RSR College Blog Series - A DIII Perspective: "Reach over to the girl next to you"

A RSR Alumna who is currently rowing DIII read my previous post, "Try Not to Be Afraid of Failure" - an interview with another RSR Alumna also racing DIII and wanted to give another perspective. I am grateful for her time and happy to share it with you all. I hope it will help the thousands of you who are currently thinking about collegiate rowing. 

Holly: What has the culture been like at your program?

Athlete: Coming into this school I didn’t know what to expect. We had been turning up great results at NCAAs for the past few years, but it is also a DIII school and I did not know what that combination had in store for me. Turns out - it's the best of both worlds. The women I am with are infinitely more supportive and uplifting than any other team I have been a part of. Everyone is in the erg pit pulling together or in lift spotting for one another. We have a practice of doing shoutouts at the end of each practice/workout and to be able to sit back and hear your teammate tell the whole team that she noticed you were working super hard on a tiny technical change is a wonderful feeling. To be able to tell your teammate that you succeeded in a workout because she was there next to you is wonderful as well. It is a culture of extreme hard work and competition, yet immense kindness and support.

Holly: What have you learned about college rowing?

Athlete: I have learned that even though people tell you it's academics first, athletics second, you cannot help but feel you are there as an athlete. My school is hard. I think I worked harder my first semester of college than I did my entire senior year in high school. That being said, I was spending even more time with crew related activities. Right now I am waking up at 4:30AM for practice, finishing practice at 8:00, eating breakfast and showering, going to class from 9:50-12:20, eating lunch, going to work from 1-3, then I go to the training room and do my workout - I probably don’t leave until 5 (since I have to do a secondary), and from there it's dinner and homework and getting my butt to bed by 9pm. This means on any given weekday I am doing crew related activities for 5.5 hours and school related work (this includes going to class) for 5.5 hours a day. The other hours of my day are spent at work, eating, showering, or maybe cleaning my room. I’ve learned that rowing is my main identity at college.

Holly: What have you learned about YOU?

Athlete: I have learned how to push my body and my mind like I never have before. This was the first time that I felt like I owed it to my team to work my hardest. We have a saying “Reach over to the girl next to you.” I’ve learned that this has really impacted how I mentally approach training. I also learned that when I make a good goal for myself I am much better at hitting goal numbers than just going out and pulling my hardest. I learned how to develop goals with RSR and I am very grateful for that.  

Holly: What are you most excited about this spring?

Athlete: We have been working so hard every morning getting faster together on the erg and I cannot wait to see how it transfers to the water. I used to think that if my team does well in any race, for instance hopefully a national championship, that it is only the women racing who won the race. I’ve learned that anyone can sit in any seat in any boat and we have all pushed each other to become the best athletes we can be. It is really a shared win.

Holly: How did you decide on your school/program? Was there anything you wish you had done differently?

Athlete: I did a great job of visiting lots of different types of programs early on (starting freshman year). I wish that I had done more overnights. I didn’t have that opportunity because I had a rather tight schedule, but if you can swing it time-wise and financially, I highly recommend doing overnights. I decided on my school by looking at schools I was interested in academically first, and then looked at crew programs. At the end of the day, if you have a career ending injury you need to make sure you like the school.  

Holly: What advice would you give other high school athletes about college rowing?

Athlete: It seems really scary right before you go into it, but know that whether you are a recruit or a walk on there are other people going through the same transitions. You have people to rely on and coaches aren’t expecting you to perform at your 100% best the first day you walk in. They are, however, expecting you to GIVE your 100% best.

Holly: What about advice you would give them about the recruiting process?

Athlete: Reach out to people and talk. Email coaches, schedule phone calls, and reach out to athletes. Do the work on your end and you should see results. Know the loopholes. Yes, coaches can’t contact you until junior year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to coaches. I suggest emailing a coach and say, “Hello Coach X! I would love to give you a call next Tuesday at 3pm.” They can’t call you back if they miss you, but they can try to plan to pick up the phone.

Holly: What did you learn from RSR?

Athlete: I mentioned before, but learning effective goal setting has been something I’ve used a lot in college so far. We do mental training and meditation on my team, but having done it already with Holly helped me use these times more effectively since I already knew what worked for me.

To All the Shorter Athletes Out There...

I cannot tell you how often I get emails or questions from the "shorter" athletes out there asking me what they need to do to be competitive. So let's set the record straight. 

First, height is obviously a huge advantage in rowing. It just is. If you are "shorter" you physically cannot get as much leverage as someone who is just as flexible as you, with the same wing span who is taller than you. The "longer" your stroke, the more leverage you have and the more you can move the boat. That said, you have to be in a powerful position at the catch to initiate that drive (ie. not over compressed and strong enough to take that load). Sometimes, at the junior level, junior women are tall but not strong enough for their length and so they are not fast *yet* because they are not physically strong enough for their full compression load. 

Great Holly, what does that mean? 

If you are "shorter" - in college at a nationally competitive program this is shorter than 5'9" - then you have to work with what you've got. Focus your energy on your "controllables" since you aren't going to be able to grow 3-4 inches with effort. What are your "controllables?"

1. Power and Fitness. You have to be the strongest and fittest you can be. Be a beast in that weight room. Make sure that you are doing more weight (under close supervision) and doing more reps than everyone else. Quadzilla with the core strength of a giant redwood. Work on your fitness so that you can go longer and at a higher rate on the erg than your competitors. You will not be able to beat taller athletes if you are out of shape. Obviously train smart - with coach supervision and guidance. You cannot compete if you injure yourself so be sure you are getting stronger and fitter every day while being intentional with your training. 

2. Flexibility. You MUST have excellent hamstring, hip and achilles/ankle flexibility. You must be able to maximize all the length you can get. And since you are STRONG, when you get fully compressed out over that gunnel, you are strong enough to move the boat from there and your core is strong enough to support your body and reduce the chance of injury. 

3. Attitude and Dedication. You need to be "Old Faithful" for your teammates and coaching staff. You are never late, never complaining, and always supporting your teammates. And you always DO THE WORK. Make sure that you leave school and academic drama out of the boathouse and you are the last to get sucked into all of that nonsense on your team. Worry about yourself, do not judge your teammates or their efforts - that is the coach's job. Your job is to give 100% effort with a positive attitude every day, making whatever boat you are in that day, go as fast it can. This is the essence of "Love the Fight" at RSR - you have to love and dedicate yourself to EVERY part of the PROCESS - not the end result. The ups and downs of training, not just race day or medals. Fully appreciate the effort which has inevitable discomfort, but also the satisfaction of knowing that you are giving your all and holding nothing back. Put it all out there - and you will know that you are growing - that you are pushing outside your comfort zone every day to get stronger, tougher and more resilient. This is what true growth looks like. 

