Helena Smalman-Smith |

Managing masters squads with different abilities

Integrating new rowers and ‘returners’, who may have last rowed as students, with rowers who have decades of experience is a contentious issue at many clubs. In our latest masters series article, masters cox and sculler Helena Smalman-Smith explores how it can be done so everyone benefits

How do you keep everyone engaged in the sport if they are of varying abilities? At the heart of the challenge is the ‘averaging effect’ – the way that the level of a crew’s rowing in a given outing is the average of the abilities of each rower in it. As a result, in different-ability crews, the less technically able generally have a great time and improve, while the more competent rowers can get frustrated and find that they start rowing worse. On top of this, mature learners can take longer to develop new physical skills and many experienced rowers have back issues that make rowing in unbalanced boats problematic.

However, while turnover amongst masters squads tends to be lower than amongst seniors, an ongoing supply of new recruits is still needed, particularly for racing large boats.

So, what can you do that will keep everyone – or at least most people – happy? There’s no magic solution, but here are some approaches that have been proven to work well at different clubs, which you can adapt for your situation.


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