This article was originally published on FM Rowing.
This blog is good therapy for me. I know this blog tends to have a different tone to the others with me talking about my experiences and stuff that I went through in my journey rather than anything directly helpful to you improving your 2k time etc. I hope some of you can take something or relate to this story in someway perhaps shedding light on things you had already believed.
I had an interesting moment of reflection the other day. I’ve got a group of girls I coach aged 15-19. Some work incredibly hard, others find excuses and just do what they need to do to get by. The sad thing is at least this early in their athletic careers some “lazy” ones are also some of the best athletes. It seems unjust that some of those who put in less work perform better than those who work their tails off everyday. It got me thinking about my own journey and lessons learnt along the way.
I was never a fantastic rower at school. The Maadi Cup (worth looking up) was the gold standard for all school kids. I was from a small club without a school program. I rowed with adults, kids form different schools, it didn’t matter. In my Maadi Cup career I got one bronze medal in perhaps the most meaningless event at the regatta (Novice 4+). In reality there would have been about 50 odd rowers more capable than myself by my last year at school. Yes I was fit, yes I was strong, yes I was determined but many kids were further along the curve than myself. I look back on last season to see I’m the only male rower in the country left from the class of 2008.
This got me thinking about limiting factors and how athletes progress. We had some absolute studs come through high school. Guys and girls that made winning multiple golds look easy. They had it all, strength, fitness, technique and mentally clued up enough to put it all together when it mattered. That was another world to me, they seemed super human. By the end of that week 80-90% of U18’s at Maadi Cup will never row again. For the remaining 10-20% they would drop like flies over the next 1-4 years. For the 80-90% they were either burnt out or not passionate about the sport enough to want to continue. School rowing was the pinnacle of the sport for most kids from big rowing programs. For the 10-20% this included either die hard fans like myself or the remaining “studs” who could see a path to the top.
The studs progressed, juniors, u21’s, u23’s, they’ve always had a natural ability for the sport and not much of an obvious limiting factor. I was naive, hard work was the answer to everything and it was, although I wasn’t addressing the elephant in the room (technique) I was progressing. Like Daredevil I heightened my other senses to make up for my limiting factor. I still couldn’t put it all together but I was driven and persistent. The studs didn’t seem untouchable anymore. Their puzzle was near complete and I was still finding the edges. I never reached a point where my limiting factor was completely resolved but I became competent enough to make it to the elite level. The studs got a real life and moved on, they had done their winning over years and years, I had only just started to realise my potential.
It would be amazing to know how many talented rowers there were out there who sold themselves short because they weren’t top dog by age 17. This sport is a long game and it’s not fair on anyone to feel inferior because they haven’t put the puzzle together quicker. Often that is largely up to genetics, environment or just dumb luck. So I believe and quietly hope that the hardest workers I coach will get their dues one day. It might not be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year but it will happen. For all those reading this try think about what your limiting factor might be and focus on it. For too long I undervalued its importance but you’ll never know its impact until you explore it.
Attitude is the biggest limiting factor in sport. At least I got that part right.
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