The Quantum Sculler by True Champion Crew Coach Jimmy Joy

The Skilled Entry

The coach in a subtle way begins his instruction by ingraining into the novice sculler an appreciation of smooth movements. His approach is a totally integrative method where he presents the whole movement from the beginning of his instructions to the novice.  The sculler’s entry is extremely easy for the beginner to learn. They do it as a natural course of placing the blade into the water. They simply come forward on the slide and at the last few seconds simply grab the water with their oar. Their blade may be slightly under squared but this doesn’t matter. As time passes they will gain ever more speed at placing the blade. Little has to be said to the neophyte at this point. All of this is done in one simple motion, the under square, the entry of the blade into the water, and the pulling action. The young sculler completes the movement as an integrated and single movement. Eventually he will get the blade squared in the water. However, there is a flow to the movement and it is continuous in a rough sort of way. The critical point is to keep the blade moving at the entry with no significant pause of the blade above the water’s surface.

With a conventional approach the beginner would be encouraged and prodded to make an early squaring action of the blade, then place it in a deliberate action into the water and then pull. This action in comparison to the sculler’s movement is slow, more time-consuming, and mechanical. It leads to a definite pausing of the blade above the water. This instruction is more elaborate and serial in nature; there is too much instruction and not enough doing by the sculler. The critique of the movements is continued until a perceived perfection is achieved. It is a perfection in inefficiency. Coaches and biomechanicians stand on their heads to attest to its effectiveness. It fits in nicely with the Classical physics. This standard teaching approach is totally concerned with the blade action and no addressing of the body position at the entry. It is a serious oversight when only the blade action, the squaring above the water, is addressed.

The wholeness of the cycle is never more evident than at the entry. The seat, the trunk, and the blade arrive at full extension simultaneously. This is the proper seat/body timing. The legs are splayed with the armpits over the knees and the trunk angled forward with the eyes fixated on the stern of the shell. The lower legs are perpendicular to the gunwale and the blade is ready for entry.  All of this produces a solid and balanced platform in the shell to execute the entry.  Attention must be given to this body position for the proper execution of the entry. Too often it is overlooked with the preoccupation with the movement of the blade. The actual rhythmic movement of the hand, knuckle, and wrist is continuous and has a micro flow quality. The hands on the handle must be relaxed to achieve this action; it is very light work with the fingers. There is no preparation of the blade position as the blade simply drops into the water with a little assistance from the hands rising slightly at the full reach position. The blade action is simply an instinctive movement done with skilled quickness. The drop is not a vertical drop but a curvilinear drop with the lower edge leading into the water. It is important that the swift entry of the blade be combined with the swift power application. It is a speedy coupling of two actions. It is a two cycle movement, the drop and the pull. This stark contrast to the conventional squares the blade, enter the water and pull, a three cycle movement. So with the two cycle action both a movement and time is saved. The blade should simply disappear from the recovery position. Lindsey Hochman asks, “Why would you carry the blade so far off the water? And this entry is what the young novice does naturally.??? With this entry the blade can be carried very close to the surface of the water. This helps with shell balance and for the quick entry into the water.

Again the relaxed, subtle fingers play a major role in making this action. The tight hold of the fingers on the handle is destructive for any attempts to complete this subtle entry.  With the fingers doing the controlling of the handle, the power goes through the handle efficiently rather than into the handle when the grip is tight and palmed. It is similar to a monkey hanging from a limb. This places the relaxed hands and fingers, with wrists flat and elongated, in a poised state.  Hand follows the handle to the entry.

Not only drilling on the parts can help the development, but also intensive sessions over 1500 meters, a section of the river or lake staked out,  where you have coaching intensity of stop and check going on, and then turn around and go back over the 1500 meters. You keep doing this for 60-90 minutes. Not much mileage but ample intensity of effort and concentration involved. It is good to do at various times of the training year. It really helps to foster the development with the technical skills.

  • Date added:16 Nov,2015