From Club to country
*taken from a piece I wrote for the Leander Club Spring Newsletter
Since September 2016 I have been a proud Leander member training in the British Rowing Team at Caversham. The past 6 months have been hard but hugely enjoyable and I’d like to share my experience with you in this piece.
I started rowing at Abingdon School and carried this forward with three years at Durham University. In 2012 I moved to London and worked for two years whilst rowing at University of London Boat Club. In 2014 I decided that I wanted to focus more closely on my rowing so I joined Leander. I had two fantastic years coached by Matt Beechey and Karl Reid culminating in a rather dramatic Henley Regatta in 2016 where we won the Ladies Challenge Plate final after Neurus were disqualified. Through the 2016 season I also had some solid trials results and as a result, at the ripe old age of 27, I fulfilled a childhood dream by getting the call up train with the British Squad at Caversham.
Fresh new olympiad
The Rio Olympics was an absolute triumph for Team GB, the British Rowing team and Leander Club athletes. The end of the Olympiad brings many retirements resulting in fresh faces being invited to train at the national centre, including me. It’s a really interesting time to be called up with new athletes actually outnumbering the old guard of returning Olympians. I’m sure this first year is a pretty challenging period for these guys but for us new crop it’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity. Having the chance to train with Olympic Champions such as Will Satch and Moe Sbihi is incredible.
Training life at the National Centre, in Caversham, is much the same as what I experienced at Leander. The intensity is just a bit higher, the attention to detail is a little more with a dedicated team of sports scientists keeping a close eye on things. We train three times a day whereas at Leander I trained twice a day.
What’s definitely noticeable and something that certainly takes some getting used to is the long sightedness of Head Coach Jürgen Grobler and his coaches. Personally, I am very much operating on a week-by-week basis focusing on just surviving each day. I worry about each test as it comes and then move onto the next. But you can see in the more experienced guys that the work is all going in towards building themselves for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. The intensity of the training is still ferocious but those guys don’t necessary worry about performing at 100% every day. They know when the important days are and pull out the big guns when it really matters. When I was training at Leander I would tear around training as hard as I could every session. Training is tough, really tough and most of the team work in the afternoons to fund their training. The attitude in the national team is subtly different where the goal is to complete the training to a very high standard session on session, day on day, month on month building towards 2020.
As I’ve mentioned the setup in the British Rowing Team is absolutely world class but I feel that Leander has delivered me there and in as good a position as I could wish to be in. I’ve been exposed, all be it in a slightly watered down version, to everything that Jürgen Grobler could throw at me.
In my opinion Leander offers an unparalleled launchpad towards the national team. Unlike any club I’ve rowed at, everything is put on a plate for the athletes. The facilities, the coaching staff, the boats, the kitchen and food provision, the behind the scenes logistics and the overarching support from the Club, which enables athletes to purely, focus on the rowing. That said the training is tough, very tough and all the athletes have to work in their free afternoons to fund their training lifestyle.
Rowing with the British Team is what I’ve always wanted to do and I am absolutely loving it but Caversham will never have that intangible feel of history and togetherness that Leander has. We’ve all been at the club during the regatta and would agree that the atmosphere is like none other. All the athletes, members and staff give the club an amazing community feel and atmosphere. Caversham is deliberately clinical and generates results. But I do miss the club feel of Leander
Looking forward, the focus is turning towards the national trials in April where competition will be fierce to gain selection for the World Championships; which are in Florida this October. I will be giving an update on my first season in the GB team in the Autumn Newsletter.