Youth rowing: Erg Sprints survival guide

Unlike with other activities, where kids start participating as early as age five, most rowers are introduced to the sport in middle school.

Having already developed ideas about competition and fitness, youth rowers are often unprepared for the physical and mental challenges of erg sprints.

Erg sprints are indoor competitions where rowers compete on machines instead of boats. The goal is to pull the fastest time.

Used to gauge a rower’s speed, erg sprints are similar to the 40-yard-dash in football. Pursuing faster erg times is part of the rowing life. Parents and kids new to the sport can benefit from keeping the proper perspective.  The following is an erg sprints survival guide for youth rowers.

The mindset

1. Understand the process

Kids who have never pushed themselves beyond exhaustion, will struggle with grueling erg sprints. That’s normal. There is a reason why many world-class marathon runners are in their late 20s and early 30s. It takes a certain level of maturity to practice mind over matter. If youth rowers appreciate the process, they can better cope with inevitable disappointments and setbacks.

2. Set goals

A goal is merely a dream with a deadline. Your child’s deadline is the next erg sprints competition. It’s important to have your child discuss realistic goals with the coach. Average scores in practice offer some indication about reachable times. After setting a goal, develop a plan as to how to approach the race. If you child is participating in a 500-meters and 2000-meters race, include recovery tips

3. Develop the plan

Having a plan will help reduce anxiety on race day. Will your child sprint all out first and then settle into a steady pace? How much time will be spent in practice working on improving erg scores? Clear all none-practice workouts with the coach. No reason to over do it. Regular rowing will improve erg times.

Race-day preparation

1. Get an early start

Arrive at your race location at least an hour before your race. You’ll need time to locate the schedule and find out how much time your has between races. Make sure they nail down the logistics such as where are restrooms, the team tent, warm-up and cool down areas.

2. Snack right

If your child is part of a school or club team, nutritional snacks are probably provided. However, make sure resist the urge to “graze” among friends. Munching on snacks and hanging out with friends is a comfortable pastime for many teens. However, over-eating before an erg sprint can yield some yucky results.

3. Hydrate

Be sure your child stays hydrated before, after and in between races. They will want to avoid caffeinated drinks. It’s not uncommon for athletes to vomit after a race. Don’t be alarmed mom and dad. Just make sure your rower replenishes lost fluids and electrolytes. 

During the race

1. Stick with the plan

Your child has gone over the plan with a coach. Encourage them to stick with the plan during the race. Help them to develop a personal mantra, such as “steady strok’n” or “pull baby pull.” The key is for them to stick with the plan regardless of what is happening around them.

2. Tune out the noise

There will be screaming, moaning and shouting during erg sprints. Even if a coach holds mock sprints in practice, nothing duplicates the intensity and noise level at actual competition. Young rowers must fight the distractions and focus on the task at hand.

3. Change gears

It’s important that children understand their bodies enough to know when they can kick it up a notch. If closing in on a goal, it’s OK for children to push themselves harder.

Post-race positives

Whether they win a race or finish last, congratulate your child on having survived erg sprints. Point out that this will be one of many. Acknowledge their hard work and listen to their assessment as to what worked or went wrong. Allow the coach to offer his feedback.

During the post-race trip home or celebratory dinner, pile on the praise and encourage. Then keep the race in perspective. This way they understand that whatever happened during the race, it’s part of a process and alone, does not determine rowing success or failure.

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RELATED: Youth Rowing: 6 good reasons to get your girl in a boat

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett Follow

The bumper sticker on her car says it best: I don't have a life. My kid does crew. Besi... View Full Bio

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