21 Apr 2005 10:02:53
Mike Sullivan
Nightmare on Maple Street

(Maple street is where the BIAC rowing club is).

Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings is
when I teach Novice scullers. Many people
come in with rowing experience, many do not.
I do enjoy teaching beginners, I don't charge
the club for it, first because nobody could
afford what I think I'm worth, and #2, I've
had help from some of the best sculling coaches
in the country and I don't recall getting charged a dime.

I teach in Aeros at BIAC and in wherries at
Clear Lake.

I've always found it intriguing to see the vast
differences in people's motor skills, and how
some lithe, fit, athletic stud can't
figure out how to level his hands in the single,
while an old fat lady who can't bend down
who's never even been in a canoe can row
away from the dock like they've done it all
their life.

I try to limit my first timers to two, so I
have enough time for followup instruction
on the returning people, but sometimes a
group will come together and things get a
bit out of whack.

Last night was such a night. I've 3 afternoon
scullers in the pike, all are progressing nicely
and ready for the 'hold water' instruction, and
a few nuances before the final safety lecture
and being cut loose on the world, but 4 new
women showed up, all middle age. In a
group like that, my expectations are that 2
will be careful but steady learners, get stuck
a couple times but end up rowing past the
dock about 3-4 times during the session.
1 will be a star and will be rowing full slide
her first day wondering why people make
such a fuss. 1 will be a klutz and require some
extra time to get the oarlocks undone, and lots
and lots of dock time.

My method for raw beginners, after nomenclature,
boat handling, oarlocks, getting in, 'don't let go',
and proper hands on the grips is to have them
walk off the end of the dock so that the inboard
oars (to the dock)overlap each other so I can
hold on from the dock, then have them do some
hands rowing and feathering on the outside arms.
Generally people get the idea fairly easily, I
explain the direction they're supposed to go,
and with a few more instructions basically cut
them loose from the dock.
I've shown them how to sit with their oars flat,
and tell them just to problem solve. I try to
minimize verbiage, I show them a student rowing
by that is rowing full slide, mention that this is
their second time here, they'll be doing that soon.
Main thing I tell them is loose grip on the handle,
and when you get confused, stop what you're
doing, get oars flat position and start all over again.

One woman was a star, she just took off. The
other 3 were #2, 3, and 4 in the all time klutzes
I've ever had as a student, #1 being 'puffy Bob'
who took 3 months to get qualified.... What
was worse was one was an Italian lady who's
english skills were not quite up to speed. Thus,
though she nodded and smiled when I told her,
I doubt now that she understood me when I
told her not to pull the oar handles past her body.
Thus it was while I was figuring out exactly
how clumsy the last two women I pushed off
from the dock were, the Italian lady was in the
water swimming to the dock.

I should mention, that the afternoon sessions
at BIAC are accompanied by pretty strong
sea breezes. It can be cold even in summer,
or I should say ESPECIALLY in summer.
Water temps are a balmy 63, quite toasty
actually.

So she was swimming toward the dock,
and the Aero was drifting the other way.

I told her to stay with her boat.

'I don't understand what you say'

'Stay with the boat!' 'Swim to the boat'

'I can't swim, you got to save me!'

'You look like you're swimming just fine.
If you get tired, stand up.
The water is 3 foot deep right there.'

'I don't like the mud, come help me'.

'well go swim to your boat and hang on
to it then, I'll be to you in a minute'.

'I don't understand what you say...' (yea right).

'I'll give you $500 if you can swim
to your boat.' (she stopped and
looked back at the boat for a couple
seconds).

'See, you DO understand english now, don't you!
all right come back in.'

The nice thing about junior rowing programs
is the clothing. If you need a
extra shell on a cold day, go to the back
of the boathouse and pick through
the pile. Forget a clean shirt for the 8:30
meeting? Go to the pile.

Need a wool hat on a cold day? Go to the pile.
So my soggy lady was on
the dock, quite proud of herself that she
made it back. I sent her up to
the boathouse and told her to pick through t
he clothes pile, find a towel,
take a warm shower and get into some dry clothes.
She was fine, but now
I had to go get the boat. It has drifted after
this time about a good 100 yards and moving.

I swam after it.

I soon recovered the boat, was rowing it
around when I noticed the other two
were completely as helpless to move
against the breeze as was the Aero
I just rescued. I determined who was
most likely to get completely stuck
and worked on her first. With the
co-ordination-challenged types, I try to
break the stroke down into discreete
pieces. reach, square, pull, release,
feather, stop.......

Often just breaking it into pieces is
hopeless, and this was the case. I got her
to take about 10 successful strokes
in a row, so abandoned her to her
own head to help the other.

