The women’s rowing team opened its season at the Navy Day Regatta on Saturday, Oct. 13, with the Novice 4+ boat highlighting the day with a second-place finish.
For the team’s new coach, Rebecca Smith Grzybowski, and the rest of the Owls, the focus early on has been technique.
“[Grzybowski] and I have the same philosophy that we have to get the technique better,” graduate assistant Colleen Greway said. “We know that we can get there if we stick to the training program, but the technique is a lot more difficult to master.”
In working on the Owls’ technique, Greway tries to focus on the women’s bodies.
“When you look at men, compared to women, men have a lot more upper body strength than women do,” Greway said. “We’re really trying to make everything happen from the core down because women’s strength is in their cores and hips.”
In focusing on the woman’s body, Temple is trying to utilize its female coach. Grzybowski is the only female head coach in Big 5 rowing.
Grzybowski said women have extremely strong lower bodies – specifically the legs and quads. She said though some spectators may not realize it, rowing is a very leg-driven sport.
“[Core] is a critical part of what [we] do because it connects our handle to our legs,” Grzybowski said.
Creating core strength also helps the Owls build endurance, Grzybowski said.
“You stay strong for a race that lasts 10, 12, 15, 17 minutes in the fall,” Grzybowski said. “When they race and get to the end, they say, ‘That actually felt easier than I was anticipating.’”
Grzybowski and Greway’s focus on technique resonated with the Owls during Saturday’s regatta. As each race concluded, rowers evaluated their performance based on their technique.
Senior stroke seat Brittany Adell said she can improve her technique following the Owls’ first race of the day, the collegiate 8+ final in which her boat finished in the Top 10 with a time of 17 minutes, 19 seconds.
“[I need to work on] technical stuff, the posture like sitting up more,” Adell said. “Stuff that coach is on us every day for.”
“Rowing is a sport which no one really masters,” Adell said. “There are people on this river who row every day that are Olympians who still work on technique.”
A second boat, led by junior stroke seat Victoria Joye, also participated in the collegiate 8+ final, and finished third overall.
“Everything we were learning in practice really came together like pressing on the legs and getting our catches in together,” Joye said.
Following the collegiate junior varsity 8+ final, sophomore stroke seat Moira Meeks said the team’s focus on technique had helped her boat to its Top 10 finish.
“As other teams are working on getting faster and rowing all eight, I think us taking time out and rowing by sixes and working on our technique really benefited us today,” Meeks said. “When it comes to races that count, we are going to step our game up and we’re going to be looking technically better than all these boats.”
As the Owls focused on their core technique, one of the beneficiaries that a lot of the women cited was the catch.
“Our catches felt much stronger than they have been,” Meeks said. “[Grzybowski] and [Greway] have been emphasizing dropping your blades in quicker and keeping the legs down.”
“Everyone was trying to get better catches,” Adell said.
Catches were not just a topic reserved for the juniors and seniors of the team. The novice 4+ boat was driven by solid catches.
Freshman stroke seat Grace Kroner lead the novice’s tempo, and noted the boat’s catch synchronization.
“Since we were all catching together, we were all moving together and getting our blades in strong and just pushing really hard,” Kroner said.
“We were all catching together which is something we’ve really been focusing on,” Kroner added. “That helped get us where we were.”
As a product of technique, Grzybowski said catch is a critical part of the stroke.
“If we really lock onto [the catch], we can really send the boat as far we can with every stroke moving together,” Grzybowski said. “It’s going to make a big impact in the spring – overall boat speed.”
Preparing the Owls for another regatta this weekend, Grzybowski said he intends to continue working on technique. Specifically this will be, again, working on core strength but also refining the catch’s end.
However, Grzybowski said while the Owls have executed their technique very well, they need to get into a “race mentality.”
The Owls’ compete again next weekend in Boston at the Head of the Charles Regatta beginning on Oct. 20.
Liam McKenna can be reached at email@example.com.