Two weeks into the new 2021 season, Matt Rossiter is glad to be back training with the rest of the GB Rowing Team
The first of September 2020 marked the return of athletes back to Caversham, the national training base of the GB Rowing Team. The last time we were there was back on 23rd March 2020 when we were due to finish off the final, heinous, round of Olympic seat racing.
On arrival we were told that testing was being aggressively drawn to a close by the grey curtain of COVID that was shutting down the world at an alarmingly quick rate.
Still in kit, we all assembled outside for a big meeting with the powers that be. We were informed that Caversham was to shut with immediate effect. This all happened on a Saturday, the following Tuesday the Games were cancelled.
“After a tough morning session there’s nothing I enjoy more than chatting nonsense with the boys, pumped up with endorphins, whilst sending down bacon and coffee”
I’m currently writing this from my flat in Henley and that meeting in March feels like a lifetime ago. The world has changed dramatically since and we’ve all had to adjust to a whole new way of existence.
Being completely honest, I found lockdown really tough, so getting back to Caversham last week felt pretty awesome.
I’m a person who thrives with structure, so it’s been really nice to get some routine and order back into my schedule.
For me, 1st September marked the start of life getting back to normal.
Quite a few people have asked me what I was missing the most about life during lockdown. I would confidently say our second breakfast. After a tough morning session there’s nothing I enjoy more than chatting nonsense with the boys, pumped up with endorphins, whilst sending down bacon and coffee. It’s great to have this part of the day back.
‘The invisible mugger’ that is COVID is still very much about and I’ve been very impressed with the work done by the British Rowing staff to get the centre ready for the return of athletes.
The place is much as it was before, but with all the new features that we’re all becoming accustomed to now. Alcohol gel, masks, two metres and lots of cleaning. It all feels quite normal now to be honest. Yes sure, it’s odd having to wear a mask for your morning briefing with the coach, having to erg in a massive tent in the car park and having to get changed out the back of your car, but I’m really enjoying being back.
“If 2020 wasn’t hectic enough already, being told the news that Jürgen was stepping down as Chief Coach really tipped it off”
The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet which for me is the big, big change. That thing is who is in the building or most importantly who is not.
The national team rowers have been split into three groups. The men’s sweep group are training together at Caversham on an alternate schedule with the men and women scullers. The women’s sweep squad are with all the lightweights over in Marlow and there are support staff spread over both.
The one person none of us will be seeing again coaching is Jürgen Grobler.
Now, if 2020 wasn’t hectic enough already, being told the news that Jürgen was stepping down as Chief Coach really tipped it off.
This was a big shock to everyone and it does feel very strange being at training without the ‘chief’ around. He sat at the top of the stack and ultimately everything, including selection, came down to him and him alone. Everyone’s efforts were tailored to appeasing that one man and – with him gone – it does feel strange.
Whilst definitely feeling sad to see him depart, I am really excited about the future. The athletes, together with the new coaching structure, have a chance to push forward and evolve, whilst completing the job that Jürgen started.
The same end goal
2020 has brought a hell of a lot of change, but for us the end goal really hasn’t shifted one bit.
We still have boats, oars, teammates, a rowing lake and a lot of miles to complete.
Lockdown has again reinforced to me how lucky we really are to have what we have. Yes, we’ve essentially got to do another block of winter training, having not raced – but it’ll all be worth it in the long run.
We’re now a week into the new 2021 season and are paddling around in pairs and singles. Gradually, as we solidify the new Caversham COVID protocols, we’ll progress into fours and eights which should be a great laugh.
Through lockdown, I was very much living by day-to-day to get through. It’s really nice to now be able to look ahead and get excited about things that will hopefully happen next year.