Saturday, November 25, 2006

Erg Backlash?

Could we be seeing an erg backlash? Doubtful (old habits die hard), but it was interesting to see the Dr. Rowing column in Rowing News challenge coaches to "unbias" themselves from the erg. The column was prompted by a father who wrote wondering why his son, an accomplished high school rower, was unable to make an erg boat this fall in college. Whatever the specifics of that case may be, Dr. Rowing lays down a challenge to coaches everywhere - run winter training and the spring season normally, but never look at erg scores. Set the boat based entirely on seat racing.

Andy Anderson (Dr. Rowing) relates a tale of two ergs - Matthias Siejkowski, the 2k world record holder, and Rob Waddell, whose record he broke. Siejkowski is a "renowned anchor," who has never rowed in a fast boat. Waddell won the Olympic single in 2000. The two fastest ergs of all time and one makes boats slow while the other makes boats fast. Anderson echoes FITD when he says that the erg "may be the worst thing to have happened to the coaching profession."

Anderson promises some ink to any coach who takes him up on his challenge. Of course, the dependence on the erg makes one wonder if seat racing is a lost art. Can coaches still run seat races in a way that never allows rowers to know when they are being seat raced until it's too late? We know rowing is all about making boats go fast, but it's so easy to believe that's the same thing as making a 2k go by fast on an erg. Why seat race your biggest erg? She'll beat everyone, right? Ask Matthias Siejkowski's coaches.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that this erg challenge appeared in the pages of Rowing News. Rowing News is typically a mouthpiece for the rowing establishment so an erg backlash there may mean more to come.

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alpha said...

I am currently rowing in a predominantly windy city. As such, off-water training is very important and exercise as specific to rowing as sitting on an erg is important.

Though this situation really provides the ideal environment for people with good ergs and bad boat speed. But in other environments, where people can row, an ergometer can help coaches and crew establish the fitness of the crew. But this is all an erg can do, alternatively racing and training also shows fitness, but contains more variables (combinations, other rowers, technical compatibility, weather and competition calibre).

I think as a rule of thumb, just because someone has a good erg, it doesn't mean that they are a good rower. And a good rower doesn't need a good erg - but if someone happens to be a reasonable rower and has an average erg, then they should consider how they can go about improving their erg fitness. And not necessarily on the erg - if they can get on the water more.

Anonymous said...

my experiences with crew selection is that coach's tend to select from a combination of seat racing ability and erg ability either 2k or 5k. this approach to me seems stupid. my reasoning is that seat racing is the closest replication of a race scenario, it combines most aspects of what is required to win races (fitness, strength, technique, ability to row with crew and so on), but by also using erg scores for selection you have again tested for fitness and strength which was already tested for in the seat racing. so a rower whos strong point is strength/fitness gets the advantage.

also i would like to point out that erg rowing is also technical. there are ways to cheat them which don't work on the water. for example you can row 40 seconds on and 10 secs off and produce better 2k scores than what can be done rowing a steady pace, also by jerking the catch one can improve their score.