April has been the best time of year for the local Globe Rowing Club, allowing athletes to return to their boats at the Royal Albert docks in East London. 

Like many other sports clubs Globe Rowing Club has been able to return normal and continue with its training on the water. With many friends in the club and personally seeing the return, it's been amazing to watch Globe and many other clubs get back to real training in their boats. To understand the importance of a change away from lockdown training, I interviewed head coach Maurice Coughlan on Saturday 17th April to understand the impact of the lockdown lift on the club’s activities and training schedule. 

How does it feel to be back on the water? 

It’s a relief really. Whilst we were on lockdown, training was becoming tedious, and it reflected in the performance of a lot of the squad. The squad was becoming tired of working on their own and lacking the fundamental community aspect of the training which we feel is an important part of our club. It's good to get back to the docks and have in-person sessions. The buzz of the docks is always something nice to come back to as it's easy to miss and an essential part of our training. 

Are there any positives of returning to normal – What were the positives of training at home? 

The community aspect of reopening and getting back out into the fresh air whilst meeting people has to be one of the greatest positives of returning. Having sessions with others rather than just being online is a pleasant change and has certainly affected us all quite well. Having a sense of something to do rather than being shut indoors and not being allowed out is a real positive. Now we’ve got an opportunity going forward, if we keep Covid free, to continue our training and hopefully return to normal. 

The gains that we made during the first lockdown were fantastic! We had plenty of personal bests on the ergs (rowing machines) and we had lots of gains strength and fitness wise. I really see the improvement to the squad's strength levels as a positive through a terribly negative time in sport. Hats off to the squad on zoom, I have plenty of respect and admiration for the time they spent training and who stuck with the programme throughout the lockdown. We’ve still got a decent sized squad and we didn’t lose any members throughout the tough year that we had.  

Was there any possibility of staying at the docks during the first lockdown – what did you do instead and were there any positives? 

In the first lockdown, I didn’t want to be locked out, I wanted to keep going for as long as I could. I was suggesting that the club continued to train on the water through squad members individually rowing in single scull boats, remaining socially distanced throughout. That would have been great for us as I didn’t want to the squad to be locked away from proper training. However, in hindsight it was best for us to start training via zoom, around March time, as there were always going to be problems with squad members arriving to training at the docks afterschool, especially as most transport services could only be used when necessary.  

Our gym sessions could easily be done indoors at home which negated all the travelling issues we always faced. Squad members received weights and were able to continue training with us on zoom from home. From a coaching point of view, I had quite a tough time as you’re not actually in the room and you can’t see exactly what’s going on, so that’s a negative of being on zoom and of being forced to do something instead of training on the water. I couldn’t see exactly what everyone was doing, and it could be that the squad developed bad habits or even minor injuries from them. We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had any injury, however one of my main concerns when I’m coaching is range of movement with posture and that’s what I can’t always see. I insisted that I should be able to see the full range movements of every squad member when they were doing the online zoom sessions. It’s not always easy to see what’s going on when the camera is angled in an odd way. In the gym, when I’m able to come close to someone, I can easily spot any anomaly in their movement patterns.  

Are there any negatives of returning to the water? 

The negatives I see are those that come from school. Because of lockdown schools are now putting more demand on the squad and the time that they’re able to come together and train. Longer days at school, for some, are a negative from my point of view as the squad is unable to get together at the right time for training. It's not great that some will be able to attend but others won’t be due to pressures from school leading them to be too late for sessions. Schools should realise that kids who are involved in a structured sports programme (like at Globe) should be given time off during the school day to be at training. I know that some schools have already made moves towards doing that for some of the squad. It’s an important aspect of development to allow children or young adults to get out there and do something energetic.   

What were some of the positives of Zoom? 

The positives were that we were able to continue training and I was able to deliver a programme in which the squad could still row and improve. Whilst in isolation it gave the squad an opportunity to meet and have a chat. Although that started falling off towards the end of lockdown as, quite rightly, people were getting fed up with talking over Zoom. In the initial part of lockdown, we used to leave the room open and people would sit around and have a chat and generally enjoy each other’s company. I’m really pleased with how the programme shaped out and my first thought was wow, if we can’t continue this club the squad are going to lose what they enjoy doing. So, my first thought was to provide something for the squad to continue to develop, and that worked. We can see it today as we’ve had new members join during our lockdown period and have remained members for six to nine months. It’s good to see them now on the water.  

What are your plans going forward – are there any regattas? 

My plan going forward, whilst we’re still under this semi-restrictive moment in time, will be Zoom sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays and we’ll be here on the water on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The sessions will run from 5pm – 7pm, our normal gym time, however we’ll have to see how that shapes up in terms of how many squad members can arrive on time because of the additional stresses put on by school. If they can’t arrive on time, we’ll have to be flexible with our start time, we’ll have to see. The National School’s regatta is open, however I’m not willing to enter a crew as some of the squad who have had Covid are not in a fit state to race yet. Simply I want my squad to recover before they enter any event. This year I want to get back into the swing of things and next year I hope to be in an advantageous position to enter and perform well in the upcoming events and regattas.  

I must thank Maurice Coughlan for allowing me the time to take this interview as the job of head coach is a prestigious and time-consuming position. I look forward to seeing success at Globe and if you’re looking for a sport club that’s managed to survive through lockdown, make sure to have a look at Globe Rowing Club as they are a wonderful, community driven rowing club!