Archive for January, 2018

President’s Wrap Up

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Faith Platz, President
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
Major: Statistics and Economics
Looking back at the past four days here at Wyandotte Boat Club, the progress our team has made is very evident. As we were wrapping up or final session this morning, we took some time to reflect on the mini-camp, and a handful of teammates had very positive comments. From the individualized attention in the tank room, to video analysis, to technical erg practices, every rower and coxswain was able to focus on their limiting factors and improve them, on all novice and varsity squads alike. One thing that sets this trip apart from the traditional GVSU Rowing Winter Training trip is that everyone was invited and encouraged to attend, instead of just a select group. This allowed the novices to receive very valuable coaching and opportunities to better their rowing. We may not have been in the Florida sun for 10 days, but that’s okay, since we still got the technical training we needed (plus it was cold down south anyway!)

We are extremely grateful for the hospitality provided by Fred Mekolon and Wyandotte Boat Club. Their facilities are state-of-the-art, and the tanks gave us the opportunity to work on bladework and timing despite the frozen river outside! We were also able to erg comfortably and lift weights, and got the chance to see their beautiful event space upstairs, decorated with an impressive, large, old, wooden rowing shell suspended from the ceiling.

Quite a few members of the Laker Navy began their rowing career at Wyandotte, as several area high schools use the facility. The relationship that Grand Valley has with Wyandotte is so strong because of this, and we hope to continue that tradition. This morning, a handful of high schoolers from Crestwood were there to observe collegiate rowers, and I’m glad they got the chance to see how we train and hopefully inspire them to follow in our footsteps at Grand Valley one day.

Now, as we head back to Allendale for the beginning of a new semester, we have a solid base to build from. The spring championship season is approaching, and everything we do now to make ourselves faster will pay large dividends in May. Pretty soon we’ll be back on the Grand River, and we’ll be able to implement the changes made during this mini-camp. I’m excited and hopeful for the rest of our season, and we all have Wyandotte to thank for helping us on our quest for gold.

January 6th – Day 4

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Brandon Roberts
Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI
Major: Information Systems
This morning began with a light breakfast at my house followed by a forty minute drive out to WBC, my home boat club. The air inside the boat club was cold so we spent a little bit longer on calisthenics and most everybody warmed up in hoodies and sweats. After a coin toss between the captains, it was determined that the men would spend the first session in the tank room doing technical work, while the women would do the hour of power. In the tanks, we spent the first 15-20 minutes reinforcing the catch and more specifically, the raising of the hands to back the blade into the water. This is important because this allows the athlete to reach for more water than they would by just dropping the blade in the water. After touching on that, we spent the rest of the tank time putting together all of the pieces that we learned in the past few days. We finished our time in the tanks by receiving a video performance review, in which the coxswains recorded us rowing at different parts of the stroke. Coach B encouraged us to watch our videos from day 1 of the trip and then to watch the “performance review” to enhance how much we’ve learned on the trip.

After the women were done, we did a short warmup and started the hour. It’s always difficult to pace yourself correctly on such a long piece, but I think all of us managed pretty well and I think everybody is happy to be done with the piece. My high school’s rowing team started showing up about halfway through the piece and I’m sure it was kind of neat for them to see all of us using their ergs. After the piece, the entire team met in the weight room so Coach could address us on the trip in general, then we broke it down so we could head home. A big thank you to the Wyandotte Boat Club for not only hosting us for the past few days, but also for cultivating my love for rowing back when I first started six years ago

Linda Goldberg
Hometown: Schaumburg, IL
Major: Allied Health Sciences
Today was the last day out of four of the winter training for varsity and novice. We started practice at eight in the morning by splitting into two groups, women and men. We went to the erg room for the infamous “Hour of power”, we had heard about it for months but never actually completed it. Today was that day. We took 10 minutes to warm up with drills and mentally prepare for this erg piece. Once a full 60 minutes was set we were ready to go. During that hour I’m sure all of us had a flood of different thoughts going through our minds, from “I can do this!” to “Can I even finish this?”. In the end, all of us came out of this on top knowing we were better athletes for doing this.

We all had our first “Hour or power” under our belts. After, all of us headed to the tanks to work on our technique. Mainly focusing on setting our bodies, body positioning, and the swing pick drill. During our time in the tanks, the coxswains took video of each of us so we could see how much we’ve improved from the day one till now. At the of practice we had a team meeting and the four most improved earned a Wyandotte boat club shirt. Overall the camp was well worth it and a great experience.

January 5th – Day 3

Friday, January 5th, 2018


Rachel Keller
Hometown: Carol Stream, IL
Major: Exercise Science
Today was a fun filled Friday for the Laker Navy! We started off the day at 8:30am with the introduction of our newest coach, Lauren. Lauren rowed for Grand Valley and had a successful career including a few Dad Vail medals. She will be working with the women’s team, and we are all very excited!

