Cool rowing interview: Karen Klinger

This month’s guest coach is Karen Klinger. Karen is
the head coach at Smith College, in Northampton,
Massachusetts. Smith is her alma mater, and this is
the sixth year for Karen as the head coach there.

Karen was selected “Divison III Coach of the Year”
last year, and has been involved in the past with the
U.S. national team efforts. Karen is currently working
with the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association to make
the world of college women’s rowing better.

Following are a few of Karen’s thought’s on rigging
and rowing:

Q. In terms of maximum boat speed, how important do
you think rigging is?

A.  I think rigging is important in that the athletes
have to be comfortable.  You have to rig to the
strength and size of the crew and not just impose
numbers out of a book or from the national team on
your crew.

Row thru, heights, heel height, spread, inboard, and
pitch can be adjusted to fit the athlete, within
limits.  In a program where I can have a 3 seat that
is 6’0 and a 2 seat that is 5’3, comfort and ability
to row a full stroke can affect boat speed

That said, technique is still number one.  I don’t
allow my athletes to blame problems on the rigging. I
will make sure that everything is the way it should
be, but have been known to tell them I checked the
boat, and they have a better row, and I didn’t change
a darn thing.

Q. How much time do you devote to rigging per week
during the season?

A. Probably a few hours max, depending on the time of

I tend to set things, write everything down, and try
not to tinker too much.  If you see me at a regatta
actually rigging either I am nervous and need
something to do, or something is broken.

One season I changed from a starbord to a port stroke
every dang week, so that was a lot of work, but in a
non-heated boathouse I try to keep the fussing to a

Q. What is your favorite part of rigging?

A. My assistant says its when she gets the same
measurement twice in a row!!  When I have enough time,
totally re-rigging a boat is actually fun.  For about
an hour you have complete control and the ability
handle and change something.  Kind of like the zen
state you can get into when folding laundry or doing
dishes, if no one is standing over you telling you to
do it.

Q. What is your least favorite part of rigging?

A. Having to fix something on the water, dropping one
of the top bolts, and realizing that it was the last
one in the toolbox.

Q. Do you have one rigging tip that you would like to
share with the readers?

A. Try to change one thing at a time and see the
result before you make another change.  Also, don’t be
afraid to ask questions. Most coaches out there will

willingly share their experience and expertise…