Tag: Rowing

Overview and History
Rowing is an Olympic sport practiced all around the world. Sometimes called crew in the United States, rowing began in ancient Egypt. The premise of the sport is to propel the boat forward in the water using oars for recreational or completive purposes. In the U.S., rowing competitions are referred to as regattas where boats race each other for time. Boat sizes range from a single scull that holds one person to a coxswain that holds eight people.

Rules and Regulations
The world championship race is 2,000 meters long and has elements of both a long and short distance race. Rowing is unique in its motion from other sports in that it compresses the athletes’ lungs making it difficult for them to get the oxygen they need. Because of this, rowers need to focus on their breathing techniques, which sometimes involves breathing in and out twice every stroke. Boats with more than one person number the rowers from the bow to stern starting with the person at the bow. The person seated at the bow is called the bowman/bow and the person seated closest to the stern is referred to as the strokeman/stroke. The rowers in the middle of the boat are less technical but more powerful, while the rowers on each end are more technical and set up the balance of the boat. The cox is another position on the crew, but it involves steering instead of rowing; they coordinate the power and the rhythm of the rowers. The cox is usually seated in the stern of the boat and must be lightweight since they are not helping to row.

There are a variety of different types of races organized based on speeds and distances. Side-by-side racing is a sprint race between two and six boats usually of 2,000 meters, and whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Head races are time trial and processional races where boats begin the race at intervals of 10-20 seconds and then are timed over set distances. The course of a head race can vary in length but usually ranges from 2,000-12,000 meters. Bump races have a physical contact component to them since the boats are lined up single file at set intervals and attempt to bump the boat ahead of them while avoiding the crew behind them. These races are multi-day and crews are awarded bumps for each contact made with other boats; the team that has been bumped the least starts in front the next day. Stake races include a stake or a buoy that the rowers must race to, and then they turn around and race back to where they started from. The 180-degree turn that the rowers must make at the stake takes high skill and a mastery of rowing.

Minnesota Resources and How to Get Involved
Minnesota offers many rowing opportunities whether it is at a competitive or recreational level. The Duluth Rowing Club, the Minnesota Boat club, and the Minneapolis Rowing club are all available in the warm months. Public and private high schools around Minnesota are also taking advantage of Minnesota’s lakes with their own rowing teams. Minnesota’s first rowing club is still around today and claims to be the state’s oldest athletic organization. With so many course options and a long state history, rowing is quickly gaining popularity in the land of over 10,000 lakes.


Megan Kalmoe competes at the elite level in rowing and does everything she can in order to prepare for her racing opportunities. Athletes like Megan have to ask themselves questions about how well they are fueling their bodies or if they are working harder than their competitors each and every day. But, once Megan Kalmoe is on the starting line, there are no more questions. During a recent interview, I asked Megan about getting in her zone during races. She said that it’s difficult to articulate because going fast is something that doesn’t require much thinking; it just happens. For her, what happens after the start is simple: she just goes. She trusts in her physiology and in all of the intense training that has allowed her lungs and body to function so efficiently during races. However, the preparation that enables her success amongst the best athletes in the world does not only require tremendous physical training. Megan Kalmoe also uses mental preparation in order to be entirely equipped on the starting line.

Megan uses her brain as a muscle and makes sure that she is mentally strong in order to coordinate her arms and legs during races. This combination contributes to her speed and dominance. Her brain is especially involved in her race preparation in different ways during visualization and imagery. When Megan is racing with one other person, her pair partner, they walk through the race out loud together and discuss their plan of action. They decide on which key words they will use (such as “commit”, or “together”) and they know that these specific cues will allow them to focus on the same thing. With this, they accomplish fluency and power together in order to pass competitors or get even further ahead. They also involve multiple senses while practicing imagery. Being able to actually see the course going by, and walking through the same race several times allows them to be mentally prepared and confident that their plan and focus cues will fuel them to success.

In the recent World Cup Championships, Megan Kalmoe raced in a larger boat – the eight – allowing her to experience a different type of visualization with more of her teammates. Her coxswain talked the eight rowers through the entire length of the race, simulating the intensity and feelings that the boat would experience on the water in France. Megan and her teammates trusted in each other’s ability to take the lead together, and ultimately prevailed during this race. Their race execution and victory over the other countries shows the strength of their physical fitness and psychological mindset. Kalmoe and her teammates raced in the pair event only a few hours before, where she also medaled. Her focus allowed her to be successful in both of these races because she was able to transition between the two events and stay in the present moment. She maintained concentration on the things that she was able to control and stayed motivated and confident; she gave everything she had in both of her races.

I am thankful that I had the chance to talk to Megan about these races and what it takes not only to be an Olympian, but a world-class rower. Megan Kalmoe’s incredible physical strength is admirable, and her confidence, motivation, and drive are techniques that I want to use in my own races at the collegiate level. Sport Psychology has been beneficial to me as an athlete by allowing me to strengthen the mental skills that are involved with techniques such as maintaining focus and visualization. Strengthening these mental skills is useful to Olympians like Megan Kalmoe, and can be used at any sport or performance level to give athletes a mental edge and competitive advantage.