know we aren't throwing the oar, but the concept of throwing rowing is similar to most throwing actions I can think of. Ground up initiation and a sling shot, whip like, dynamic action is required to throw faster, further and more consistently. It even can been seem as a swing, connection and release action, but that's for another time. My final parting today is that the world in which we aim to perform is dynamic and so then I figure that it need to be meet by an equally dynamic action to be part of it in a way as to thrive.


Unknown said…
What an OUTSTANDING post. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your observations of Bryan and how they relate to other strokes and those following them. Incredibly enlightening language & use of analogies - really helps us visualize how things would look and should feel.
Anonymous said…
Hips first, straight arm hang, tremendous swing -- followed by rebound and-the-all-so-critical "float" into the front end or catch.
Regardless of rate, the top-quarter of the slide/recovery must be the exact opposite of the throwing rowing: that is to say, the body must be completely switched OFF.

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