4. Mental Toughness. If you don't have a mental game- get one. Come train with us if you don't have one. Every athlete needs to have one, no matter your height, but especially shorter athletes. You must develop your process to prepare for practice, not just erg tests or races. Grit is trainable - it is like a muscle and your ability to focus on the most important thing at any given time, is how you become mentally tougher than your competitors. You need to train yourself to be a racer who is ready to go at any point in time. You need to be frothing at the mouth to race and be prepared to give more than your competition when your coxswain asks it of you. This is why we coach a MACRO Compass and MICRO Compass for our athletes and we use the SEE Framework for execution - SEEK Challenge, Expect Discomfort, Embrace Work. 

For all those curious or seeking to row in college these are four skills/attributes that you will need to compete at that level. 

In the above picture, that is me in 2001 at the NCAA Championship. I was a Senior at Harvard rowing the Varsity Heavyweight 8+ with, then freshman, Caryn Davies who went on to stroke two Olympic women's 8+ to gold medals. She's 6'4 and I am 5'6.

You can do it - but you have to be prepared to give your all to be the strongest, fittest, most flexible and toughest that you can be.  

Brave Enough to Want It

THEY DID IT! The first Olympic Gold Medal for the USA in nordic skiing! A fantastic performance along with amazing honesty and vulnerability about the work, preparation and mental grit and fortitude required to get there. Jessie admitted the undeniable - that "failure" is right there - but so is the greatest opportunity. She was just knocking on the door. 

Please take a few moments to read her own words HERE

Just a few of my favorites from her article:

Why do we push you to set goals at RSR? To write them down and say them out loud...? 

"It can be incredibly hard, goal setting. It takes guts to admit that you want something so badly it hurts, and then put everything you have towards getting it. It stings when you don’t get what you want. It can be overwhelming when you DO get it. And sometimes it scares me when I realize just how much of my being I’ve committed to this crazy sport that I love." 

Because at RSR we want you to be accountable and be brave in the face of fear stepping outside your comfort zones.

"I want to know that I was brave enough to want it."

In rowing, it's not about talent - it's all about hard work. Seek Challenge - Expect Discomfort - Embrace Work. 

"Because there are no secrets in this sport, only hard work. Hard work in training. Hard work in being a good teammate. Hard work in recovery. Hard work in fierce positivity. And hard work in keeping alive that ridiculous optimism!"

Why do we teach and coach emotional management? 

"At the end of my career, what will matter most will not be the results I had or how I celebrated, but the friends I made and the kind of person I was moments after a really bad race...To recognize that while someone always has the best day, someone else had the worst day, and to not let your attitude hours after the race reflect how you performed."

Why do we ask you to define "success" at RSR? It's not about the MEDALS...remember - the goal is to shake the hand of your competitors knowing that you gave your best effort, as did they, and as a result of those efforts, you both gave more. 

"When I cross the finish line, be able to look back and honestly say I gave it everything that I had...The one thing I CAN control, however, is showing up to that start line knowing that I’ve done everything in my power to be ready to go." 

And after the do you know? As your coach, I don't tell you, but YOU know.

"So for me, success at the Games will be decided in those moments after I cross the finish line; lungs burning, legs on fire, lactic acid making me want to throw up. When I’m lying in the snow, that’s when I take my 10 seconds to think back on the race and decide if I had “success” or not – meaning, if I dug deeper than I thought possible, raced with courage, and held nothing back. If I can finish my races and know that I did that, I will have found success."

And at RSR - why is it all about ATTITUDE and EFFORT? Not just because that is what you control but also, those are the life-skills that are fully transferable and in my opinion, the most important. 

"the one thing that’s never been said to me is “gee, if only you’d TRIED HARDER”. And I’m proud of that. I know how to suffer, and I know how to dig deep into the pain cave. In time, I’ll clean up my technique. I’ll keep getting better at mid-race strategy. I’ll figure out how to stop my hyper flexible elbows from freaking everyone out. But from day one, I’ve known how to push past my limits, and race with guts. That’s one of my biggest goals at the Games…to race like I’ve got nothing to lose. And I’m going to swing for the fences."

And perhaps, the most IMPORTANT goal she states? HAVE FUN! 

Many congratulations to Jessie and Kikkan - thank you for your honesty, your effort and spirit and thank you for being amazing role models for all of us especially the young girls watching you. Thank you. 


RSR College Blog Series - "Try not to be afraid of failure"

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with an RSR Alumna who is currently rowing DIII. She confided in me that her time there has been hard. Although she loves the school, she has a hard time on the team. This is not the first time that I have had a tough conversation like this and as one of her former coaches and someone who cares about her welfare I listened and we brainstormed together about what she could do. I asked her what made her time there so difficult...

Athlete: I think when I got to school it was a sharp reality check that I was actually on my own. College is the real world- well, the real world before the real world. I had gone far away from home and it felt really far away from home. It wasn't until after Finals Week when I returned to school that it felt more comfortable to me, like I was coming home (at the school). 

Holly: Tell me about your experience on the team? 

Athlete: Our team is super small and we just had a few athletes quit so it's really hard. Bringing athletes together from different programs is harder than it looks. RSR actually prepared me a bit since we were all from different teams and you had to bring us together quickly to make ONE new team. This is the same in college since everyone comes from different high school programs. It registered quickly and I knew that it would require all of us to adapt to each other but it's hard.  

Holly: What have you learned? 

Athlete: To not be so afraid to represent what you believe in. It's OK to stand out in your own way. I can be who I am. 

Holly: And what did you learn from RSR? 

Athlete: To take risks and not be afraid to face fear and to then work to manage that fear. You can take risks and I find myself saying to myself all the time "Just DO it" and then I do it. I will ask myself all the time, "Why am I stressing over this? I've done it before and I just have to do it again. Just do it." 

Holly: What's the advice you would give to high school rowers? 

Athlete: If you are questioning whether you can't do something, I think you definitely can. You shouldn't be afraid to fail because at some point you will. I know I have and if I hadn't then I wouldn't approach things the same way that I do now. 

Holly: I know that you are frustrated with your program - what's the advice you would high school athletes about college recruiting? Or what do you wish you had done differently? 

Athlete: I didn't look closely at all the Divisions and I feel like I downgraded myself. I thought this program would be more competitive but I also didn't realized that I really LIKE the stiff competition and the demanding nature. I feel like the Coach sold me on the place - made it sound so great which it could be, but I got so caught up in things like moving away from home. I am not sure that I looked really critically at the program and I definitely didn't take the time to evaluate the bad stuff with the program. 

Holly: Did you assume you couldn't handle a competitive program? 

Athlete: Yes. But I definitely think I could handle it now.

This interview was hard for me because as a Coach you obviously want all of your athletes to be super happy with their program but EVERY program has growing pains and they all have great things and then not-so-great things. It is important you try your best to figure out what those are- AND it's important to remember that college coaches, especially recruiting coordinators ARE sales people. Their job is to sell you on their program. You too are a sales person by the way. You are selling YOURSELF to the coaches and the admissions department...You just have to remember that. 

RSR College Blog Series - "Trust the Work."

Holly: Tell me what has been the greatest challenge for you in the last few months? 

