Coaches Corner

Less than one month out from the NZCT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships, CRNZ Coach Tim Brabants focuses on crew boats and how to get them moving.

New year and new challenges ahead. With Blue Lake 1 and 2 behind us, we can look forward to the main event for many of the country’s paddlers, the Nationals coming up 19-21st February at Lake Karapiro. This month, the ‘Coaches Corner’ piece is around crew boats, a vast topic which will be debated over and over in every corner of the globe. Here are some of my thoughts on putting crew boats together. 

It is a great feeling to be in a K2 or K4 that is running well. The effort required to make the boat run at a good speed feels less than you would expect. Like a swiss timepiece, everything works in harmony, fully synchronised. It is one of the most spectacular sights in my view, to see nine K4’s moving off the start line of a World Championship final. 36 athletes applying maximum power to propel heavy boats off the start line up to speeds up to 30kph. The million dollar question is how to make crew boats run well?

In general terms, athletes of similar abilities and with similar techniques are likely to paddle well together. Choose your crews based on what you see in training day to day. Try different combinations and different orders within the boat to gain better understanding of what works. This also helps your athletes learn the skills required to be more compatible. There will always be some paddlers who insist they are best in the front seat, always. Cynical thoughts on this would be that the driver may be perceived as the most important person in the boat! Everyone has an equally important role in the boat and if they are not all delivering to the best of their potential, the boat will not be as good as it could be. 

Encourage focus on rhythm, timing and efficiency. Coordination of power application from the catch is key to lift the boat with each stroke. Think about distance per stroke and allowing a fraction of a second pause between strokes. As the boat moves faster, it feels more and more difficult to find the grip on the water. Focusing on impulse and distance per stroke can allow for a fast catch and quick water time whilst keeping the stroke rate under control. 

Work on your race plan, any calls that are made down the race and be sure everyone in the crew is clear on the plan. Every member of the crew should feel they can input their thoughts to formulate the plan. After each race, review the plan and discuss if anything needs to change. Most important is that the plan is executed as intended, then you know if the plan needs to change rather than the delivery. 

Lastly, don’t give up on crews you suspect should go well on paper but don’t necessarily do so on the first session. See it as a challenge to seek out how to optimise the partnership! 

Image: Karlene Ward