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Coaches Corner - March 2013

posted Mar 24, 2013, 1:38 PM by ha ly
Kris Korzeniowski is a legend in rowing circles. A multi-medal winning coach of several national teams, we were excited to have him come work with our rowers and coaches this past weekend. Kris spent 4 sessions out on the water with 3 different boats Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, he went out with the Men’s Varsity 8, and I’ve been told that Bill didn’t even get through the warm up before Kris was ready to take control of their practice.  He told Bill, “That’s not bad. I have a clear vision of what you’re trying to get them to do” and then asked if he could take over. What followed were drills, or more specifically one drill—rowing legs and body only for an hour and a half, according to Bill.
Most of the TJ coaching staff had dinner with Kris on Friday night after he had been out on the water with the Men’s 1V—a working dinner where we got to pick his brain. We watched videos and discussed drills and philosophies of the stroke. I’m sure we each had moments that were affirming—“Sweet, I totally do that already!” —and moments that were eye-opening— “I never thought of that, but it’s a good idea.” —and moments that threw us off completely— “I can’t do that! I always thought that would create bad habits.” I know I did. And I think we all came away from the experience with some new ideas.
Saturday, Kris went out with the Men’s 1V again in the early session. Alex was able to ride along to observe practice and learn from Kris. Bill reports that the positive changes from Friday’s practice were already showing in his boat. 
Next, Kris went out with Matt and the Women’s 1V, and while he described Matt’s boats as “well coached,” he was still ready to run practice before long. The Varsity Women had to stop “chopping” at the water. They needed a quiet catch and a quiet release. They needed to bend the oar and hold the bend through the stroke.
Finally, Kris came out with the Women’s Freshmen 8 and me. He had already been on the water for four hours by that time, and he worried that the novices might be at such basic level that he wouldn’t have anything to offer them. He suggested we do a short loop on the river so he could watch, and then I could drop him off on the dock and continue my practice. But Kris loves to teach the rowing stroke.  So while my girls received their first compliment quickly—that he “had expected much worse”—and he was willing to just watch, while occasionally commenting to me, during their warm up, when we started to row at pressure, Kris soon found he had plenty to tell the novices. He went through several drills with them, hammering a point and repeating a single stroke until it clicked, and celebrating with them when it did. We made another loop and started yet another before I pointed out that the rowers had to go home. Kris likely could have continued for hours.
After the sessions, I was wondered if the limited and repetitive nature of the drill work had driven some of the kids crazy, but the all the rowers, varsity and novice, had a great time. Some received praise. Many received criticism. But even the rowers who didn’t get through a full stroke before Kris stopped them to make corrections didn’t seem to mind. They were excited about what they were learning. All the boats came off the water feeling the changes they had made and with a better understanding of how to create speed. 

-- Coach Kim