Athlete: Time management and deadlines. No one reminds you of your deadlines. You have to do it all for yourself and if you have some classes online it's even harder to remember. 

Holly: Tell me about the culture on your team? 

Athlete: I LOVE IT. I am so glad that I chose it. There is a very high level of accountability. The coaches do not force you, but everyone shows up and puts in 110%. It's understood that you are going to go that extra mile. Everyone is friendly and happy. 

Holly: Tell me about a Day in the Life for you? 

Athlete: My alarm goes off at 5:30am Monday-Saturday. 


Athlete: Yes, Saturday too. We row 6:30-8:30am every day and then M, W, F we lift 9-10am. Tuesday and Thursdays we practice in the afternoon running either the stadium or a 5.5 mile run. And then we have one OYO erg workout to get in during the week. 

Holly: Are you getting faster? 

Athlete: Yes! I PRd my 6K last week. 

Holly: What are you most excited about moving forward? 

Athlete: I am excited to race and have the chance to make it into a boat. I am excited to seatrace and then compete with whatever boat I make it into. And there are some academic classes that I am looking forward to. 

Holly: How did you pick your school? 

Athlete: First, I knew what I wanted to study so that helped filter the schools. Then I loved the coaches and the culture on the team. And I thought the campus was beautiful and I could see myself being very happy here. 

Holly: Was there anything you learned last year that has helped you now that you are rowing in college. 

Athlete: Absolutely. I really built up confidence in my last high school year. I learned how to accurately and confidently present myself which then helped when I started on a new team. I am able to push my limits and get out of my comfort zone faster and earlier than some other people on the team. I also have more clarity on my goals and can voice those. I know myself better and what I want and I feel like if I didn't know myself or have the confidence it would have been much harder to find my place on the team. 

Holly: Had you ever thought about those things before? 

Athlete: No. The biggest concrete takeaway tool was the RSR micro-compass phrase: "What can I do TODAY?" and I use it athletically and academically. It helps me manage things better. What do I want to happen in this day? When you have a set back, injury, or you don't PR just ask yourself "What can I do TODAY" so that you can manage what is right in front of you. 

Holly: That is awesome and exactly right. What's the advice you would give current high school athletes? 

Athlete: If you want to row, make sure you evaluate using academic and athletic metrics. Do you like the coach? the team? If you are injured would you still enjoy the school? Pick some place that will make you happy. Don't just pick a label. A school could be technically ranked higher, but it may not be the best place for you.  It's not what others think you need - it's what you think you need. I went with my gut instinct when I visited a school. If it's important to YOU then it is important to the decision making process. Don't disclaim something because someone else thinks it's trivial. 

Holly: Awesome. If you could go back in time and tell yourself something (in 2015) what would it be? 

Athlete: Trust the reasons for why you do things and why things happen. If you are in a lineup, you deserve it. It's not trivial or a fluke. Trust the work. And believe in yourself that you can and will continue to do the work. Stop worrying and just work and it will come when it comes. 

Awesome advice. We are so proud of you!


RSR 2017 2K Clinic - A Summary

December 2017, RSR hosted 9 athletes from around the country who wanted to focus on erg efficiency, erg strategy and start to work on their mental fitness. After 8 hours of training and seminars on nutrition, 2K Race Plans, bravery and cognitive skills the girls all felt more prepared and less performance anxiety. We also had the privilege of hearing from two great guest speakers: Coach Linda Muri  former World Champion, Harvard lightweight men's coach and the coach of multiple National Team and U23 boats, along with CrossFit Games athletes, Whitney Gelin. Both athletes were open, vulnerable and real talking about their fear, how they handled that fear and what advice they have for balancing training and competition with a fulfilling life. 

The athletes self-reported the following after the 2K Clinic: 

  • 100% reported being very/extremely satisfied with the Clinic
  • 89% strongly feel more confident taking on challenges
  • 89% strongly feel braver
  • 89% strongly believe they now have tools to better manage performance anxiety
  • 89% strongly feel more confident regarding their next 2K test. 

Additionally- we experienced some great developments comparing Pre-Clinic Data (PRE) to Post-Clinic Data (POST): 

  • PRE: 78% said they would be "happier" with a faster erg time. There were NO athlete who selected "NO" when asked this question- meaning they all felt their erg time was an influence on their happiness.  
  • POST: 33% said they would be happier with a faster erg time and 11% said NO a faster erg time would not make them "happier"
    • Why is this important? Because at RSR we explain that what makes them HAPPY is actually understanding that they gave their best effort (and did the necessary preparation to get there) - it's not the TIME but the effort and reaching full potential in that moment. 
  • PRE: 4 athletes directly tied their personal identity to their race results and 3 athletes said NO they do not tie race results to their personal identity.
  • POST: Only 1 athlete still tied her personal identity to race results; 6 athletes now reported that their personal identity is NOT a function of race results.
    • This is CRITICAL - we want the athletes to know they are loved, have self worth and add tremendous value to the world and other people REGARDLESS of their performance. The PERFORMER does not equal PERFORMANCE. 
  • PRE: 56% of athlete reported they did not see how race results are out of their control.
  • POST: 100% of athletes reported they understand race results are out of their control.
    • This is a HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT in helping to reduce anxiety and improve performance - in rowing all you can control is how fast you go in your lane - there is no defense. So I teach athletes to only "worry" about what is directly under their control - and the "results" are only a function of how fast they go in their lane AND how fast their competitors go. Obviously, erg times are a bit different but this is how they should view on the water race results. 
  • PRE: Before the Clinic I asked the athletes how successful they felt they were in "quieting the negative voice" in their head. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being great):  1 athlete = 4 out of 5, 6 athletes = 3 out of 5,  1 athlete = 2 out of 5, 1 athlete = 1 out of 5. 
  • POST: 1 athlete reported 5 out of 5, 2 athletes = 4 out of 5, 5 athletes = 3 out of 5, 1 athlete = 2 out of 5 and ZERO athlete reported 1 out of 5.
    • This is great - it is incredibly difficult to do this and they need to continue practicing this skill or it atrophies just like every other muscle in the body. Each girl left the Clinic with a rough/draft framework for starting to change the script in her head. 


These are tremendous results and they should be very proud of the physical, mental and emotional effort they gave last week. It was a privilege to work with them and I look forward to coaching many more athletes in the future at a RSR 2K Clinic. And many thanks to Linda and Whitney for being tremendous role models and sharing your time with us!

Interested in bringing RSR to your team, school or club? Reach out to us HERE





RSR College Blog Series - "Just Chill Out"


I got to catch up with one of my former RSR athletes over break. 

The name and school of the athlete have been changed; I call the athlete "Lucy" and the school "University." 

Holly: Tell me about a day in the life at University?

Lucy: My alarm goes off 5 days a week at 5:20am and I drive several of the other girls to the boathouse. We row from 6-8:30am and then M, W, F we lift from 9-10am after the row. On Wednesday afternoons we do an afternoon practice and then Tu and Th from 11-12:15 we will do an erg (that is a University free period). We will usually do steady state or fartleks on the erg at that time. We will usually have 2-3 additional OYO erg workouts to do and then Saturdays we row on the water at 8am so I can sleep until 7:30am. We have Sundays off. 

