As coaches, we are challenged again with another spring season of mixed emotions; with some limited racing, and even fewer championship opportunities. Just like last year, this is especially hard for the seniors, who were hoping to get one more year of racing in.
Below are some thoughts to consider when trying to find the right words and express accurately that this is not the end, and they (and the world) will continue to move forward if they make the decision to do so.
You never stop 2K testing.
It’s something I tell all my departing seniors shortly before they graduate. After years of hard training and seemingly ever repeating erg tests, they may be decided to never touch an oar, and especially not an erg, ever again.
The idiom is meant to remind them that although they may make the decision to never sit on an erg, or certainly never pull another 2K erg for score, they will continue to be tested and evaluated for the rest of their life. The moments before those first high and hard strokes of the 2K erg test will be relived again and again just before you go into a critical job interview, give a significant presentation, or stand alone and perform some critical task or duty. Those who develop the habit of avoidance, of trying to eschew those moments of apprehension and perhaps even uncertainty, are setting themselves up for career and life stagnation. They will find it difficult to move forward, just like you cannot move forward in your training without the maximal effort performance check of the 2K erg test.
You never stop 2K testing.
When I tell the seniors this, it resonates with them because they can immediately make the connection between the apprehension of an impending erg test, and how they will be challenged professionally. I inevitably follow it up with, “The key is to never avoid the erg test, the evaluation, or the performance check, but to always sit down and see where you are. You may not always hit the PR, but at least you sat down (or stood up), did the gut-check, and did your best to push through it. That action, even with a sub-optimal performance result, will always move you forward. When you put yourself out there, win or lose, it is always better than just bailing or flaking out.” As an athlete, they will be infinitely more prepared for those “erg test” moments.
I once interviewed a young coach candidate who was working in a full-time career outside of rowing. This person came in to interview with the hope that they could career-pivot entirely to coaching. When asked why, the candidate revealed that the pressure of their full-time job was getting overwhelming, and that they were tired of being called on, every day, to perform. They wanted to get back to rowing, with its comfortable and familiar challenges. This was someone who had come from a top-tier rowing program, had worked very hard in school and on the water, but was understandably experiencing some adulthood culture shock. I then used the idiom with the candidate, “You never stop 2K testing.” and immediately saw the lightbulb come on over their head. Ironically, two weeks later the candidate declined my offer, stating that my advice of never being done with the 2K test had inspired them to stick it out with their full-time career.
Which brings us to the another rowing-related idiom I like to throw out there: “Opportunities are like strokes; the one you just finished is gone; don’t think about it again. There’s always the next stroke to take, so long as you’re ready and willing to take it. The most important stroke however, is the one you’re taking at the moment, that’s the one you attack and win the race with.
There are those who like to talk about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I don’t believe in those. I believe and counsel everyone that you create your own opportunities. Just like strokes; there is always opportunity after opportunity. Some you crush, some you wiff, and some just go by. If you keep rowing, there are always more strokes.
Summing this all up, what I might say to my departing seniors is to never regard this as the end. It’s just another puddle drifting away from the boat. You keep taking strokes and the puddles will get bigger and they will come faster. And never forget, YOU NEVER STOP 2K TESTING.