Monday, April 18, 2011

The Tradition of the Toss

            Every society and group has a set of traditions that are unique. These traditions help to define who they are as a group. The community of rowing is no different than any other group, they have many unique traditions that are the same across all teams. These traditions help to solidify the rowing community across different regions and even different countries.
            A lot of traditions have to do with winning, or the quest to win a race. The coxswain toss is the most universal and most humors practice done by rowing teams across the country and world. When a boat wins their race the toss their coxswain in the water in celebration. They often toss the coxswain from the awards dock as they are receiving their medals. It is also used a motivational joke in the rowing community to get crews to move faster. The crews will try to win so that they can toss their coxswain, and it is a joke because this clearly is not the main reason why the athletes are trying to win the race. This tradition is done in all levels of rowing from youth rowing to the Olympic games. 
           The beginning of this video shows toss of Mary Whipple, the coxswain of the Unites States women's 8+, at the 2010 World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. The U.S. women's 8+ placed first winning a gold medal at the 2010 championships, and so with tradition their coxswain was tossed in the water. This video shows that the coxswain toss happens even that the highest level of competition. 

         The coxswain toss is learned at a young age. When rowers first begin rowing they are taught how to do this crucial part of the sport. It is always exciting to explain to a boat of new rowers after their first win that they have to throw their coxswain into the water. Here is a video showing the first attempts of a high school crew to through their coxswain in. Their coach explains how to do it and clams the coxswain telling her the toss is a tradition, and so she must participate. 

      There are many other more serious traditions in the sport of rowing, but the coxswain toss is often the most humors. It is a tradition purely for fun. It allows for celebration and excitement, even for the coxswains. Many coxswains see it as a bragging right to walk around a race course soaking wet with a medal around their neck. It is a  humors but clear distinction of their team's success. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Boathouse

            Every sport has their training ground and arena for competition. I have discussed in pervious posts the basic description of what a 2k course looks like, but in this post I am going to discusses the details of boathouses.
            Boathouses are in a basic sense an elaborate storage area. A boathouse’s fundamental purpose is to store boats. It is important to store boats inside so that they are protected. Boats are very expensive, and so it is better to keep the inside away from the elements of nature. Boathouses have bays that are similar to very large garages. Each bay has a large opening in which boats can be carried inside through. Once inside boats are stored on racks from the floor to the ceiling.
This is a photo of Trinity College's boathouse. It shoes the entrances to the boat bays. The entrances look like garage doors. 
Inside each bay are racks of boats. This is the inside of one bay in Trinity's boathouse. 

Often each boat house has a repair bay. This is either a smaller bay or just a back area of a bay. This area is designated for repairing boats, and equipment for repairing boats and boat parts is stored in this area. 

Although the primary purpose of a boathouse is to store boats, boathouses are also used for both training areas and social areas. Most boathouses have erg rooms in which athletes use to train on land. Some boathouses also have weight rooms and other training tools. In addition to training tools boathouses also traditionally include social areas. These social areas are used by members of the boat club to have meetings, events and simply socialize. 
Some of the oldest boathouses in the United States are in Philadelphia, P.A. These boathouses have elaborate social areas with beautiful porches over looking the water. The boathouses of Philadelphia are called boathouse row and are located on the Schuylkill river. 
This is a photo of some of the boathouses on boathouse row in Philadelphia. 

In these boat houses the upper floors are used as training rooms and social areas. The social areas are important in order to develop community within the boathouse. Boathouses ultimately are much more than simply storage areas. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Daily Sunrise

It’s 4:30 am and the shrill of an alarm clock wakes you. It’s time for practice. This is the normal morning for most rowers. It is a norm across teams to practice very early in the morning. For most people who are unfamiliar with the sport this just seems ridiculous. Why would anyone willingly wake up so early to do any sort of physical activity; why not simply have practice in the afternoon or later in the morning. Some rowers take claim to their early morning practice times. They use it as a sort of bragging right to how dedicated they are to the sport. Most rowers however simply accept it as a part of the sport.
            In actuality, there are practical reasons for early morning practices. In the morning, just before sunrise bodies of water generally have the flattest water. What it means to have flat water is that there is no chop or what are tiny waves.  Wind speed tends to be very little or nonexistent in the early morning. Flat water and little wind are ideal conditions for rowing. Flat water is ideal for practices. It allows for easier balance in the boat. When balance is easy for rowers, it allows focus of practices to be on more minor technical parts of the stroke. When rowers make changes on technique of their stroke, it allows the boat to set up in the water better, and this ultimately leads to more speed. The need for flat water is crucial and agreed upon by coaches and this is ultimately why early morning practice happens most often.
            In my opinion, there are also several other factors that influence crews to have practice in the morning. If practice happens first thing in the morning athletes are less likely to be distracted by other events happening in their day. They are more focused on just the task of practice. They are also fresh from rest and often are at their strongest. Early mornings provide the ideal conditions to improve boat speed. In addition to all of the practical reasons, it’s always nice to see the sunrise on the water everyday.