Holly: Tell me about your team culture. 

Lucy: Everyone's fairly close to one another and we try to keep any drama out of the boathouse. We have good attitudes. There is rarely any grumbling and most people are upbeat and have fun. 

Holly: What are you most excited about for this spring?

Lucy: I am really excited to race this spring. Academically everything is going great. It's challenging, but you find the time to do your work. 

Holly: When do you find the time to do your work? 

Lucy: I did most of my homework at night last year, but this year my schedule allows me to do a lot of it during the day. I am in bed by 10:30pm. 

Holly: What have you learned in your first 1 1/2 years? 

Lucy: There's always more you can do. You should not let yourself feel defeated - I can always do more - an extra workout, make a technical improvement. It's really constant improvement. You are never stuck at a certain point. When I was in high school I had some back problems and I remember thinking I was stuck there but now I know there are tons of different ways I can get faster. 

Holly: Was there anything you learned from me that has helped you through college? 

Lucy: Yes, definitely. First, the coaching and intensity of focus and effort working with you was higher and prepared me for what college rowing would be like. Also, the self awareness you taught and the writing you asked of me - we actually do that at University.

Holly: You do? When? 

Lucy: Most Saturdays we will write in our journal. They will ask a specific question like "What's the goal for this month?" or "What's the take away from this practice?" We don't share it with anyone like we did with you, but it's helpful that I had done some of that work before. 

Holly: What advice would you give current high school athletes? 

Lucy: Be sure you want to row. If you really love the sport, you will be fine. But if you are already saying "oh, I hate this" or "Oh I just don't want to go to practice" then you probably aren't going to like college rowing. I would also say try to make friends who are not rowers. Sometimes you will need to decompress with people who are not rowers. You don't want to think about rowing all the time. 

Holly: What about recruiting advice? 

Lucy: Be on top of responding to coaches. And on your officials, do not look at your phone all the time. I host athletes who are constantly looking at their phones and it tells me that they are not really interested. It's disrespectful. And the coaches will ask our opinion about recruits. 

Holly: If you could go back in time to your junior year in high school, what advice would you give yourself? 

Lucy: Don't be afraid of the erg. Because it's not going to kill you. 

Holly: Didn't I tell you that? Why were you terrified? 

Lucy: You did! But I was still so worried about those splits. Not pulling what I thought I should pull or disappointing coaches. Now, we hardly look at our splits- it's almost always just heart rate monitor work. I would tell myself to "chill out." 

Holly: Did you ever think you would be here? 

Lucy: At the end of my sophomore year if you had told me that I would be a DI athlete I would have said "No way!"

Well, you are Lucy and you are ripping it up! Great work. 

RSR Blog Series: Advice on College Rowing

A compilation of advice from RSR Alumnae currently rowing in college for high school athletes:

  • "If you want to row, make sure you evaluate using academic and athletic metrics when evaluating schools. Do you like the coach? the team? If you are injured would you still enjoy the school? Pick some place that will make you happy. Don't just pick a label. A school could be technically ranked higher, but it may not be the best place for you.  It's not what others think you need - it's what you think you need. I went with my gut instinct when I visited a school. If it's important to YOU then it is important to the decision making process. Don't disclaim something because someone else thinks it's trivial."
  • "Trust the reasons for why you do things and why things happen. If you are in a lineup, you deserve it. It's not trivial or a fluke. Trust the work. And believe in yourself that you can and will continue to do the work. Stop worrying and just work and it will come when it comes." 

  • "The erg is your friend. Don't be afraid of it. Before working with Coach Holly I was so afraid and now I just sit down and say "we're going to do this" and I do it. And be a good teammate. They will have your back when you think you can't, but you can. Then set a goal and do the work. You have to do the work. Especially the work that you don't want to do when you have bad days. Keep doing what you're doing - just keep training because hard work pays off. Do the pieces you don't want to do. The training will pay off - it did for me." 

  • "If you have an opportunity to do more erging or exercising it's not a punishment. It will help you in the long run if you do the extra work and put you ahead of everyone else. But you do have to think about the time commitment for rowing in college. Once you do it- it's great. You build the time management skills and rowing actually forces me to do my work in a timely manner."  

  • "Be sure you want to row - you have to truly love it. If you are already thinking "I hate this..." think about it some more. And then when you get to college, try to make some friends outside the team because you will need to decompress with some friends who aren't a part of the rowing team." 

  • "Don't cut yourself short. I didn't think I could handle the amount of work that is required in college rowing, but I can do it and I enjoy it a lot. But if you don't really like rowing then don't do it. It's a huge commitment. If you are on the fence just go for it- it's so much fun and a great experience. Also, don't limit your options of who you want to talk to. Do your research and start the conversations with coaches even if it doesn't work out. You create a relationship and just keep talking to people. You never know!"

  • "Focus, grind and find the sweet spot. If you decide you want to row in college, do not sell yourself short. I wish I had gone harder my senior year. I wish I had really gone after it. Because once you open the door to push even harder it's amazing! And remember, there are different programs for everybody. Do your research." 

  • "You can do it. I didn't have a lot of confidence in high school and never imagined I could do this. But I can and I am! I didn't really see it until the RSR 2K Clinic but am so thankful that I went and discovered that about myself!" 

Holiday Workout - Deck of Cards

It's hard - training during the holidays. You have things to do, people to see and it's unlikely that your friends and family want to do the workouts you need to do. So here is a workout that you may be able to convince some relatives to jump in on - Deck of Cards. 

The workout is simple- get a deck of cards. Depending on your fitness you can modify the workout several ways. The premise is simple- the cards represent the number of repetitions to complete and each suite is a different exercise. For example:

Hearts: Burpees

Spades: Sit-ups

Diamonds: Jumping Lunges

Clubs: Push-ups

You place the cards in a pile face down and then flip over the first card. Depending on fitness, you can modify a variety of ways: set a time limit (20min, 30min), use only the number cards and no face cards, or try to do the entire deck. If you flip over a "2 of Hearts" you do 2 Burpees. If you are using the face cards, they are worth the following: Jack = 11; Queen = 12, King = 13. You can make Aces worth 1 or 14. Jokers can be another exercise like twenty jumping jacks or something like that. 

Depending on the luck of your draw, you may have to rest from time to time- this can get spicy if you draw a 7, 8, 9 of hearts in a row for example. 

Try to have fun and see if a relative or friend will join you!



10 Tips to Train Through the Holidays

Family... parties... and the flurry and stress to get everything ready for the holidays can make you crazy steamroll many successful training programs. Here are some tips to survive the holidays:

1. Put pen to paper and develop a training plan. What days, what time and what workouts are you going to do? If you are going to an exotic location or visiting family away from home decide before you leave whether you are going to train or not. Note - I did not ask you whether you CAN train (you can ALWAYS train). I am asking you whether you are committed to doing the training. Be honest with yourself. If you are not committed, then just decide that you are not going to do the training and refrain from ruining your trip by guilting yourself everyday for not working out. Too often I hear "Oh, I should be working out" ALL DAY LONG. Just do it or don't but don't kind-of do it. Enjoy your vacation without shaming yourself throughout it. Believe me, everyone around you will thank you for it. 

