Jennifer Lamboll shares useful things she’s learnt since her sons first started rowing
“Do you have any tall children?”
That was it, one simple question to my husband at a work event back in 2018, which catapulted our family headfirst into the amazing world of rowing. It has taken over our lives and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Watching the mental health, strength and resilience grow in my two boys has been inspiring, to the extent that after fearing the erg, watching 2k tests was my first and only experience, that I conquered my own fear in January 2021 by joining the British Rowing Go Row Indoor Facebook group. I now erg and it has given me even more admiration for the athletes that I get to watch.
Learning 1: Find out more about the sport yourself
As new rowing parents we were fortunate to be that our local rowing club in Abingdon, which appreciated and requested help to get everybody involved. We had our own training session where we learned to lift and carry an eight, put it on the water and then get in it. That said, I refused to do the actual getting in because I nearly drowned once and much as I love to be near water for calmness, occasionally still scares me. My boys have set themselves a mission for me to be in a boat with them one day. This training gave us much more understanding of what our young athletes were putting themselves through.
Learning 2: Create checklists for training and racing
I’m a huge fan of lists, food/nutrition and the right clothing/equipment are paramount at an event and of course in general for training, and you need to be as comfortable and ready for an eight hour plus day as you want to make your child be.
The week before a race I check the timings with whoever has that information and plan the food for the day before and on the day itself. This gives me time to decide what to bake, make or buy. Race fuelling strategies can be very scientific and vary from person to person; so seek advice from the coach or look at the British Rowing articles online.
I find that my two eat minimally during the day and then make up for it on the drive home and the subsequent days.
Learning 3: Prepare to look after yourself at races
Comfort for the adult can be so easy to get right if you think ahead. I’ve arrived at Dorney Lake at 7am to see parents standing around with no chair, no coffee, and no food, then asking for directions to the nearest supermarket. I cannot stand the hassle, make it easy for yourself, always plan on nothing being available and go fully equipped.
What to bring
Sometimes it’s not an easy day; bad weather and long distances travelled combined with a very early start but having a few comforts around you makes all the difference: camping chairs, cool box, waterproof clothing, a change of shoes to escape the mud, sunglasses, hat, suntan lotion, gloves, scarf, binoculars, a book/Kindle, your mobile phone, and a battery pack.
If you check online for the event you are attending, you can find that booking parking in advance is sometimes cheaper, especially for events in Nottingham or at Dorney. Some of the parking fees will make you wince but this is all part of rowing and its give and take depending on which event you go to.
Find out what‘s happening
Printing out the race schedule can often be helpful because you may have hours to wait in between a time trial, semi-final and final, our record is nine hours at the moment! You can also check these on your phone, but that’s not so easy in bright sunshine or rain on the day.
This way you can highlight potential races before you leave home. Then you’ll know if you’ve got time to pop to the coffee van or go back to the car for a nap without missing any racing excitement. You will be annoyed with yourself if you’ve been waiting for ages and then miss the race! It’s not guaranteed that you will see your athlete at any point during the day other than on the water. They may well run past you in a warm up session and give you a nod, but then you’re on your own to determine what’s happening and when.
Learning 4: Supporting your young rower after racing
Keep some blankets and a neck cushion in the car for the journey home, they might insist they don’t need them but when they realise, they do then they are grateful.
Race days are a brilliant day out and often everyone will be exhausted by the time we get home, if I’ve been organised enough I will have made a lasagne a few days earlier or had time to put ingredients in the slow cooker and set the timer that morning. A racing day is also the perfect excuse for a takeaway to be ordered that night whilst everyone sorts out wet kit and hot showers.
You might be able to tell that my rowing life revolves around food and lists, I like to watch the events, they are not juniors for long and then it all comes to an end unless they decide to row at university. You might be a parent/carer who has other family and work commitments and cannot be there on race days; that is totally understandable, but if you can make it, I hope that my short insight into a day out will show you that being a rowing parent can be great!
Author photo: Roger Lamboll.