Peter Ford for Men's and Overall Captain
Proposed: Ming-Chee Chung (Captain and M1, M2 coach (07-08); Mays headship cox)
Seconded: Tom O'Neill (Former LBC, Rower in M5, M3, M2 and M1)
From my experience rowing and coaching in the men's squads for the last two years, I believe that to be successful as a captain, it is necessary to find a balance between leader and facilitator, decisiveness and delegation. I intend to make as much use as possible of the large number of experienced rowers, coxes and coaches to advise my decision making.
The main points I would like to focus on in my year as captain are:
- Much more work in small boats, particularly for the top 6-10 members of the men's squad, and particularly in Mich term.
- More on water testing, and where possible, more continuous testing.
- Ensure members 9-13 of the squad who are keen are helped to develop, without damaging the performance of the first and second eights.
- Ensure M1 and M2 are dealt with as different crews with different needs, while continuing to enable easy movement of individuals between the crews. More generally, ensure everyone receives coaching appropriate to their needs and goals.
I feel it is important that the club is structured in such a way as to allow people to work towards their own aims with their own commitment levels whenever possible, rather than seeing it as our job to hunt out people to do the rowing we want them to. Ways in which this should be manifested include:
- Making sure individuals have regular meetings with the captain/lower boats captains, so that wrong assumptions are not made about desired commitment levels and goals.
- Making sure it is well publicised what the commitment level of a particular crew will be, which races they plan to attend.
I believe ensuring that everyone's time with the boatclub is enjoyable and fulfilling is an important part of the duties of the committee, and I feel that nothing much needs to change on this front. However, the lack of contact between the men's and women's sides of our own boatclub is somewhat disappointing. I would therefore work with the Women's Captain and the KSS to propose whole club socials, probably not in a rowing setting, and not necessarily involving vast quantities of alcohol.
Next year the captain will be in the very fortunate position of having 3 former captains of the boat club still at Trinity, (all of whom I have a good working relationship with) and I intend to make use of their experience to assist my decision making. In addition, Tom Rose has told me he is keen to continue coaching, conditioned on him still being in Cambridge and still having flexible working hours. If not, I would still seek advice from Tom and JPD, and get other bufties keen to coach for a week at a time, combining with Iain as Head Coach to form a strong coaching team. On the subject of Iain, my relationship with him has wandered via arguing and back to a more friendly dynamic, so I hope I would be able to form a productive working agreement with him.
I started rowing 6.5 years ago to get away from the rugby I was far too incompetent to enjoy, and have never looked back. Since that first fateful scratch fours outing a week before the rest of the freshers had even arrived, I have rowed for First and Third every term, as well as helping out with coaching and coxing (the latter with varying degrees of success...). I have rowed in M1, 2 and 3, and coached various men's and women's boats, so I hope that I am a familiar face to most current members of First and Third.
So why me?
- I have demonstrated my commitment to the long-term success of the club by taking an active part in rowing throughout my time here.
- I have substantial experience of rowing in both M1 and M2, so I have a good understanding of the different challenges faced by both crews, in all three terms.
- My time as an LBC this year has educated me in the workings of the club's committee, and filled out some of the gaps in my experience with plenty of time coaching novices and lower boats.
Lower boats and Novices
The training of the lower boats is primarily the role of the LBCs; however, I have a few points to make here, mostly concerning integration of novices into senior boats later in the year.
- The first would concern the training camp; I think it would be extremely valuable to get novices to residential training camps, both in terms of rapid development of their rowing and rapidly bringing them into the social mainstream of the club.
- Another important thing to improve on is keeping track of people who have rowed in the past, and might become keen again. Possibly some sort of database could be created, or added to the website, with details of people's current academic situation (year and subject).
- If, as seems possible, the LBCs are relatively inexperienced, I will ensure they get plenty of guidance from appropriate people. I will work to coordinate sharing of coaches between upper and lower boats squads.
First, what I believe should be the aims of the men's upper boats squad:
The development of the fitness, athletic ability, and rowing skill of all the individuals involved, as an aim separate to the formation of crews and preparation for specific races. In particular, it is easy to fall into the trap of concentrating on the last members of a crew; there is no reason why the very top members of the squad should receive any less support and coaching than the 8th or 16th members.
The continuation of the success of First and Third crews both within the college bubble and in a wider arena. In particular, while talented individuals should be encouraged to trial for the university crews, if they wish to remain within the structure of college rowing, we should provide the platform from which to compete at whatever level they wish. However, the primary competitive aims of the majority of the club will remain the Lent and May Bumps, and, particularly for the novice crews, Fairbairns. Assuming individuals in the squad are keen (likely to be primarily the first eight), I believe the following events would be worthwhile occasions to test our speed at a national level:
- Head of the River Fours
- Head of the River Eights
- BUCS regatta (Assuming this takes place similarly to this year, I feel it might be worth sending the HOR8s crew to this, before the integration of university rowers back into the squad takes place)
- Dorney regattas
In the case that there are at least 8 rowers keen to be competitive on a national level, the main focuses of the terms would be similar to this year:
- Development of individual fitness and technique in Mich term;
- Strong performance at the HORR, while ensuring the crew is set early enough that the speed is there to retain the Lents headship;
- Dual aims of retaining(hopefully) the Mays headship and producing a competitive crew for Henley, if personnel allow.
