Information for Junior Beginners

Rivers are dangerous places so although we can have fun remember that we always have to think about safety first.

Most of the coaches are volunteers who give up their time to help you learn to row and improve, treat them with respect and they'll do the same.

Rowing is about teamwork, everybody has to work together so treat everybody as you want to be treated.  If you see anybody struggling or potentially needing assistance then offer to help them, they can only say no! 

Boats are expensive pieces of kit, look after them and they'll last longer, report any damage to your coach as soon as you see it.

Lots of people use the river, not just adult rowers at the club but also other types of river craft.  Remember to be polite and portray a good image of the junior squad.

Chewing gum whilst exercising is very dangerous, you could swallow it and suffocate, that means chewing gum is not allowed at rowing.

Using the ergo

  • ergo.jpgCheck the damper setting (Matthew Pinsent never puts it higher than 4)
  • Check the handle's in the handle holder
  • Adjust your feet so the strap goes over the widest part of your foot
  • Sit with your bottom towards the back of the seat
  • Sit with your back at 12 o' clock
  • Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart



The monitor has lots of info but what does it all mean?



How long the machine predicts it will take you to row 500m (The lower the number the faster you are)


The number of strokes per minute


How powerful you are  (think of a light bulb)


Use this button if you're doing a number of set pieces with rests

Carrying the boat

carryingboats.jpgRemember when lifting you BEND YOUR KNEES not your back!

Make sure that you have people at each end of the boat - always keep your eyes open so you don't crash into anything - remember the riggers stick out a long way.

Check that that you're not about to crash into pedestrians/cyclists or anything behind you.

Always check the gates are closed before you put the boat back on the rack, otherwise you can turn the boat below into a sieve! 

Make sure the shoulder of the boat is safely on the rack and the boat's not resting on the riggers.  Don't forget that if it lives outside or on a moveable rack check that you have tied the boat down securely.

Getting afloat

If you try this method you will be able to get in and out of the boat by yourself

Use the ‘3 point of stability ' entry method:

  • Handles end on - held in the riverside hand
  • The other hand holds the rigger
  • Put your riverside foot in the boat between the runners
  • Stand up and swing your remaining foot onto the footplate and lower yourself onto the seat.

Water Safety

Everybody should have completed a capsize drill so should be confident in what to do in case you fall in.

The key points to remember are:

NEVER LET GO - the boat is a big float and won't sink-so hold onto it.


Holding onto the boat firstly try to right it by standing on the nearest rigger and reaching for the far rigger.

Swim to the bows of the boat - whilst holding onto it

On your back swim to the nearest bank holding on to the boat

Coxes and coaches in launches  MUST wear life jackets at all times

When you're on the water make sure you can always see the coach and that they know where you are on the river.

Sculling technique

What we're looking for is your blades to be covered from the beginning to the end of the stroke.  A good stroke is a clean stroke-blades dragging along the surface of the water not only act as brakes but look very messy!

The stroke can be looked at in the following sections,


The Leg Drive  
Your legs contain the strongest muscles in your body-the quads-so make sure you use them-contrary to popular belief rowing is all about the leg drive, not about pulling hard with your arms.  Use your legs to power the boat past the blades.

This is when your hands are just short of touching your body, your legs are flat and your shoulders are open and just behind your hips.

So that you don't slow the boat down you want the blades to accelerate right through to the end of the stroke, so don't allow them to feather until they are totally clear of the water.  We're looking for clean powerful finishes.

The Recovery 
A chance to recover and allow the boat to glide before the next stroke, keeping those blades clear of the water.

Remember the sequence           -HANDS- BODY-SLIDE-

(N.B. remember to keep your arms straight for as long as possible, keep your wait suspended and hanging on the blade handle - bums off seats!)

When you hold the sculls remember to have a light grip - don't hang on for dear life!  Holding the blades in your fingertips means it's far easier to stay relaxed and execute a good stroke.

On the water

onthewater.jpgSteering is the most important thing to be aware of when you row - make sure you stick to the correct side of the river and if you're the steers person check around you every few strokes.

If another boat is moving too close to you shout "LOOK AHEAD........." If you don't say anything they could crash into you and cause damage or injury.  Don't just assume they'll see you and stop or move out of the way - be proactive!

When you overtake other crews make sure you give them enough space and they know that you're there!

When it's time to stop or turn round check that it's a sensible place to do so - not on corners! Make sure that the river is clear in both directions and you're not going to get in anyone's way - turn round as quickly as possible and tuck into the correct bank while you have a rest.