2. Be realistic. If you are going to the countryside in another country, you probably aren't going to be able to erg, maybe ever. Do your research to find out what is available to you. Is there a CrossFit gym (probably has ergs) or a gym nearby and what time are they open? And then structure your training program according to what is available. If you have a few days with a lot of family activities, it just may be unrealistic to do a 90min workout that day. Plan the volume days accordingly. 

3. Bring the right tools and equipment: running shoes, jumprope, training journal. Those are really the basics. The jumprope will allow you to mix it up from the running and you can find milk jugs or other containers that have some weight to them. If they are "too light" for you- do more, faster to get a better workout. Pushups, squats, jumpies, burpees, situps, hollow rock, tricep dips... none of these awesome exercises need any equipment so you don't have any excuses. 

4. Once you have developed a plan and schedule- share it with your family and friends you will be with. You need them to know your plan both to help you stay accountable, but also to support you. Make sure they know this is important to you and that you don't want anyone sabotaging your workouts. There may be a few days that you have to wake up super early to work out before anyone else is awake. Welcome to rowing. Just do it. Don't feel sorry for yourself, you made the commitment. 

5. Stay on track with your nutrition (See our nutrition blog article). Your training may be less than ideal, but you need to minimize the potential damage from a poor holiday diet. Stick to only one sweet per week and tell your friends and family about your commitment. 

6. Stretch and do core work. You can stretch anywhere so if you're aerobic or strength regime is not ideal, at least increase your flexibility and improve your core strength. Again, no equipment required so no excuses. 

7. Sleep. This is meant to be a recharge time for you- make sure you take advantage of it. Go to sleep early and spend some time daily to relax and meditate. Recharge your body and your mind. If you write, I would encourage you to take some time to write. How are you feeling? Why do you do what you do? Why do you love rowing? Use the time to get to know yourself better. 

8. Get your friends and family involved. I remember at a family gathering asking my brother to join me and after my thirtieth pushup he asked "Who are you GI Jane?" You want to be that person- do the work and inspire those around you to do the work too! It can be fun. 

9. If you are really struck on programming and workout ideas- reach out to us! We offer Virtual Training programs that can get you going. 

10. And have fun. If you have your erg, be creative. Row for an entire movie. If you are watching football- hold a low pushup or hollow rock for commercial breaks. If you are going somewhere in the mountains do hill sprints or hike. If the intensity is not high enough then increase the volume. Take some family members with you. Get outside and enjoy the beauty around you. And be grateful - that you have the privilege and ability to be a part of this great sport. 

College Rowing Series: A Day in the Life...

So many of you ask me, "Can I do it?" You are referring to rowing in college. I actually think the correct question is "Do you WANT to do it?" There is absolutely a rowing program for everyone out there - no matter your size or your speed. What is common among all teams is that it will require you to dedicate time to the sport. How much time may vary widely depending on the program you select. Our first article details a Day in the Life of a College Rower. 

After interviewing our first several college athletes, 100% of them row in the morning during the 20-Hour Season. Alarms go off between 4:50-5:30am five days a week and they all also practice on Saturdays (usually that alarm goes off around 7 or 7:30am). If you are not a morning person or can't possibly imagine getting up that early, you may want to think about this and find out if the programs you are looking at practice in the morning. I can't tell you, that you do get used to it, but you will have nights/mornings that test you. 

All of the athletes also practice in the afternoon - some of them practice every day in the afternoon and some practice three times a week in the afternoon. Every athlete also described optional practices during the week or even on the weekends. Some athletes have a lifting practice right after a morning row and some have it in the afternoon in conjunction with an erg practice. Every athlete is rowing at least 6 times a week and erging at least 2 times a week during the 20-hour season. Some of those ergs may be on-your-own workouts or Captains' Practices. 

Athletes are taking most of their classes in between the morning practice and the afternoon practice and some even reported finishing some homework during that time. Nearly every athlete commented on the immense time commitment and the need to balance your workload and execute time management skills. And although challenging, some reported that the required structure was resulting in greater efficiency and sometimes grades. 

Athletes reported trying to get to bed by 10pm each night. Depending on your school, you may have to make special arrangements (study groups, office hours etc) to meet that bedtime. In the "off-season" for rowing the practices are optional and athletes are indoors erging and strength training. This often coincides with exams and most athletes are off the water from late November until early February unless their water is frozen... then you are off the water until it melts. Most teams take a spring/winter training trip in the second semester to get some water time. 

I have heard several college coaches say something to the effect of: "There's academics, rowing and a social life. You can pick two." I actually think that is a fairly accurate statement. You can of course, have some amount of a social life, but the stereotypical party-social life that is portrayed in most TV shows is definitely not the life of a collegiate rower. Although these athletes described a strict and regimented schedule they all talked about the relationships they have made with their teammates and the satisfaction and fulfillment they find being a Varsity Athlete. 

So the question isn't "Can you do it?" It's "Do YOU want to do it?"


Our College Rowing Series is based off interviews with several athletes currently rowing in college. We are not permitted to tell you who or where they are rowing, but all the athletes are rowing at DI or DIII programs across the United States. 


Holiday Nutrition - Stay on Track

The holiday season can be a rough time to keep on track for performance nutrition goals, and your waist line. There’s treats galore at every corner, large family meals planned, and extra time off that turns into mindless snacking. With a little helpful mindset, keeping on track isn’t as hard as it may seem.

Don’t fall off the track.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are really only one day. One day or one large meal is not what is going to derail you. What derails you is when you fall off the wagon a little bit more every day. It starts with a large meal, and then daily leftovers which turn into daily treating and a new bad habit. When you have the holiday, have a great day. Enjoy it. Have a slice of pie, but the next day, don’t go back for extras. Stick to the one treat a week rule, saving it for the special occasion.

Find healthy meal options.

There are plenty of healthy items to keep your diet a little more on track during the big meals. Try to stick to filling your plate half with a vegetable dish, a quarter lean meat, and a quarter starch or carbohydrate. You will be surprised of how easy it is to enjoy the holiday foods, just sticking to the right portions. Make sure dessert doesn’t become larger than the meal. Pick your two favorite desserts, and only have a half piece of each. Avoid going back for more.

Do something active on the holiday.

To avoid the after-dessert-second-helpings, consider going on a walk, or help clean up dishes. Get your mind out of eat mode and switch to a do something mode. At some point during the holiday, you can still find 30 minutes to do something active. Throw a frisbee with some family or go on a whole family walk in the morning.

Avoid the mindless snacking.