The rotation for the varsity women this morning was tanks, ergs, and then videos. The tanks are awesome and we focused on the release today, with many drills using only the outside hand. Next on the erg, we did two 20 minute pieces that focused on a new drill we talked about today called the “Jackson 5” drill. The ABC part is a progression of raising your hands at the catch in order to back the blade in and get that extra inch. The coxswains recorded before and after videos and you could really see the difference that one drill makes. It definitely helped me! We finished off the rotation with a video about bladework and then watched our personal videos as well as some of our teammates and gave each other positive feedback.

After a lunch break, the team gathered again and went through the same rotation, this time the video session was yoga and everyone got a nice long stretch in as well as a few good laughs. We were all in good spirits as we finished off the day with a team picture and a positive message from former GV Coach and rower, Bob “The Animal” Sawicki. It was great to hear a little bit about his experience coaching and rowing at GV. We have one more day in Wyandotte and it has been a very fun trip with lots of learning opportunities, I am excited to take this knowledge that I have learned and apply it on the water for this upcoming spring season. I can’t wait to see what this season holds!

Erin Vielbig
Hometown: Fowlerville, MI
Major: Non-Profit Administration
We started the third day of training with the pleasant surprise of being introduced to a new assistant coach, Lauren Holden. Coach Holden was an accomplished GV grad and three time Dad Vail medalist. As a novice woman, I look forward to working with her and learning new rowing techniques.

After the initial team stretch, teams split up and the “novwoms” headed to the spacious erg room for technical training and various drills. This was a pleasant contrast to the previous workouts of winter, as we focused on specifics relevant to different aspects of the catch. To start, we did what was called ‘The Jackson 5’, a drill centered around hand preparation going into the catch by isolating segments, using well formulated pauses. We then moved onto focusing on a workout to prevent rushing the slide this coming spring. We ended the technical drills learning the proper way to transition from the catch to the drive in one motion. Then before moving onto the next portion of the training camp, we put all skills to use in an erg piece.

Over the past few days, we have had our coxswains film us on the ergs and in the tanks, which helps to show us what we as individuals need to work on, getting a much closer and in-depth look than what we would have on the water. Today, we watched what “perfect” rowing looked like in a training video, and compared ourselves, and more specifically our oars, to the videos. We met in small groups to discuss the improvements we could make and what we should focus on when we go into the tank room. The next portion of the video previewed some of the drills we will be doing this spring, so we have an idea what each will focus on.

For the last part of the morning session we moved into the Tank room, where we focused solely on feathering, tapping down and our oar height. In each segment we fine-tuned our stroke, until finally putting each portion of the days camp into longer and more improved strokes.

The start of the second half today eased into the workouts with a calming, YouTube led, yoga session. This was relaxing for the body and mind; however also focused on stretching and strengthening key muscles to maximize our rowing performances.

The 2nd Tank room workout was next for us, and this was focused on the tail end of the catch, specifically entering the water. After doing many 3/4 slide and catch position drills, we ended by executing much improved strokes, driven by the desire to have a fundamentally sound team.

To wrap up the workouts, Novwoms headed to the erg room, for a 2×20 minute piece. We spent this time using different stroke rates and graduated from a Cat IV to a Cat V pace, in preparation for our hour of power Saturday workout.

To say we ended the day on a high note would be an understatement. After a brief team stretch we got to see the clubhouse from a members point of view, and indulged in a dinner provided by our coaches. I know what you’re thinking, “it doesn’t get much better than free pizza”,and yet it does. We were introduced to a Grand Valley legend, Bob “The Animal” Sawicki. Coach Bob is a dear friend of Coach B and has been a major key in developing the GV Rowing Program, and taking it from a varsity sport to the highly regarded club it is now. Coach Bob emphasized the importance of small boats, and their ability to train rowers. He left us with the final though of, “Small boats make big boats go faster”.

Donnie Jensen, Men’s Captain
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
Major: Information Systems
Today me and the guys staying at my house all got up at around 7:00 to begin our day and get ready for practice. After a great breakfast we drove out to the wyandotte boat club to start training. We started off our first session watching videos of ourselves and comparing them to that of rowers of some of the elite teams such as Yale, Harvard, and the US national team and discussing things we can work on. After our video session we moved into the indoor tank room, which is one of my favorite parts about being at the wyandotte boat club. Very few teams have access to something like this and it helps to keep your technique fresh during the winter. In the tank room we worked on stationary drills to help us hone our technique before heading into the erg room. We continued to work on drill in the erg room doing things like the A,B,C, drill and the Russian drill followed with some steady state. After this we wrapped up our first session and broke it down as team.

After some naps and well earned food at my house we returned to wyandotte for our second session of the day. This time the mens team started out in the tank room and worked on rotating to help us increase our length and really working on backing in our catches. We took videos at the start and finish of this session in the tank room and it was really cool to see how much we improved in such a short time. We then adjourned to the erg room for some more good ol fashioned steady state with some hard bits thrown in to help us find our pace for tomorrows hour of power workout. We finished up practice with a much needed yoga/stretch session when we were met with the surprise of a pizza dinner and a visit from former grand valley coach/alum Bob “The Animal” Sawicki. It was an excellent way to end the day and after dinner we returned to my house to rest up for our final day of our training camp.