Sculling skills

There are a number of skills you can practice in singles and doubles to help you improve your rowing - and you can do them without a coach telling you!  Try some of these next time you're waiting for the coach to catch up.

N.B.  They will really help your balance - try and keep your body as still as possible whilst doing them

Rigger Dipping -The riggers must touch the water

Standing Up Rigger Dip - Same as above but out of your seat!

Circles - Circle your hands around each other as fast as you can

Double Slaps - Slap both blades on the water at the same time

Single Slaps - These are a lot harder, slap your blades on the water on alternate sides

Balance - Balance with your blades off the water for as long as possible, try it at different points on the slide

360O Turn - Turn your boat round 360 as fast as you can

Stretching Do's and Don'ts

Warming Up and stretching are a very important part of exercise and are essential to avoid injury.

The warm up should increase your heart rate and relax your muscles.  This can be done by a short run, jog or cycle.

Remember only stretch once your body is warmed up, otherwise you will damage muscles.

Before exercise hold stretches for 8-15s

After exercise hold stretches for 20-30s (this is when you can make the most improvement)

Make sure you carry out the stretches correctly otherwise you can cause damage to your muscles.

Stretching should be performed slowly and with control.    Stretch to the limit but not to the point where it is painful.

What to wear

Firstly don't forget to always bring a full set of SPARE CLOTHES

Lots of light layers is best - as you warm up you can gradually peel them off!

Tight/close fitting clothes are better than baggy ones - you can easily get caught up if your clothes are too loose!


winterkit.jpgWarm clothes to stand around in/put back on after exercise

Proper socks - not trainer style

Warm hat

Long sleeves/legs

(any flesh exposed eg t-shirt gaps, will get cold and can lead to injury due to cold muscles)



Sun hat/cap

Sun cream

Lighter clothing


Eat and Drink!

Always bring a water bottle to sessions - especially in the summer.

When you exercise you dehydrate very quickly so by drinking water at training you can keep your fluid levels up.

Eat before you row!  You're going to use lots of energy during training - to ensure that you can train effectively you must fuel your body (like putting petrol in a car) so make sure that you've eaten something before you come down to training.

If it's after school have a quick healthy snack, how about a piece of fruit like a banana.

Cuts and Blisters

The River Thames is fairly clean but you can catch Weils Disease which causes flu-like symptoms.  To avoid this make sure you wear plasters over open cuts and wash your hands thoroughly after rowing, before you touch your face or eat.  If you do fall in have a hot soapy shower as soon as possible.  If you feel ill make sure you tell that doctor that you were rowing on the River Thames.

Blisters are the bain of every rower's life - you've probably been told that you're not a proper rower until you've got a handful of blisters!  You can however treat them quite easily.

Firstly don't bite your blisters - your mouth is the dirtiest place carrying tonnes of bacteria.

Try not to pop your blisters, cover them with a plaster pad taped on with zinc oxide tape or electrical tape if you're rowing.

If you must pop the blister do so with a sterile needle and use antiseptic.

Going to races 



Races can be tiring for both you and your coach and there are lots of important things for you to remember:

SPANNERS - to rig boats we use 10mm and 13mm spanners.  You all need to have one if you're going to race - take it in the boat with you in case of problems on the way to the start!

Eat a good dinner the night before - pasta is always a good one, but any meal high in carbohydrates is fine.  Then get a good nights sleep - you want to be your best at the race.

Bring enough kit with you to the race - there's always a lot of waiting around involved with racing - especially during the winter heads - so you can get really cold unless you prepare properly.  Remember we are also in the UK where the weather isn't always sunny - if you don't have enough spare kit you will become very miserable and cold in the rain!  Bring a plastic carrier bag to put your warm-up kit in so that when you peel it off in the boat it doesn't get wet.  Oh and spare pairs of socks are a REALLY good idea - cold wet feet are horrible!

Bring lots of food and drink with you - remember what I said earlier about fuelling your body - you won't go very fast unless you've eaten properly.  Oh and bribing your coaches is a really good idea too!!!

Make sure that you help to de-rig your boat and put it on the trailer, then after the race it's your responsibility to ensure that it is re-rigged and put back in the boat house properly.  Remember it's your race and you're using the boat so you are in charge of looking after it.

Other Stuff

 There are lots of websites about rowing, try looking at some of these:




Most races you go to have a website-try typing the race name into google or look at and follow the link to regatta calendars.


If you're really interested in technique try looking at some of the books available, one of the best is "High Performance Rowing" by John MacArthur.


Finally have fun rowing and don't forget you can always ask your coach questions.


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