The other had the same problem, there's
about a million nerves that go
from the brain to the mouth, but only one
that goes to the hands arms legs
combined, and it can only do one thing
at a time and usually the
wrong thing.

Meanwhile the mouth works fine: ' geeI'veneverhadgoodbalanceand
ohI'msuchaklutzbutI'llgetthisIjustknowyou'rebeingverypatientwithme
andeverytimeIputthepaddleinthewateritseemstostickthenIdon'tknow
whattodowiththeotherhandohI'mblowingintotheshoreagainIhope
Idon'twreckyourniceboat....'

By the time I got her to get 4 strokes in a
row, the other womanhad drifted and got
caught against the shore again.

It was getting dark.

I was getting cold now. I rowed back to
the dock where I'd left my sweatshirt, put it on,
and grabbed my handy rope with a caribeaner
on it.

When I first used to teach, I used to hook
this rope onto the boat of theraw beginner if
the breeze was really strong. The area is sheltered so
there's never any waves, but it doesn't take long
to get blown to the far shore. If someone looked
quite helpless at the dock, I'd ropeem and shove em off.

This rope used to be about 100 feet, but as boathouse ropes go, over
time it seems to have shrunk to about 20 feet. I thought I recognized
the rope type on some of the launches.... I haven't used this rope
in about 3 years, and even when I saw people helplessly drifting,
I didn't think of it until I thought it would be useful to pull one
of them out of a particularly tight place. Also, I wasn't confident
that she was going to be coordinated enough to hold on to my
boat and her two scull grips at the same time.

The sun sank deep into the western hills and the 'Sul' hauled the
last of them to the dock, exhilarated, nonplussed, and ready
for more.

I told them they were the most unco-ordinated people I've ever
met, they were a pain in the ass, and if they didn't come back
next week and try again, I'd get pissed off.

I'm replacing my rope, though.

:^)

Mike










21 Apr 2005 18:56:19
oarsman
Re: Nightmare on Maple Street

Mike,

It's the bad days that make the good ones so much better!!! Hang in
there, that's why rowing coaches make the really big bucks... That one
rower in the hay stack that gets it makes it worth it.

