I had everything in my launch. Stroke-watch, GPS, cell phone, walkie talkie, power megaphone—I was all set for success.
Instead, we had a terrible practice. Here’s why:
- The batteries in my stroke watch died
- I had GPS connection issues
- My cell phone rang numerous times, and I almost dropped (threw) it overboard
- The walkie talkie picked up a local trucking company conversations
- And my megaphone produced feedback that would have rivaled any rock guitarist
So why was practice so bad?
Those issues themselves aren’t what made the practice terrible. What did was that I got distracted.
I became laser-focused on the electronics and before I knew it time had run out and we were on the return dock. No improvement to show and frustration on everyone’s face.
Water time is limited—often a luxury, and distraction is the breeding ground of a substandard practice.
Distraction is one down-side of electronics
But of course, there’s an upside to using rowing electronics—and there better be for the investment you make.
Rowing electronics are tools. When used effectively they can help improve rowing performance and safety.
To get those benefits—the improvement in performance and safety—you must be methodical. Take steps to help make that happen. Not many steps—six actually—and I’m going to make my recommendation on those steps in a moment.
But before we dive in I want to emphasize that all six can happen BEFORE your season gets rolling along at full speed.
In other words, NOW is a fantastic time to get your rowing electronics set up for success. (Sure, you can do it anytime, but before the demands of the season are in full-bloom might be the best time.)
6 Steps For Maximizing Your Rowing Electronics Investment
None of the following six steps are tricky. None require coding nor magic abilities. But they will take time (maybe an hour per type of electronics) and effort. Here we go:
Step #1) Have a powerfully good reason why you use it
Why are you using that piece of rowing electronics? Because there is a benefit, right? But is the benefit worth it?
A coach called me a while ago. He was having trouble setting up his Peach system (an instrumentation system used to measure speed, catch angles, and power application). I asked him why he was using the system and I remember to-this-day his answer, “Because I’m afraid other coaches will get it, and I don’t want to be left out.“
From a simple stopwatch to rowing app to the most sophisticated motion-analysis-program, the electronics should help you reach your goal. If they don’t then why do you have them?
Ask yourself, “Do I really need this item in my Rowing Universe (right now)?” If the answer is NOT a resounding, “Heck Yeah!” then don’t buy it, or stop using it until it can help you.
In other word—there MUST be a powerfully good reason you are using it. You might find this helpful.
Step #2) Learn how to use it
Megaphone, speed meter, stopwatch, or other electronic gizmo…do you know how to use it? Most people just wing it…jump right in…give it a-go…often without looking at the directions.
To maximize your investment learn how to use the electronics. Read the instructions. Absorb a manual. Watch a tutorial. Talk to a user.
Years ago, I was only using 1/2 the potential of my SpeedCoach XL. Then at a conference I asked for (and got) a hands-on session from an NK employee. After that I became more effective with the XL—learning how to use it in such a way so as not to overwhelm and distract myself and the rowers while getting valuable information. That conversation was critical.
What about you? How can you get better at an electronic tool you have?
Step #3) Try it. Test it
Once you have an understanding of how the electronic is supposed to work give it a go. Test it!
Take your power megaphone, go yell in the woods and wake up some chipmunks. Take your speed system for a shakedown row. Use that stroke watch to measure everything.
Try it. Test it. Get comfortable with it before you bring it full scale into your Rowing Universe.
Step #4) Use it. Evaluate it
Now that you :
- know WHY you are using it
- HOW to use it
- and have TESTED it
start using it. Welcome the tool into your rowing schedule, and weave it into your workflow. (And if your electronics are being shared, here are several safety suggestions for these crazy times.)
After a period of time reflect back on the reason why you have the electronics and evaluate if the tool is getting you closer to your goal. It’s a simple process and I’ve used the following three statements to help me evaluate if an electronics tool is beneficial:
- This tool is HELPING me in pursuit of my goal
- I AM NOT SURE if this tool is helpful
- This tool is HINDERING me in pursuit of my goal
I’d review those statements often over a period of time and if a trend appeared then I would act on it.
For instance, I once made a multi-item purchase of one piece of electronics because it was apparent that it was quite helpful, while at the same time I was returning another piece because it was constantly a distraction and getting in the way.
Step #5) Fix-it
Rowing electronics usually work well, but then…something breaks or gets weird. Here’s the tricky part… most broken rowing equipment functions off the adjust/repair/replace fix-it model. If it’s not working correctly you:
- Try to ADJUST it. If that doesn’t work,
- Try to REPAIR it. If that doesn’t get you where you want to go then you,
- REPLACE it.
But with rowing electronics the fix-it model is different. If it’s not working as it should you:
- Try to ADJUST it. If that doesn’t work then,
- You send it off for repair and in the meantime replace it or go without
The repair-step has almost disappeared completely in most boatsheds and boathouses around the world. For the most part, rowing electronics are not consumer repairable.
Step #6) Store it
When you are getting ready to store your electronics you NEED to know what the manufacturer recommend because you can do damage if you don’t follow their suggestions.
Typically you store rowing electronics in a cool dry place. But what do you do about the battery? Leave it in/take it out? Store it charged or uncharged? Check with the manufacturer for their most current advice (pun intended).
And remember where you stored your electronics because it can get lost. Also keep other stuff from getting put on top of your electronics. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a stroke-watch or microphone only to find it buried beneath a pile of other stuff somebody stacked on it. You might find this helpful.
The Bottom Line
To maximize your rowing electronics investment follow these six steps:
- Have a powerfully-good reason why you use it
- Learn how to use it
- Try it. Test it
- Use it. Evaluate it
- Store it
And keep in mind, when you welcome a piece of rowing electronics into your Rowing Universe it is nothing more than a tool—not your boss.