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Leadership by Stepping Away

I tried something different as I prepared for this year. Like most of us, I evaluate our year at the conclusion of our spring racing season. Last year we made great progress on the technical component of our rowing. What we needed to improve on was the physiological component of our rowing. Really, it was the training component. Neither team (men or women) felt energized at their respective conference championship (women) or national championship (men). As most of you would probably do, I take the blame for that.

I could say we just need better physiological specimens or that they just weren’t working hard enough. That would be a cop out. As Taylor Swift would say, “Hi, it’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me.” At least that’s what my women’s team tell me she says.

So, what did I do? I took myself out of the equation. First, I asked my assistant coaches to revamp our warm-up and cool-down sessions. They are both good coaches and know what they are doing. I made the decision that this year we are going to focus more on the targets our athletes should be hitting. Each of the coaches individually came up with a plan on how to do that and what those numbers would be. Each coach presented their plan to the other two and we each picked apart the plan, the logic, and the feasibility. I was then able to blend components of all three plans into one that is logical and feasible. Now, the plan we present to the team has threads from all three of us and we all know the logic behind the plan and can explain it to anyone that asks (we all have that one athlete).

The hardest part? We really have to see this all the way through to the end of next spring to know if we were successful. Winning will certainly be one measure, but there will be many different components to how we measure our success this year. One way that I expect we will be successful is that each of my assistant coaches have direct say in how we’re moving forward. That gives them first-hand experience and sets them up to be successful in the future.

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