Masters rowers (you can become one when you turn 27) is one of the fastest growing membership groups of our sport. And yet masters rowers are poorly served by many clubs.
So, what is good about masters?
- They pay their membership dues.
- They are happy to use club boats at non-priority times.
- They help with fundraising.
- They are sometimes parents of junior rowers.
- They bring life experience, work contacts, tools and skills to the club.
- Some can coach.
There are always those whose priorities don’t align with our own. In one club a coach told me the thing he hates most about the sport is masters!
Some clubs ‘reward’ masters with the worst, oldest boats and no coaching support. How long will it be before they vote with their feet and go elsewhere?
As well, the national masters regatta is timetabled for September, meaning they are forced to train throughout the coldest, darkest months of the year, and the weather for the regatta can be pretty bleak. No other age group has their national regatta at this time of year – for good reason!
When people join the Facebook group ‘Masters Rowing International’ they are asked: “What are your frustrations with rowing?” The answers consistently fall into the same themes:
- Crews of well-matched rowers. It can also be hard to find others who are truly competitive.
- There are too few masters regattas. Most other regattas offer only one or two races per day at masters level or don’t take masters races and the results seriously.
- Finding a coxswain can be difficult.
- Masters often are not taught to rig a boat and do simple repairs.
- Often they are given boats that are too big and heavy for the crew.
- They seldom get consistent practice in racing boats.
- It can be difficult to find consistent training times that work for everyone.
- It’s hard to get coaching.
- Sometimes the powers that be in Rowing NZ forget masters exist so there is a general lack of support.
How can we address these problems?
The More Masters The Merrier
Masters membership growth is rapid, and the masters regattas (Legion of Rowers, South Island Masters and National Masters) are among the best-supported each year.
My challenge to everyone reading this is to go to your club committee and ask what the club can do for your masters group. Have you given masters access to appropriate boats and oars?
Can you upskill masters to self-coach most of their outings?
List of Masters Frustrations
- Lack of people
- We don’t have enough depth to have well-matched rowers. SOLUTION: Pro-active recruitment for returning rowers and learn to row classes
- Not being able to find others who are competitive and who row well. SOLUTION: Use Facebook group Masters Rowers seeking competition
- Too few regattas nearby. SOLUTION arrange private matches against local clubs, Provide committee boats so you don’t have to trailer over. Up to 4 clubs can be invited to a private match without having to get event insurance (in UK)
- Not enough national competition for experienced masters rowers who came to the sport later in life. SOLUTION – Lobby your federation to copy British Rowing who has introduced a masters novice category.
- Finding a coxswain. SOLUTION: use your juniors (often masters are parents of young people aged 10-14 who are not yet rowing). Take it in turns to cox using a plank across the gunwale of the boat.
- Not enough experienced boat maintenance volunteers. SOLUTION – pay someone to come and teach more of you how to rig a boat and do small repairs.
- Equipment designed for men. SOLUTION Fundraising or arrange to share boats with the school kids groups.
- Not having consistent practice and racing boats. SOLUTION get masters representation on your club committee and force the discussion to accommodate your needs along with other racing groups.
- Being able to find and afford regular instruction to improve my skills. SOLUTION give Masters enough information on drills and training workout to self-coach some of the time. Or buy remote coaching.
- Time Management
- Having enough time to train and coach.
- Availability of consistent training time, coaches, and sharing boats with recreational rowers at our club. SOLUTION get master’s representation on your club committee.
- No local organization. SOLUTION: Get together with others and make a virtual club to suit your needs.
- Trying to get consistent attendance during Masters practice! SOLUTION: Masters groups have to be more flexible than others because of their busy lives. Use a software attendance system to advance book sessions and attendance FitClub, iCrew, MyFleet, Teamer App, Squadlist, and a list here and another list here.
- The ergometer. A key element of enjoying masters rowing is self-delusion. Objective physiological testing ruins this! There is no solution to this!!