Will it make the boat go faster?


I am not sure how I stumbled upon this quote (I then watched the clip on YouTube), but they are the words of Drew Ginn, the esteemed Australian rowing athlete who was part of the inaugural Oarsome Foursome. In the clip, Ginn is performing a voice recording on the way home from a training session where he discusses and deconstructs the training methods, techniques and biomechanics used in rowing. He questions everything! But, particularly athletes/coaches choosing to use particular methods for their sport, just because they were trained that way or someone had success using these methods. He comes to the realisation that there is a need to evaluate and analyse each part of the training process, to determine whether the outcome was influenced by the method. Drew Ginn and rowing partner Duncan Free, who at the time of the recording were preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (where they won Gold), came to the conclusion, if any part of their training programme/process didn’t fit the mantra ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’, then why were they doing it?

I feel pretty comfortable within my own training group and the sessions I set for athletes I work with, that everything included in the session has merit to be included. If someone asked me why we include various components to our training sessions, I could quite happily explain it to them. However, I also believe there are plenty of coaches/athletes who include components to their trainings because so and so so do these, or this team does that. I also think there is scope to try new innovative elements in training without having tried these previously; see what happens. If these ‘things’ do not make the boat go faster, your team better or your athletes faster then why are you doing them? Get rid of them and keep the components which largely contribute to the outcome (see Pareto principle). Do what you need to do, not what is nice to do (Gambetta 2012).

Ginn and Free then analysed whether any aspects of their social life would prevent the boat from going faster. These could be aspects such as staying out too late the night before an early training or drinking a few extra beers; they placed a value on what effect these factors would have on the boat speed. Coincidentally, I have also heard similar thoughts from Lance Armstrong (lie aside), where he avoided doing any gardening on his Texas farm because he didn’t want to build greater muscle in his upper body. This seems a little OCD and unrealistic but the sentiments are the same.

All training is effectively trial and error until you have built up enough historical data to determine what is strongly transferable and what isn’t.

But once you are there; strip it back and streamline it. Find what contributes to the boat speed. Do that.



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