Bob


Mike Sullivan wrote:
> (Maple street is where the BIAC rowing club is).
>
> Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings is
> when I teach Novice scullers. Many people
> come in with rowing experience, many do not.
> I do enjoy teaching beginners, I don't charge
> the club for it, first because nobody could
> afford what I think I'm worth, and #2, I've
> had help from some of the best sculling coaches
> in the country and I don't recall getting charged a dime.
>
> I teach in Aeros at BIAC and in wherries at
> Clear Lake.
>
> I've always found it intriguing to see the vast
> differences in people's motor skills, and how
> some lithe, fit, athletic stud can't
> figure out how to level his hands in the single,
> while an old fat lady who can't bend down
> who's never even been in a canoe can row
> away from the dock like they've done it all
> their life.
>
> I try to limit my first timers to two, so I
> have enough time for followup instruction
> on the returning people, but sometimes a
> group will come together and things get a
> bit out of whack.
>
> Last night was such a night. I've 3 afternoon
> scullers in the pike, all are progressing nicely
> and ready for the 'hold water' instruction, and
> a few nuances before the final safety lecture
> and being cut loose on the world, but 4 new
> women showed up, all middle age. In a
> group like that, my expectations are that 2
> will be careful but steady learners, get stuck
> a couple times but end up rowing past the
> dock about 3-4 times during the session.
> 1 will be a star and will be rowing full slide
> her first day wondering why people make
> such a fuss. 1 will be a klutz and require some
> extra time to get the oarlocks undone, and lots
> and lots of dock time.
>
> My method for raw beginners, after nomenclature,
> boat handling, oarlocks, getting in, 'don't let go',
> and proper hands on the grips is to have them
> walk off the end of the dock so that the inboard
> oars (to the dock)overlap each other so I can
> hold on from the dock, then have them do some
> hands rowing and feathering on the outside arms.
> Generally people get the idea fairly easily, I
> explain the direction they're supposed to go,
> and with a few more instructions basically cut
> them loose from the dock.
> I've shown them how to sit with their oars flat,
> and tell them just to problem solve. I try to
> minimize verbiage, I show them a student rowing
> by that is rowing full slide, mention that this is
> their second time here, they'll be doing that soon.
> Main thing I tell them is loose grip on the handle,
> and when you get confused, stop what you're
> doing, get oars flat position and start all over again.
>
> One woman was a star, she just took off. The
> other 3 were #2, 3, and 4 in the all time klutzes
> I've ever had as a student, #1 being 'puffy Bob'
> who took 3 months to get qualified.... What
> was worse was one was an Italian lady who's
> english skills were not quite up to speed. Thus,
> though she nodded and smiled when I told her,
> I doubt now that she understood me when I
> told her not to pull the oar handles past her body.
> Thus it was while I was figuring out exactly
> how clumsy the last two women I pushed off
> from the dock were, the Italian lady was in the
> water swimming to the dock.
>
> I should mention, that the afternoon sessions
> at BIAC are accompanied by pretty strong
> sea breezes. It can be cold even in summer,
> or I should say ESPECIALLY in summer.
> Water temps are a balmy 63, quite toasty
> actually.
>
> So she was swimming toward the dock,
> and the Aero was drifting the other way.
>
> I told her to stay with her boat.
>
> 'I don't understand what you say'
>
> 'Stay with the boat!' 'Swim to the boat'
>
> 'I can't swim, you got to save me!'
>
> 'You look like you're swimming just fine.
> If you get tired, stand up.
> The water is 3 foot deep right there.'
>
> 'I don't like the mud, come help me'.
>
> 'well go swim to your boat and hang on
> to it then, I'll be to you in a minute'.
>
> 'I don't understand what you say...' (yea right).
>
> 'I'll give you $500 if you can swim
> to your boat.' (she stopped and
> looked back at the boat for a couple
> seconds).
>
> 'See, you DO understand english now, don't you!
> all right come back in.'
>
> The nice thing about junior rowing programs
> is the clothing. If you need a
> extra shell on a cold day, go to the back
> of the boathouse and pick through
> the pile. Forget a clean shirt for the 8:30
> meeting? Go to the pile.
>
> Need a wool hat on a cold day? Go to the pile.
> So my soggy lady was on
> the dock, quite proud of herself that she
> made it back. I sent her up to
> the boathouse and told her to pick through t
> he clothes pile, find a towel,
> take a warm shower and get into some dry clothes.
> She was fine, but now
> I had to go get the boat. It has drifted after
> this time about a good 100 yards and moving.
>
> I swam after it.
>
> I soon recovered the boat, was rowing it
> around when I noticed the other two
> were completely as helpless to move
> against the breeze as was the Aero
> I just rescued. I determined who was
> most likely to get completely stuck
> and worked on her first. With the
> co-ordination-challenged types, I try to
> break the stroke down into discreete
> pieces. reach, square, pull, release,
> feather, stop.......
>
> Often just breaking it into pieces is
> hopeless, and this was the case. I got her
> to take about 10 successful strokes
> in a row, so abandoned her to her
> own head to help the other.
>
> The other had the same problem, there's
> about a million nerves that go
> from the brain to the mouth, but only one
> that goes to the hands arms legs
> combined, and it can only do one thing
> at a time and usually the
> wrong thing.
>
> Meanwhile the mouth works fine: ' geeI'veneverhadgoodbalanceand
> ohI'msuchaklutzbutI'llgetthisIjustknowyou'rebeingverypatientwithme
> andeverytimeIputthepaddleinthewateritseemstostickthenIdon'tknow
> whattodowiththeotherhandohI'mblowingintotheshoreagainIhope
> Idon'twreckyourniceboat....'
>
> By the time I got her to get 4 strokes in a
> row, the other womanhad drifted and got
> caught against the shore again.
>
> It was getting dark.
>
> I was getting cold now. I rowed back to
> the dock where I'd left my sweatshirt, put it on,
> and grabbed my handy rope with a caribeaner
> on it.
>
> When I first used to teach, I used to hook
> this rope onto the boat of theraw beginner if
> the breeze was really strong. The area is sheltered so
> there's never any waves, but it doesn't take long
> to get blown to the far shore. If someone looked
> quite helpless at the dock, I'd ropeem and shove em off.
>
> This rope used to be about 100 feet, but as boathouse ropes go, over
> time it seems to have shrunk to about 20 feet. I thought I
recognized
> the rope type on some of the launches.... I haven't used this rope
> in about 3 years, and even when I saw people helplessly drifting,
> I didn't think of it until I thought it would be useful to pull one
> of them out of a particularly tight place. Also, I wasn't confident
> that she was going to be coordinated enough to hold on to my
> boat and her two scull grips at the same time.
>
> The sun sank deep into the western hills and the 'Sul' hauled the
> last of them to the dock, exhilarated, nonplussed, and ready
> for more.
>
> I told them they were the most unco-ordinated people I've ever
> met, they were a pain in the ass, and if they didn't come back
> next week and try again, I'd get pissed off.
>
> I'm replacing my rope, though.
>
> :^)
>
> Mike