Extra time is great. Down time is great for relaxing and resetting, as well as quality family time. Utilize this time for social actions. Keep conscious of any mindless eating that goes on at these times. If you plan on watching a movie, bring one serving of your snack with you, not the whole bag or container. Consider using vegetables as a great snacking idea. Carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and celery sticks are great for munching and easy to come by.

Enjoy the holiday. 

If you stick to these guidelines you will be able to enjoy your time with family and friends (without any guilt) and then get back to work the next day. 

Article Contributed by Carla Rae Nowicki, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS  Pursuit Nutrition


Tips to Dominate Winter Training

Here are my TOP TIPS to prepare for Winter Training.

1. Take a few days after the Fall Racing Season to spend with friends and family and get yourself recharged and ready to tackle the winter. FITNESS is for LIFE - so that doesn't mean you can't workout, but don't erg. Take a spin class, go for a long run, play a game of ultimate frisbee (as long as you don't injure yourself). Keep it fun and get yourself ready. 

2. Then, find a gym that will support you and has an erg - it has to be convenient and ideally you have some supervision and a few accountability partners. Supervision is critical if you are doing weight-training. Stop in a CrossFit box or gym and ask if they will do a deal for you to have a vacation membership. If you are shying away from the cost, offer to trade sweat equity- you might be surprised!

3. Get a plan. Remember - Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you do not have a training program to follow or guidance from your team check out our Virtual Training Plans. A plan includes the DAYS that you are going to train and the TIME that you are going to train. If you are on vacation decide ahead of time what days you are going to train and figure out what time you can train so that you will actually do it. It is probably early morning since most of your relatives will be asleep. This way you will get it done and you won't have to miss family activities. 

4. Set some goals for yourself and WRITE THEM DOWN. Try to make these SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound). Set the goal time to be mid-February. Then identify at least 3 goals that are different types of metrics. One goal can and should be an erg time, but make the other two unrelated to the erg. So for example: 
       1. Drop 1 avg. split on 6K erg test
       2. Perform one strict pull-up
       3. Stretch for 10min every other night before bed-track in training journal. 
I find it critical to give yourself different types of goals - you could even have one like "Write a hand written thank you note to everyone after the holidays." Science shows that practicing gratitude improves quality of life!

And finally... 

5. Share your plan and goals with your friends and relatives. Training in the winter is hard and you need their support. Be sure they know this is important to you and when you plan to do the training so that they are not constantly trying to derail you by suggesting alternative activities during your training time!


RSR Blog Series: Inside College Rowing

Welcome to our first RSR Blog Series: Inside College Rowing. I will be interviewing several RSR Alumnae who are all now rowing at different programs across the country. Why am I doing this? When I think back to my high school days- I wish someone could have given me more information about their experience, about the different programs, and just any advice on how I can navigate the confusing process! I hope that current high school athletes (and their parents) who are curious about college rowing will find this series informative and helpful. College rowing is hard - but awesome. I want to help you get as much information as possible to make the important decisions: Do you want to row in college? And if so, where? We have three goals with the series: 

  1. Get an idea of what each school, program and culture is like.
  2. Hear how RSR curriculum and programs have influenced the athlete's experience.
  3. Offer any advice to current high school athletes based on what they have learned already.

I will be asking the athletes about a typical day at the school and if she has any advice for all of you who are currently navigating the recruiting process. Personally, I am also just excited to reconnect with all of my former athletes. I truly care about each and every one of them so it's fun to hear about how they are doing. 

If you have additional questions you would like to see included in the interviews- just let me know and I will do my best! 

Why RSR and not a Crew Team?

"Holly why did you decide to start Ready Set Row instead of coach a team?"                                  - RSR Winter Training Athlete

First, let me tell you that YOU ARE MY TEAM! And I mean that sincerely. All of the athletes that I coach and mentor are MY TEAM. I am invested in you, I care about you and I am going to work my tail off to help you get where you want to go. So now that I am clear...

The reason that I am not the Head Coach of a physical crew is because I want to spend more time changing lives than managing the business of a physical crew. I want to coach and mentor and I do not want to worry about fundraising, equipment management and athletic departments. Truly, my "why?" for Ready Set Row is that I am driven and impassioned to change peoples' lives and I know that I can do it with rowing. (If you haven't watched Simon Sinek's TED presentation on this, it's worth the 20 minutes). 

I still love coaching on the water and I LOVE ruffling feathers at races with under-dog teams or teams that are not as well known; this is why I started the Ready Set Row Summer Development Camp.

I also have two young children and an amazing husband and I value spending quality time with them. If I were to run a year-round program (high school or college) I would want to do everything I could possibly do to make them as fast as they can be. And if you really do that, the time commitment is through the roof. So I took a good hard look at how I could impact lives and still do all the things I love to do, and still prioritize my family. And here we are. 

I LOVE what I do and I am excited to do this for a long time.  

Thanks for the question!

Love the Fight, 

Coach Holly

Staying Motivated & Focused

"How do you stay motivated and not have doubts about your abilities? Sometimes I can get very easily discouraged and sometimes that makes me want to give up." - RSR Winter Athlete

I appreciate this honest question and I am sorry to say that you will probably never "not have doubts about your abilities." Everyone has doubts about their abilities (except maybe super narcissistic people) and it is totally natural and normal. That said, you want to make sure doubts have only a small place in your mental head space and do not dominate that mental space. 

I have and continue to have doubts about my abilities, but I learned to train myself to ensure those doubts (or that voice, usually the "negative voice") are quiet or that I at least let my positive voice have the last word. You know the saying, "Everyone has a positive dog and a negative dog in their head. Which dog wins the dog fight? The answer, the one you feed." I really like this- because you have to regularly, systematically and consistently "feed the positive dog" on a daily basis. This is how you train grit. It's every day. Hard work. Positive attitude. Being grateful. You want to train your brain to let the positive dog win more often. 

Once you start thinking about this you will find yourself focusing on the day to day (not on a year-long scale) which is more digestible and not as intimidating. People get distracted in their training because they are worried about something they already did or something they will have to do in the future. Focus on what you are doing RIGHT NOW. WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY TO REACH YOUR GOALS? I like to remind folks "You get stronger or weaker every day with every decision you make. DECIDE to get stronger." One of those ways may be to reduce the negative self-talk. Once you focus on what you are doing RIGHT NOW you will find that you don't have room to think about what you can or cannot do in the future. 

My favorite definition of "mental toughness" - the ability to focus on the NEXT most important thing you have to do - not what just happened or what is going to happen, but what you are doing RIGHT NOW. If you do that, you will find you don't have time to doubt because you will have to focus on the stroke you are one (not question your ability for the stroke 100 strokes in the future). Think about a basketball player who misses a shot, the most mental tough athletes are on to the next play they are not wallowing about how they missed a shot they are after that rebound. 

I just interviewed a recent Princeton rower and I asked her, "What do you think about on the starting line" expecting her to say something about reminding herself of all the work she had done, that she was ready, that she was going to win... Do you know what she said?
"I tell myself to take my best first stroke." Awesome. 

