I’ve spent a great deal of my career so far coaching novices, both at the middle school and high school level. I think that it is important to put your best coach or at least someone that knows that they are doing with your new recruits to the program. The first year of rowing can in some cases make or break a rowing career. The old adage goes, practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. It’s also important to remember that you want to design a learn to row program to be fun and educational at the same time. The first two weeks (usually a trial period in some clubs) should be structured well so that athletes are learning how to safely use equipment, navigate around the river, learn the right movements to make, discover balance, gain a fundamental understanding of connection to the water, how to hold an oar (or preferably learn how to scull initially).
To that end, I have created a sequence of movies that demonstrate some of the things that you might do from day one through the first week. This is no means a complete list of all of the drills that you can use to help your novices learn, but it at least provides a sense of a sequence that you might use to help structure a learn to row program. At the end of the two weeks, it can be fun to run a few races. If you are rowing eights, you can row by pairs, fours, sixes or even all eight. If you have floatation devices you can use those to steady the boats, or just have a pair or two sit out. Alternatively, you can bring in a few experienced rowers to help with the new novices. It is an excellent way to get the new kids familiar with some of the experienced rowers in your program and start to develop the leadership levels and team bonding that you seek.
As always, questions and feedback are always welcome. Happy rowing!