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Rowing Checks In From Winter Training

Jan. 12, 2011

MIAMI, Fla. - University of Connecticut senior rower Lizzie Littlewood (Mystic, Conn.) is checking in from Florida where the Huskies are taking part in winter training in preparation for the upcoming spring season.

All our traveling rowers, coxswains, coaches and equipment escaped the New England snow without incident and made it to Miami for our winter training trip safely!

On our first day, after rigging our boats and listening to Coach Sanford's obligatory heat stroke, blister care, blood-poisoning speech, we set off on our first row. We did a lot of drilling and light rowing to get back into the swing of things. Later in the day, we got together to watch video and talk about a game plan for our trip.

Coach Gruber informed us we were on a quest to "purge the team of shoulder dipping." For some reason when he said this, I imagined a world without Dairy Queen chocolate dipped ice cream cones and was very sad.

What he actually meant was that sometimes some rowers, myself included, dip their outside shoulder at the catch - when the blade goes in the water. If your shoulder goes down, your hands will go down, then the blade (with the shaft as a lever) will go up when it's supposed to be going down into the water. This is simply no good - you can't row if the blade is not in the water!

To convince ourselves of this, we took turns pulling each others t-shirts with our shoulders dipped and level, and it turns out level pullers are stronger. We've started doing a lot of cool new drills in practice to eliminate shoulder dipping: the hydroplane drill, the slap drill and the snake drill. We watched more video today, and it looks like our shoulder dippage has already decreased!

While some of our team is drilling and working on technique, others are doing intense seat racing pieces in the fours. The point of seat racing is to determine who makes a boat go faster by racing two boats and then swapping two rowers between the boats. The seat racing is very tiring, as we've been doing between five and seven three-and-a-half minute pieces twice a day. Plus, the more seat races you win, the more you keep seat racing. This will continue throughout the week, and the coaches are really happy with how things are going.



This trip is also a really good opportunity for our coxswains to strut their stuff before we head indoors for two months. The canals in Miami have an assortment of bridges, and the boathouse has been jam-packed with other teams so there is a lot of boat traffic, as well. All four of the varsity coxswains are getting rotated through all the boats and we'll most likely do coxswain evaluations at the end of the week, giving them feedback on technical things like steering, docking, and safety; and more personal things, like their commands, tone of voice and ability to motivate.

All of the work in fours has slightly thrown off our coxswain-to-rower ratios, so some of our shorter rowers have been asked to cox a practice, or two. So far, they have all risen to the challenge - even if they haven't risen in height!