Focus on the immediate task at hand and focus on doing it to the best of your ability. The more often you do this, the easier it will be and the more natural. And as you can improve your focus and execution, you will see that you CAN actually do it and the confidence continues to build. You can always take ONE MORE STROKE- focus on the one you are on ONLY. 

Favorite Thing About Rowing

"Holly what is your favorite thing about rowing?" 

I love rowing. You probably knew that. So you are asking me what do I love specifically? I love that rowing will teach you more about yourself and what you are capable of (while still being in a safe environment) than any class you will take in school or other sport you will play. I believe that rowing will teach you things about yourself everyday, but rowing will also teach you about life if you let it. The relationship between the work you put in and your speed are linear. There is virtually no other thing in the world that you can do where that is true. It really is all about hard work and this is the best lesson for success in life. Grit and resilience are the greatest predictors for success - what better way to learn these skills? 

In most other sports, there are other factors such as ball skill or shooting talent. With rowing, if you put in the work you will get faster. Of course you have to row well and be coachable and all of that, but the connection is so clear and the ergs do not lie. You cannot "fake" your speed on the erg. This is why the erg is so bloody hard and so amazing at the same time. The erg is not a test, it is a tool. Use the tool, every day. If you befriend the erg then you will learn more about yourself and life than in any other class or sport out there. I firmly believe that. I am a teacher first and a coach second and as Harry Parker said, "we have a fairly narrow curriculum."

I love that rowing has changed so many peoples' lives. I have not had an athlete that has really gone after it and "let 'er rip" that has not been changed for the rest of his/her life. This is why some people think rowers are crazy or part of some sort of exclusive club - we are. Once you have pushed to the edge and OVER that edge - your life will change. And what you learn about yourself when you hit the bottom and then pick yourself back up again will change you forever.

Thanks for the question. 

Love the Fight,
Coach Holly 

How did you find the motivation to work out on your own?

Great question! It is really hard to workout on your own- which is why group classes at gyms or CrossFits are so much more fun because you can be with other people. But I did have to workout a lot on my own when I was in college and home for breaks. And this is an important thing to focus on. The way you train when no on is looking is most important...

I think the most important thing to do is set yourself up for success. Here are a few ideas to do this: 

1. Pick and commit to a certain time each day to train. First thing in the morning is usually the best bet, especially if you have to set your alarm. This way family plans will not conflict with the training and if you are in a hot location, it will be the coolest. You will always "have time" to work out and you will be sure to get it in every day. 

2. Lay out your training plan with all the details of each workout including rest time. Make sure you know the workout and keep your training journal handy to write down all your results. This will help to keep you accountable. Once you have decided what you are committing to, do it. If you are going to take a day off, then take it off and don't spend mental energy wondering if you should be working out. Either do or don't, but don't waste the energy "thinking" about working out. 

3. Write down your goals for the training period. Do you want to workout 6 days a week? Do you want to complete every workout? Do you want to do some sort of fitness test at the end of the training period? Do you want to log a certain number of meters or minutes? Post these goals where you will see them - on the refrigerator, next to the bed etc. and be sure to pick a few that are process oriented (eg. do core workout every other day) and some that are performance based (eg. increase back squat by 10lbs). 

4. Post motivational material- quotes, the names of teams that you will be racing - whatever will get you going. I had a poster that read "What can I do TODAY so that I am standing on the medal dock of the ____ Sprints on ____, 2016." Fill it in and post this on your bathroom mirror. You need to remember why you are doing this. 

5. Be sure that all your family and friends around you know what you are trying to do. Get them on board and make sure that they do not try to inadvertently sabotage your plan. 

6. Just do it. Seriously, just do it. 

Happy Training!

Coach Holly

Pre-Race Jitters

Question: How do you get rid of jitters? I am tired of always getting the jitters for every piece, but I have no clue how to handle them! Any suggestions?

Answer: First of all, let me congratulate you on getting the jitters because if you did not get them then that would signal to me that you do not care very much. Getting nervous is natural, it's healthy and it CAN make you go faster. Getting irrationally nervous and in particular, nervous too early can also make you slower. This is why I will often refrain from telling athletes the workouts in advance since I do not want you wasting mental energy worrying and/or thinking about the pieces. 

So,  how to handle the jitters? Change the way you are thinking about them.

The jitters can be a clear sign that the body is producing cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol over short periods of time, like the five minutes before a hard erg piece, can do great things for you as it is preparing you to handle the stress. You read that correctly, the BODY is preparing for the stress. It sounds to me, like what you are focusing on, is the brain's interpretation of that reaction. You may be interpreting that jittery feeling as a signal that you are unprepared, that you are going to be extremely uncomfortably and that you will "fail." If that is accurate, then we need to train your brain to respond to those feelings differently. 

When you get those fluttery, nauseous, anxious feelings - recognize them and validate them. It is OK and totally natural to have those feelings and then THANK your body for getting them. Yes, THANK your body. Your body and your mind know that 1) this is going to be hard; 2) this is going to be extremely uncomfortable; and 3) you really care about doing well. This is GREAT NEWS. After you have thanked your body for responding appropriately, take five deep breathes, roll your neck around and reframe the situation. You are about to start the work and you are grateful for the opportunity to have a healthy and strong body that is ready and willing to do the work. 

Remember the Ready Set Row SEE Life Framework - we want you to constantly

SEEK Challenges


EXPECT Discomfort

You have already sought out the challenge of joining Ready Set Row and coming to practice every day. You are willingly and gratefully embracing the work that I am asking you to do and you are fully aware that the discomfort is guaranteed - it just matters how you respond to the discomfort. 

After you have taken your five breaths and rolled your shoulders up and down and stretched your neck - tell yourself: "My body is ready." What you feel is not "the jitters" but it is the signal that your body is ready to rock and that is very powerful. If you did not have the jitters, you should be very nervous. Then, commit to the work. Read the workout and tell yourself that you are mentally and physically committing to give 100% of your effort during the workout. If you do that, the splits will come. Commit before the warmup, go through your warmup motions and then commit to every stroke, one at a time. Remember, LOVE THE FIGHT. 

The worst part of a hard erg piece is the few minutes leading up to it- repeat in your head "My body is ready." and "I am a fighter." over and over and over again until they call "Row!"

You are Ready - Love the Fight, 

Coach Holly

Interview with Sporty Girl

In the world of junior sports, prioritizing process over outcome can be contentious. I've had parents push to get a kid racing before an athlete was ready and complain about a lack of competitive opportunities. How has your Ready Set Row (RSR) philosophy been embraced by parents?

I explain to all of my athletes and their parents my coaching philosophy:  Build young leaders who Seek challenge, Embrace work and Expect discomfort. It’s our RSR Lifestyle Framework: “SEE Life Clearly.” We build safe environments for our athletes where we redefine failure and push them to risk again and again, each time getting stronger and more confident in practice not just in competitions. 

