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The Accelerated Adoption of Virtual Training Part Two: The Virtual Team and Future of Club Rowing

We are suddenly thrust into an environment where virtual training (VT: Training as individuals at home but sharing plans, workouts, and results socially/online) has become a necessity. While it was a sudden change, many have transitioned smoothly over to the idea of a VTT (Virtual Training Team) and are currently continuing their efforts with optimism.

Part Two of this series on Virtual Training (VT) will consider the potential growth of VT in the club environment. Virtual Training is an opportunity to improve the quality of their rowing experience, grow the club culture, and create a more branded experience.

We need to consider the potential of a virtual training program as a permanent feature in today's modern rowing organization.

When you examine the environment of a typical rowing club, you see a community of athletes who value the athletic pursuit of rowing, they value being on the water, and they value the social component the community offers. Every morning and evening there are crews and singles that will take to the water to get their strokes in, sometimes with the supervision of a coach, sometimes without. It is a tenet of our community that the more you are out on the water, the greater opportunity you have to improve, get faster, row better etc.

Not everyone gets out on the water as often as they would like, however. Many would like to row everyday, year-round, but life, seasonal changes (and world-wide pandemics) get in the way. Some people may decide they can no longer make it to the boathouse regularly enough, and eventually, perhaps even prematurely, step away from rowing.

What if lack of regular attendance was not a stumbling block to that? What if those days you missed at the boathouse could be made up by fun and engaging workouts at home, and there was an active micro-community within the club that was supporting those efforts? Would that improve member retention? Is it possible a VTT component is the next best step toward member retention and club growth for the future?

Now is an ideal time to formalize this dynamic into a permanent component of club-wide training. People are becoming accustomed to an at-home program, and the idea that training can only happen at the boathouse is fading. When the athletes return to the boathouse, to suggest an at-home program as a regular part of the club training could be an easily accepted addition. Athletes would feel like they have the latitude to continue training, without feeling like they should be there everyday.

What would a program like this look like? An easy first step is to follow the example of professional rowing coaches out there right now (Xeno Mueller, Neil Bergenroth for example) who offer online coaching services. Much like a personal trainer, these coaches work typically with individuals to establish goals and a training program by which to achieve them. Rowing Organizations could follow this model by assigning a specific coach to provide supplemental, team-wide training programs for members to pursue at home if needed.

But because we are social creatures, there is still need for a team feeling and continuing to be part of a community. The social piece of it can be compensated with apps like Zoom, and the C2 forum to share workouts, training data and even compete. These tools make it more feasible than ever to run this kind of program.

If the training plan is effective (using the club's definition of effective), it could potentially open the club to recruit non-local athletes into “virtual” membership. From there, a club could build a Virtual Team from athletes located all over the country or all over the world. At that point, there are no limits to what a club can do, sponsoring its own “Rolodex Team” and creating an actual recognizable brand.

Few will argue against the tenet of more time in the boat is best. More and more athletes however have the equipment and willingness to put in the training time at home when they simply cannot be on the water. Rowing organizations might do well to consider this an area of growth and improvement for their whole membership experience.

Madder Consulting offers counsel and insight into how a rowing organization might build their own Virtual Training Program and Team. Reach out to to set up a complimentary conversation about how I can help your club get things started!

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