Be utterly honest with your people.
Get a speedcoach, understand what it's telling you, use it always.
Find a good coach.
Keep a half-hour ergo table
Get in as many fights as you can.
Go drinking together.
Find or create a good cox.
There's also some obvious stuff that everybody knows that I agree with, like:
Go rowing as much as you can
Try sculling or rowing in pairs
And there are some open questions that I don't know the answers to:
Is cross-training any good? And if so, are ergos the best form?
Do circuit training / weight lifting / core stability exercises help?
How important is psychology? Not at all, very, or something in between?
Why I'm writing this
I used to be captain of a small company boat club. Over the years our first boat, which I was always in, went from the lower half of the second division of the Town bumps, where we were competing against sixth and seventh VIIIs, to seventh place in the first division. There are many other tiny boat clubs in Cambridge. None of them were anywhere near us, and even a couple of the big clubs' first VIIIs were behind us.
Overall from 1998 to 2008, the time I rowed for, we had 21 wins, 21 row-overs, and 2 defeats.
We didn't do that by bringing in new people who were really good, or by expanding hugely as a club.
I wasn't captain for all that time, but I was captain while, and before, the times we were best. I was also responsible for the two times we actually managed to get beaten, both times by Free Press I. (Damn you Alan!!).
At seventh, I felt that we'd found our physical limits. We couldn't have done very much better racing against bigger, fitter people. I was getting older, so I retired. In my last year, we suffered an unusually large number of injuries and things going wrong, and we were bumped down to eighth place.
These weren't fairy tale results, but I was and still am very proud of what we achieved from an unpromising start.
We were never a club with flashy equipment, or the sort of club that people wanted to join because it was a famous name. But towards the end that was changing. Talented people started to ask about joining us, because they could see that we were overachieving, and wondered what our secret was.
Partly I'm saying all this because it's my blog, and I get to blow my own trumpet if I like. But the other day, someone who was thinking about running for the captaincy of his club asked me for advice. And I started talking, and realized that I'd actually done a lot of non-standard things that aren't obvious. And that I should write them down.
There are several reasons for writing them down. They might be useful to other people. The process of writing them down might make my memories clearer. I might spot things I hadn't seen before. I might learn something that might be useful in other areas.
But in order for anyone, including me, to be interested in my reminiscences, I have to justify why I think I'm qualified to be writing advice to boatie captains. And there's no way to do that without having a bit of a boast. So I just have done. Sorry.
I'll make up for it by admitting that the first time I tried rowing in the Bumps, in 1997, I rowed for our second boat. We had no idea what we were doing, and got beaten every day. On the last day, I was handed my wooden spoon by the local Venture Scouts, rowing as 99s 10th boat. After they inflicted our final humiliation, their coach came over and told me that I should buy them all a drink. When they were old enough.
I was twenty-eight years old, in the prime of life and strength. I remember the thought suddenly occurring to me that there might be more to this rowing than being strong and trying hard.
People still ask me if they were wearing their woggles.