Our framework is such a critical and immediately apparent life-skill that parents see the big picture and stop focusing on micro-details. We ask our athletes “Why do you row?” “To win races.” “Why do you want to win races?” “I want the medal and I want to beat people.” “Why do you want to beat people?” Ultimately they realize that they train and compete in this challenging sport because it allows them to push, fail and try again and test their limits on a daily basis. It’s not really whether you win a medal – after all, the medal is just a function of who showed up to race day. You can have a gold medal, but know that you did not race your best race. And you can finish a race last in your heat and feel confident you gave it your all.

The sense of accomplishment everyone desires, is when you know in your heart that you prepared, trained for and executed your race to the best of your ability – the hardware is secondary. You are so proud of your performance and all the work that you did leading up to that performance that you want to shake the hand of anyone who beats you, because you know how hard she had to have worked to go that fast. That is my goal.

In addition, I think it’s a disservice to think that the “competition” only comes on race day. We are training our athletes to fight and compete every day so that when the real race comes, they have already seen their limits and they know what they are capable of. If you are living this philosophy day-to-day, then competitive scenarios are your requirement and racing is just the icing on the cake.  

As a writer, I love that the athletes in your RSR program keep journals. Tell me more about the purpose and benefits of journaling while you train.

Our athletes will use their journal every day to record metrics such as sleep, fuel, hydration as well as their physical performances. This allows them to take more ownership and be accountable. It’s important that they start to take care of their bodies and start to look for performance trends. What was the workout and how did you feel? Does this food make me sleepy after I eat it? How is my performance if I sleep 45 more minutes each night? All of this is important; we are asking a lot of their bodies and most junior athletes do not think about what they put in their mouth as the fuel for the machine and they do not correlate rest and recovery with performance and risk of injury. RSR Coaches will be looking at these journals regularly to ensure athletes are recording the information and learning how to increase boat speed through personal care and nutrition.

Our athletes will also be doing daily RSR Self-Reflections. We will be asking the athletes challenging questions both about them as athletes but also as young women who will be growing into themselves and leadership positions. We will be pushing them and asking them “What do you want? And what are you willing to do to get there.” We will help them explore what type of athlete they are and what that means. We will help them answer the question “Do you really want to row in college? Because if you do, this is what that really looks like.” Athletes may have written assignments to do on their own to turn in for review or we will all write together. Athletes will work on their public speaking as they are asked to present some of their RSR Self Reflections and they will be pushed out of their comfort zone.

There is often a story line we see in books about sporty girls that pits one female athlete against another. I've experienced the mean girl more than once. How do you use mentoring in your program to develop supportive communities for athletes to reach their goals?

First, the coaches have to create the right environment and I personally work with every athlete I coach. I tell parents that my coaching style is 60% Dictator, 20% Partner and 20% Goof Ball. I will be very clear about the standards we hold our athletes to, but I will also need the athlete to work with me to constantly improve. Finally, you have to have fun in this sport. It’s too hard not to.

Once I create our environment through that type of leadership, I believe a great coach does coach athletes differently. You never compromise your standards, but you are constantly watching each athlete to identify triggers and develop specific and unique motivational techniques. Once each athlete realizes that she is a valued and unique member of the team it allows her to focus on herself and her own performance.

We are clear with our athletes that judging a peer is unacceptable and can actually be detrimental to team chemistry – that’s my job. It is however, the job of each athlete to go as fast as she can go every stroke of every day and to use her teammates to get faster. We create a competitive environment where the athletes understand that to be the best you can be, you have to test your limits every day. And the only way you can do that is if someone else is pushing you.

We cultivate that type of competition among our athletes with the understanding that to race your teammate is the best thing you can do for her since you are preparing her for battle. This competitive environment can become charged and emotional, but we are clear to our athletes that one’s physical performance has nothing to do with an athlete’s character or value as a human being. It is an indication of where she can improve. This is a critical component of a fast team that trusts each member is doing everything she can possibly do to put her bow out in front. 

This is eating disorders awareness week (Feb 21-27). In rowing, weight can be an issue-- making weight for lightweight boat classes and the desire for smaller coxswains. How do you stress the "heart of a fighter" over body type?

I am a perfect example – 5’6 and rowed in the Varsity Heavyweight 8+ for three years at Harvard. It doesn’t happen often, but what I stress to my athletes is that the drive, the fire, the kill switch inside an athlete is the most critical component. And it cannot be taught. If someone doesn’t want to race, I can’t teach her how to do that. If you give me a fighter I will teach her the technique, the training, the strength building exercises that are needed to make her the fastest rower she can be. And that’s all you can ask of someone. Obviously the taller you are the more leverage you have, but I know plenty of tall women who are not racers. I will always take a racer in my boat any day – no matter her size.

So much of what I've learned from sports and rowing specifically-- is leadership. Talk more about your phrase "training the brain."

The brain is a muscle. You have to train it to make it stronger. And if you stop training it, it atrophies just like any other muscle.

Additionally, rowing is an offensive sport- there is no defense. You blast off the line and have your best race you can have. You cannot actively slow another boat down. The same is true for mental toughness and grit. The more you train your brain to be on offense, the less your brain has to be on defense. And any rower can tell you, if you start thinking about “I can’t do it, I can’t go on, It’s over,” it IS over.

You have to develop your positive truths and your mantras that you know in your heart are true. You will then use these truths in a race plan when you are going to ask your body to do the seemingly impossible. In my experience, negative thoughts during a race or a maximum effort piece creep into your head when there is a void. If you let your brain start to think about what your body feels and you have not developed a positive image or phrase to focus on, you will usually go slower.

I work with each athlete to develop her Truths – the qualities about herself that she knows are true so that we can call upon those strengths when we put our bodies to the test.

Your Ready Set Row summer camp program takes place at St. Andrews, the school where the movie Dead Poet's Society was filmed. This is a book blog so I have to ask... is poetry or other literature part of your training program?

Actually, we have a suggested reading list for our athletes and one of their On-Site Reflections during the camp is Racing Poetry. And as I said before, athletes and coaches will all be asked to write autobiographical stories and share them amongst the team.

What are some of the books on your bedside table right now?

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dwek, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court – Wooden and Jamison And Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies or “Fat Envelopes” – Madeline Levine  (I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old too!)

Okay. Speed round:

Pizza or sushi? Pizza.

Bike or run? Depends how long – I love a good long road ride.

Ebook or paper copy? Paper definitely.

Dance to loud music or talk with friends? Depends. I learn things everyday from the people I surround myself with and lucky for me they are some great dancers!

If you could be any animal what would it be and why? Wombat. Lovable, furry, intelligent, resilient, compassionate but ferociously defends her family. Do you know how? The way a Mama Wombat protects her nest is awesome. Wombats live in their burrows so if a Tasmanian devil or another predator comes down into her burrow to eat the babies, the Mama keeps her head towards the babies and her rump towards the predator. If the predator tries to get around her, she will crouch down to allow the predator to put his head on top of her rump and then she will stand up and crush the predator’s skull against the roof of the tunnel. You don’t want to mess with that mama. Totally awesome.