Training to become an Olympic rower and following in the footsteps of Sir Steve Redgrave and Katherine Grainger, who both have achieved Olympic success, has very humble beginnings when it comes to training.

Over 40,000 people take part in water rowing, with the aim of that improving to over 46,000 participants by 2017 which is the final year of the Whole Sports Plan outlined by British Rowing.

According to the DfE report, Evidence on physical education and sport in schools, there was a significant increase in the number of schools offering rowing, with it being offered in 2% of schools in 2003/2004, rising to 12% in 2009/2010. 

Outlined by British Rowing on their website, there are six skills to be learned by juniors wanting to take up the sport, which in order are:

  • Rock & Roll
  • In a Spin
  • How to Pull (and Stop!)
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Round the Buoys
  • Out of your Scull

The first two steps, Rock & Roll and In a Spin, are about introducing the individuals to the boat and the different safety components involved. Rock & Roll is where the individuals learn about the balance of the boat and allow for their confidence in the matter to grow through a variety of methods. These include lifting and lowering each blade separately and to tilt the boat from side to side. Another vital but basic skill learned at this early stage is being able to get into the boat safely and the correct placement in the boat.

In a Spin is where the individual is trying to move in the boat in lots of directions and eventually being able to bring the boat to a complete stop without any assistance. Going forward, backward and being able to turn around are the different directions required in rowing and rowing training specifically.

The third skill is about being able to grip the scull so the rower can feather and manoeuvre the blades whenever necessary. The basic sculling grip involves placing the thumb over the edge of the handle with the wrist flat, and with the spoon in the water. This hold changes however when feathering or squaring as the rower will rotate the oar in the hook of the fingers, using the thumb to turn the handle.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat is where the rower will learn the 8 different skills which will enable them to be able to refine their technique. These 8 technique steps go from the beginning of the movement which is called “the catch”, going through the different “draw” phases and finishing with “the hand position at the finish”.

After the first four skills have been learned and the rower being given the freedom to try different techniques, Round the Buoys is where these skills are assessed by the coach. This is also where the techniques are mastered, with the athlete going from the understanding stage of learning into the associative stage.

The final stage is where the rower will start to play games while in the scull, although is it advised that this is done in a swimming pool and under the supervision of the coach.