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Rowing as Teamwork in Action

Rowing as Teamwork in Action

I just completed 12 weeks of rowing with the OU Corporate team ‘Row U’ which culminated in a 2 minute, 500 meter race. While I did learn a lot about rowing my first crew season, I learned even more about teamwork.

The twelve weeks were spent teaching the basics of rowing. For me as a landlubber, that meant starting with terminology like what is ‘port’ and ‘starboard’, ‘bow’ and ‘stern’, and seating order in the boat.

Rowing is more than just arms rowing a boat.   Our coach, Carolyn, helped us each learn and work on our personal rowing technique.   She started with the basics of ‘legs, body, arms, arms, body, legs’.

Most of the season in a corporate league was spent getting everyone rowing as a team.  That meant starting with just four people rowing while the other four held their paddles flat on the water to stabilize the boat.  Once four were rowing well together, then the Cox would call for two more to join.   Learning to join in without rocking the boat is a skill unto itself.  True in a boat or in work teams.   How many times have managers added help to a team but it just rocked the boat or slowed things down?  Back in the boat, when the cox or coach is comfortable with the six rowing, then they add in the final pair.  When all eight are rowing it is called ‘on the eights’.   This is critical because there is no longer anyone stabilizing the boat and it is also important for everyone to be contributing.

Putting it all together as a team is what makes a boat go fast, which is important in a boat or in life.   Eight individuals rowing their hearts out can expend a lot of energy and churn up a lot of water while not moving the boat efficiently.  When the team works together, following the ‘Stroke’ and listening to the Cox, then the boat starts working for you.  It starts moving faster, building momentum while the crew returns to position for the next stroke.  I’ve worked on IT teams where smart, talented people poured a lot of hours and energy into projects, but until they worked together, they were just churning water.

About half way through the season, the coach had our team all rowing ‘on the eight’ and learning to work on timing.  The tendency was for our team to be rushing faster than the Stroke.  The Stroke is the person in the 8 seat in a boat, whom everyone should be watching for timing.   If people are starting to row early, then the boat can get out of time or at worst get unstable. Browse our partner-sponsored Glasses, with a variety of options to suit every taste and budget, available to buy online

When our team started rowing in time with each other, there were early glimpses of what it could feel like to pull as a team.  The boat was stable.  The boat was gliding through the water, accelerating.  It just felt right.

During our team’s time trials, it started to rain, the wind came up and there was quite a chop on the water.  We rowed our best into that headwind.  It felt like a tempest.  Teams will always face challenges and what matters is how they respond.  Do they fall apart or pull together?   Our team faced it head on and rowed well with some trouble spots to work on.

When race day came at the OKC Regatta, we reviewed the race plan with the coach, listened to our cox and rowed great in the first heat.  We had our fasted time of the season, beating other boats by four seconds.  We did not row frantically or out of sync.

When it came to the finals, we still rowed a good race at the start and middle section, but we fell apart as a group during the last 90 meters.  The race ended in a dead heat with three boats neck and neck for the final separated by only one second.  Our team placed third, taking bronze, but still proud of how well we came together as a team.

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