Good, committed coxes are always critical to the success of the boat club, and I would work with the coxing captain to ensure that coxes we have are well supported, and that we develop new coxes. I would encourage the involvement of our more senior coxes in the coaching team, particularly during periods when much small boats work is taking place. Specifics of support and development could include: Feedback sessions with Rebecca Dowbiggin, trips to the Tideway to prepare for the HORRs, and organised video analysis sessions (either with or without the rowers present).
I believe I have the extra attributes necessary to be a successful overall captain; I have some experience of coaching women's crews, (including one unexpected outing rowing in W1), and I have good relationships with either of the candidates for women's captain. I hope through this I can continue the upward trend in terms of communication and cooperation between the two halves of the boatclub.
I realise the vital importance of sponsorship to the success of the boatclub, and will encourage all members of the boatclub to try to use their contacts to secure sponsorship (if this has not been done by the end of this year), and then supervise the cementing of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with the sponsor.
Finally, I have a good relationship with our currently particularly active bufties, and will make contact with as many other of the active group as I can on attaining the captaincy. I feel that it would be very foolish to let any of the experience, keenness and helpfulness of these people slip away from the club.
A few notes about myself:
This year I have also done rather more coaching of lower boats as a member of the team of LBCs. This, along with running the STCS sculling race and acting as crew captain for M2 this term, has given me some insight into the organisational and people skills required to be a successful captain, and I believe I am well placed to find the necessary combination of leader and facilitator to assist performance and enjoyment for all members of First and Third.
Although I will be known to some of you as a busy person, taking part in a variety of esoteric activities, I am willing and able to put some of these on hold should I be short of time as captain. In any case, I'm a mathmo, so don't really need to do any work...
Some people might be concerned about electing me as captain because, as mentioned above, I seem to frequently be in contested seats, and this could conflict with my role in selecting crews. However, this has in fact meant I have been intimately aware of the rationale and methodology of selection in the club in the last two years. In addition, I have always suggested what I considered to be in the best interests of the club and the crew, including having to turn down the offer of a row in last summer's Mays M1 because I felt the crew would be faster without me.
In any case, if and when I am in a contested seat I will ensure I continue to act in the best interests of the crew, rather than mine, and take plenty of advice from coaches.
Details of upper boats training ideas:
I have numerous thoughts on the organisation of training for the upper boats, but first wish to temper them with the following two points:
Detailed planning can only be done with knowledge of the rowers involved in upper boats training; the following ideas are based on the assumption that the composition of the squad in terms of experience and skill will be similar to the last two years.
I hope that I will be able to enlist the support of both Iain the boatman and various bufties, notably Tom Rose, to perform the bulk of the coaching of the upper boats. If this is the case, then I expect to utilise their experience and knowledge to inform the organisation of training, so this may also affect my plans.
In the last two years, it has disappointed me that selection has focussed a lot on ergo times. Particularly with such a broad range of experiences present in a boat club, when comparing two rowers who have rowed for 15 months and 10 years performances on an ergo are far from being the only relevant factor.
I would therefore like to try to bring into the training continuous on-water assessment, as far as that is possible and sensible in the particular environment of a college boat club. This would consist of full sets of seat racing (ie with the aim of starting the Lent and May terms with a good idea of the relative performance of all of the top 10 of the squad in fours), and of timing of pieces in training, including at low rates. Depending on the skill level of the squad, this would ideally include timed pieces in pairs and singles. Competitive training can be very enjoyable, and should drive the fitness and skill of the squad onwards.
This leads onto the other substantial change I would like to make in the way the upper boats train. I believe some of the difficulties currently seen in making technical improvements, in forming crews and in moving on as a squad can find some of their roots in the extreme lack of small boats work in the men's squad. I would therefore like to instigate a substantial increase in the use of the singles and pairs in the training scheme, year round.
In particular, I feel the development of the squad as a whole in Mich term can be effectively achieved by running two sets of training concurrently.
Some of the outings in a given week can be in mixed ability eights and fours, with the emphasis on individual technical development; lots of rowing in sixes and pairs within these boats should help to prevent frustration amongst the top end of the squad, and ensure all can improve on a stable platform.
The other outings would then be in singles, pairs and fours for the top end of the squad, with fours for the lower half of the squad, with the intention to keep some continuity in these crews and race them, possibly off-Cam (Scullers/Pairs Heads?). 2 or 3 set crews would then be formed for Uni Fours before racing at HOR4s, and then jump into the eight for the last fortnight to prepare for Fairbairns. The above plan is particularly dependent on the exact personnel training.
Throughout the year, a priority has to be to develop members 9-13 of the squad; this year there has often been a huge gulf in technical ability between the bottom of M1 and the top half of M2, and this is a dangerous situation to continue. Of the 10 college rowers who have raced (in major races) in M1 this year, 5 could be leaving or have left by next summer, and it's currently unclear where their replacements would come from if our current elevated levels of performance are to be maintained.
Finally, I would plan to run training camps of roughly a week's duration before each term, with the January camp hopefully in warmer climes, quite possibly returning to Seville. This would hopefully involve a substantial proportion of the active members of the club, helping to integrate the novices into the senior squad both socially and in terms of rowing. The April camp would probably be either on Cam or at a host club somewhere else in England, involving both small boats training and potentially a day of seat racing.