My Journey To Becoming An Online Coach (Part 2) – Innovation in Rowing Remote Coaching

My Journey To Becoming An Online Coach (Part 2) – Innovation in Rowing Remote Coaching

how I became an online rowing coach

This piece is part two of my journey to becoming an online coach. Part one can be found here.

In this article, I take you on my remarkable journey, where passion, innovation, and perseverance converged, reshaping my coaching career and opening future unforeseen doors in education. It’s a journey of self-discovery, creating meaningful tools, and finding inspiration in the face of adversity.

The coaching with Mike was going well. We were working on specific training zones and making excellent progress. I had set up Mike’s training schedule in a Google Spreadsheet that calculated appropriate training zones for his rowing training program.

However, I knew that more than the initial system was needed to rise to the level of top-level professional coaching. An online training management system driven by a database would enable me to build training plans that truly individualized training plans for clients were needed to help me raise my game.

If you are not tracking data and volume and looking at trends in progress over time, then there is too much guesswork in a training plan. The fact is that everyone is different from other people. While there are general physiological principles in play, the training effect (in terms of improvement or decline in some cases) depends on the person. As a result, each person receiving coaching needs a recipe explicitly built for their needs.

As a result, I started to learn a new programming language. Right out of college, I cut my teeth in my first job because someone had taught me how to be a webmaster for the school website. I learned the fundamentals of programming full-stack websites, which were dynamic web pages driven by a database backbone. These were the skills I needed to build the system exactly how I wanted it to be.

This process was challenging because I had to effectively teach myself the skills to make this vision come alive. Programming can be very frustrating, especially when you have bugs in your code. However, I persevered and took breaks when I had reached “roadblocks” in the process. Learning to code is challenging, and you need the right temperament. However, once you know the fundamentals of computational thinking and essentially the six or seven different primitives common to any programming language, you can understand how machines work, it’s possible to bring any vision you want to life. Little did I know at this stage that I was laying the foundation for a change in my career path as a teacher. More on that later.

Mindset Diagnostics

Another app that I built was the 3D Life Fitness Diagnostic. This tool that I had built right after I graduated college. I was interested in a holistic approach to coaching. My practice needed to be more than sets, intervals, and reps. To help my clients reach a high level of performance, I needed to look at their mindset as part of an organic system of components that work toward reaching high-performance levels.

In a nutshell, the 3D Life Fitness Diagnostic was born out of conversations I had with my father when he came to my graduation from Boston University. His driving question was – “What makes a person stop following a training plan?”. His point was that many people make new-year resolutions about changing fitness and lifestyle habits. If there were a way to pinpoint areas of challenge and strength, it would make a coach much more effective at working with their clients.

life fitness desire diagnostic coach bergenroth summary
life fitness diagnostic coach bergenroth summary

I then used the engine I created for the 3D Life Fitness Diagnostic (more general in focus and for those who want to maintain fitness and weight management) to build a similar system (the athlete self-assessment diagnostic) to identify strengths and development areas in competitive athletes.

If you can develop different skill sets and find where they all intersect – that’s the sweet spot for where you want your career to head. I also combined my love of coaching, programming, and education to develop tools that can help drive mastery.

The Growth Of My Website was gradually picking up steam. Only a few people were reading my content. However, I kept plugging away at it. The number of viewers was increasing slowly but surely.

I learned a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which fundamentally allows search engines such as Google to find your content, understand what it is about, and rank it accordingly. Before writing an article, it’s a good idea to search for keywords that folks typically use to query Google and work them into the articles you write.

My blog was gaining traction, and it needed to serve a higher purpose of helping others learn more about the sport and learning from my athletic, coaching, and managerial experience. This overriding vision and mission brings me back to January 2016.

When You Get A Call Late In The Evening

I remember it was a Sunday evening in January of 2016 (before I retired from my coaching position), and my caller ID was from a parent of an athlete I had coached. I knew this couldn’t be good news and was initially concerned that his son had been in an accident or something of that nature. I was wrong. The bad news was of a completely different kind.

The parent was a firefighter for the Tulsa fire brigade. He was calling to let me know that the boathouse was on fire. When I arrived on the scene, smoke was pouring out from the boathouse, and it was clear that the fire was quite extensive. We initially thought the fire had started because of an electrical fire. However, once the fire was extinguished, it was clear that the boathouse had been vandalized first, as there was graffiti. The arson attack had been caused by someone (or a collection of people) who had poured accelerant all over the workout room at the back, and that had caused the fire.

I mention this experience because it was another blow that added to my growing weariness/fatigue. It is also relevant because the months after the fire and our need to relocate training facilities had been an experience where there was much to learn from. As a result, in the following year and the second year of the blog, I wrote a piece about our experiences rebuilding from the fire. Our rowing community had experienced a tragedy, but it was necessary to share our experiences with others so that other rowing clubs could learn how we managed the situation and make the required adjustments by learning from our experience.

I live my life under the adage; life is 20% what happens to you and 80% how you handle what happens to you.

USRowing also picked up the article and posted it on their Facebook page. My blog had the highest amount of visitors it had experienced in a day since it was first published online.


Throughout my journey to becoming an online coach in rowing, I encountered various challenges and opportunities for growth. Determination and innovation were essential as I developed a personalized training management system that caters to each athlete’s unique needs, leaving behind one-size-fits-all approaches. Additionally, introducing the 3D Life Fitness Diagnostic tool has provided valuable insights into my clients’ mindsets, fostering better coaching outcomes. As my website, steadily gained traction, I focused on sharing knowledge and experiences to benefit the rowing community.

But this isn’t the end of the story! In the next part of this series, I’ll share an exciting development – the creation of groundbreaking software designed to enable real-time remote coaching with the Concept2 rowing machine. Get ready for a glimpse into the future of rowing coaching in “My Journey To Becoming An Online Coach (Part 3) – Revolutionizing Rowing Coaching with Real-Time Software.” Stay tuned for more!


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