It’s that time of year again. When we all return for a new season. It doesn’t matter if it is rowing or hockey, athletics or swimming, university or even work after the summer holidays but for some reason none of it feels too bad in September. The sun is still shining, the gang is back together and you are pumped for the start of something that has the potential to be epic. But soon, the agony will commence! WINTER. TRAINING. When it all starts to really matter. Where seats in the boat are won or lost, where places on the team are given and taken, where the exams loom and the Christmas bonus seems like forever away. The freezing and dark early starts, going straight to bed after leaving the club after an evening session, when we miss nights out with friends, we miss family holidays, weddings, christenings etc in pursuit of the goals that burn deep down to our toes. When we ask ourselves ‘Why oh why do I do this?’ Enter our guest blogger and Queen B in every sense Christa Dines who this September will remind us all why. We call it ‘The Sweet Spot’ when everything comes together and the output matches the input and for a beautiful moment in time…it all feels right.
From all at Queen B we wish you the hardest, sweatiest, gruelling, rewarding, momentous, legendary season imagineable. Own it. Rock it. Take it. They will tell tales in hushed tones around warm fires of what we achieved this 2015/16.
Christa, tell the nice people what they need to know….
Photo Credit: Marina Limberis (You Legend)
There is something so beautiful about achieving perfect harmony.
Take an 8+ boat. The goal is to have 8 rowers in perfect sync, catching and releasing
their blades rhythmically at the cadence called for by the coxswain. But the catch
and release is only the beginning. Lots of magic happens between the catch and
release. In an ideal world, blades hover deliberately above the water, squaring up
smoothly in unison. Eight handles mechanically pop the blade out of the water at the
finish, only to take yet another stroke. You don’t need to see it to know when it
happens. You can feel it. Despite intense pain, you reach a state of euphoria. For
mere moments you’re in perfect tune with yourself, your team, the water, the
To achieve the sublime, both rowers and coxswain must propel themselves out of
their comfort zone. For coxswains, that includes mental exercise that will help them
transition to fearless leaders. When I was new to the sport, I tried to memorize my
older sister’s coxing tape. I was an overwhelmed novice coxswain; she was a calm,
cool, and collected varsity leader.
I listened to her tape on repeat over the next week. I had a race approaching, and
wanted to be ready.
When race day came, I entered the starting line, feeling nervous. I calmed myself
down by telling myself that I had listened to that old tape a million times, had even
memorized bits and pieces, and had practiced quietly in my room before I fell
asleep. I called for bow seat to scull it, to lock-in my point, then put my hand down.
“Breathe,” I told my crew quietly. “We got this.” I followed my own advice. Sitting
perfectly still, I took a deep breath and waited for the call. I worried the rowers
could hear my nervous heart beating through the microphone.
I counted the first big power move of the race, my eyes flashing between the stroke
rate blinking on the cox-box and the fierceness of my stroke seat’s eyes. By the 20th
stroke, my nervousness disappeared. I was too focused on the race unfolding around
me to remember the words from my sister’s tape—was too focused on the present
and the future to worry about the past.
To be honest, I forget the outcome of that race. What I can remember is feeling
euphoric as we crossed the finish line. But what I remember most is my stroke seat
sliding forward, exhausted and breathless, to pound my fist. The tape didn’t pick up
on the pound—or my smile—but I’ll never be able to forget it.
How does the coxswain make the boat go faster? Not simply by calling for a higher
stroke rate, or for increased pressure from the legs. The coxswain makes the boat go
faster by getting to know the rowers. What makes them tick? What command can
tap into that competitive spirit? What call will unite the individuals as one, motivate
them to dig deeper and push through mental and physical barriers? These are the
hard questions that a coxswain must ask and answer to achieve perfect balance in a
boat, both physically and emotionally.
Uniformity is essential to succeed. A natural swing of seamless strokes is what the
sport is all about—but achieving perfect harmony is what makes a boat fly, bonds
the boat into a sisterhood, and makes you all show up again and again for 6am
practice on dark, freezing cold, rainy mornings.