So yes – as mentioned in my last entry, I 2k’d again last weekend. It went better than I expected – I pulled the exact same split, but at no point in the before, during or after process did I throw up, so in my world that’s the actual victory.
However, my avoidance of neurosis-induced vomit is not what today is about.
Instead, I would like to take a moment and make a plea on behalf of some of the girls that I’ve competed with over the last two weekends.
Ya know, doing it to kids is bad enough – as much as we naysay, the truth is that every coach gets a little amusement out of making the children suffer athletically* – I’m not a coach anymore, so I’m just gonna go ahead & admit that.
*within ethical boundaries, of course.
The thing is, new adults are different.
I think the fact that indoor rowing classes are gaining popularity is good – it brings a higher awareness to rowing, increases the mass market exposure of an otherwise niche sport. These are all great things.
On the other hand, I’m cool with being the snob in the room by making the statement that erging in a group exercise class and training as a rower are two completely different things. For those of you that may be new to my ongoing adventures, I say this with the experience of someone who didn’t row in high school or college – I stepped in a boat at the age of 26 & have been working on sucking a little less every day since.
But before I ever considered the life choice that I might be bisweptual, I taught spin & kickboxing and worked doing sales & operations at a gym, interacting with the very demographic of new clients that indoor rowing classes are trying to attract.
So just as I would not send one of the girls that took one of the cardio kickboxing class to step into a ring with some of the guys I learned to fight with, I would like to state that it is not fair to send inexperienced people to race against rowers for their very first 2k without preparing them for what’s going to happen beforehand.
Yet, for the last two weekends, that is what I’ve seen on the erg to the right of me.
Two Saturdays in a row, some poor girl who’s probably working on a BMI shift will sit down, looking nervous as all hell, hit the first 500m really hard, and then proceed to fly & die.
Two Saturdays in a row, I have finished my piece, cheered her through the finish of her last 500, & said, “It’s okay, just breathe. Is this your first race?”
Both of those girls managed to sort of nod their heads as they tried to regain some semblance of what their life was before they’d been smacked face-first into a wall of pain while 30 people screamed and yelled for them to go faster.
Each time, I patted the poor thing on the back, told her she did a good job, & encouraged her to just try to keep breathing as I got up & walked away. I had to walk away so that I wouldn’t stop & ask the coxswains what the hell they were thinking throwing a new athlete to the sharks like that.
Let me be clear – I am not saying that erg athletes and/or novice rowers shouldn’t do competitions.
But for the love of god, let the poor bastards go through the indignity of their first 2k in the relative privacy of their own home!!
While on the outside, an erg race looks deceptively relaxing, for the person doing it, it’s a special kind of hell on earth. And an athlete can’t know what that experience will be, or how to deal with such things until they’ve done it at least once.
Ya know what? I used to weigh 60 pounds more than I do now. You ever want to see me bitter, try to get me to talk about my hatred of Presidential Fitness tests in high school – I was the kid who had trouble running a mile.
So while there admittedly is still pudge that could be worked off my wudge, there also used to be a lot more of me to lurve, and lemme tell ya – at that stage, having to do an athletic feat of any kind is personally challenging enough. Adding in the experience of being thrown out there & left to flounder is horrible.
A good amount of coaches and instructors are people who’ve been athletic for most of their lives, so I’m working from the assumption that there were the best of intentions, and an understandable lack of personal experience regarding what it’s like to approach sport at such a mental disadvantage when I say the following:
Putting someone in that sort of situation is inconsiderate. And while probably inadvertent, it’s also kind of mean.
Give them time. Give them at least one practice run. Let them be mentally prepared for some semblance of an idea of how much it’s going to suck. One junior novice coach that I know preps her novvies by having them do their first 2k test at the beginning of January, & in the interim erg pieces, adding a little more pressure each time – ridiculously loud music, and after I pointed out what the Beach!sprints are like, having people that are on land that day yell at them from in front of the erg.
Even with that effort on that novice coach’s part, I’ve still been knocked over in the lobby of Beach!Boathouse by a novice that tackle-hugged me crying, “Oh my god, that was the most horrible thing ever!”
If nothing else, a practice 2k is the best way to create a personal goal to work towards so that if they don’t get a shiny medal, the newb still has a sense of personal accomplishment for the day. It also sets the precedent of individual markers for achievement, which is what’s going to keep them training even if they’re not winning.
If nothing else, let’s look at this on an economic level:
If you scare the crap out of your clients/club members, they won’t come back.
By not preparing your newbies for the race & failing to help them determine a realistic split, you’re setting them up to feel defeated.
End result is that if they start to associate negative connotations with the activity, after a while they’re not going to want to do your class or row for your team.
Logic would then dictate that since the long-term economic health of any business or rowing club is dependent upon having a solid base of repeat clients, this course of behavior is not good for your bottom line.
One of the things that I’ll talk about for ad nauseum is that with the introduction of indoor rowing as a group exercise activity, the rowing world is going to encounter people who aren’t like normal rowers.
As a sport, rowing is a niche area with very specific environmental & equipment requirements. Because of this, most boathouses are used to being the only opportunity in the local area for time on the water, and there are a lot of rowers who can, will, & have put up with a lot of crap because of that.
(Rowers: see, you totally just nodded & thought of an example, didn’t you? I’m just sayin’.)
Indoor rowing clients are different.
These are not people who are crazy for the sport, it’s something they’re trying for fitness. They can come to you, they can go to spin class, they can Zumba.
The upshot being that because you are not working within the smaller pond rowing world, but competing instead in the much larger ocean of the fitness industry, you are not this new market’s only option. If they don’t like the way you treat them, they can walk away.
This new contingency can’t always be treated like athletes – they need to be cultivated as clients.
They have to feel safe, they have to feel secure, they have to have a sense that you care. If you can create that sense of comfort & trust, they’ll be happy to pay. If you don’t, they’ll go somewhere else.
It really is just that simple. Things are no longer about the sport. Now, it’s just plain business.
So from now on, please extend some semblance of humanity to your newbs, lest they end up walking away from an erg competition looking like Zoey did when she realized that the Saturday which involved a 2k for mommy was followed up a bath for her:
Music: Hey Mama – Mat Kearney [Young Love]