January 4th – Day 2

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Diana Bullen
Hometown: Clarkston, MI
Major: Geology
Hello from Wyandotte! We had another productive and informative training session today!
First we had a chalk talk led by Coach B that emphasized the drive. He talked about the importance of getting a a powerful catch and making sure to hang off the blade and taking the drive with your legs instead of taking it with your arms. He had senior Donnie Jensen preform an example of suspension using a butt pad and resistance with someone was holding on to a strap. When Donnie took the catch with his legs you could see the foam that made up the butt pad rise showing that he had good suspension. When Donnie took the catch with his arms he had no suspension and did not rise off the butt pad. After the chalk talk we split up into three different groups. The varsity women, my group, headed in to do weights first. After we completed our weights we went in to the tank room where we focused on the recovery. Coach B also emphasized the importance of having a flat outside wrist. It was very helpful to be in the tanks because of all the mirrors that provided everyone the ability to watch themselves and coach their own blade and body positioning. After our time in the tanks we headed into the erg room. Here we focused on the drive. First the rowers paired up and one got on the erg while the other held a strap which would provide resistance for their partner. Each erg had a butt pad to make sure they were getting ten pounds off the seat. They started with just suspending their body up off the seat and above the cushion. Next they did they top six inches, focusing on getting ten pounds off the seat with every drive, making sure to take it with the legs and hanging off the handle with relaxed hands. They then did legs only with the goal of still staying up off the butt pad. Next they took a full stroke and when they broke their arms it was obvious to see that their body weight fell back into the seat. That ended our morning session! Me and four other girls went out to lunch at Logans Roadhouse where we enjoyed an amazing meal (I had chicken tenders!). We had a nice break to relax and digest our food. Then we began our afternoon session! We started off with watching a training video that showed a lot of examples of efficient and effective rowing. The rowers also watched videos of themselves rowing in the tanks that I had taken during the tank session yesterday. They compared and contrasted their own rowing with the videos and picked something they wanted to focus and work on. Coach Costas came in and gave a small talk about the most important part of the catch. After many good answers Coach said that the catch was the most important part, emphasizing clean and concise catches will push the boat forward the best. We then moved into the erg room. This session was focusing heavily on the drive and we did the 10/10/10 drill. The rowers took ten strokes at 10 strokes per minute focusing on 10 pounds off the seat. After the 10 hard strokes they paddled for about 2 minutes before taking the next ten. I went around and recorded each rowers 10 hard strokes for them to look at and analyze later. The rowers were told to focus on the propulsion per stokes, trying to get as many meters possible out of one stroke from catch to catch. They did 10 sets of this. Once we finished this we moved into the tank room again. We did a multitude of different drills including crossed inside and outside hands, focusing on reaching around the pin, and outside hand only, trying to reach the blade back an inch further every stroke and in turn backing the blade in. I went around and filmed a few rowers who wanted to focus on different aspects of their stroke. We also did the back it down drill which was done to emphasize cutting through the water evenly and at the same height. This ended our afternoon session! We then had an hour to shower and change before we headed over to the Knight Of Columbus hall where we had an amazing dinner put together by Coach Costas and his Aunt and Uncle. The food was fantastic and we even got Coach Costas to show off some of his famous Micheal Jackson dance moves! I’m excited to see what we do tomorrow and continue to expand my knowledge of the sport.


Caitlyn Witkamp
Hometown: New Carlisle, IN
Major: Hospitality Tourism and Management
Today’s training started bright and early at 8 am with a team stretch/exercise. The whole team then gathered into the erg room where we got a lesson on the “drive” portion of our strokes. More specifically, where the drive starts (when pressure is put on the face of the blade). We were then shown a drill, that we would later do, where a rope is tied to the erg handle and our partner holds the other end and gives resistance. The purpose of the drill was to help us get “pounds off of the seat” which meant we were pushing more with our legs and our drive would be more powerful.

After our chat we split into 3 groups (novice women, varsity men, and varsity women). We went from the tank room, where we did drills to work on our drives and to help our catches, to the erg room, where we did the drill from above and then a 10 strokes/ 10s/m/ 10- setting piece to help, again, with our drives, and then finally the weight room where we did our normal weight routine.

The team took a lunch break and then came back ready to hit the ergs and tank once again. This time around we worked on the recovery in the tank, and then we did another round of the 10/10/10 piece, and then we finally watched videos that were taken of us in the tanks and reflected on what we needed to fix, but also things that we did well. The team then got changed and headed over to the Knights of Columbus house where Coach Costas and his family hosted the team for dinner. We also saw some very nice dance moves from Costas as well as some of our teammates.


Issac DuBois
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Major: Biochemistry
This morning, we woke up bright and early for our 8am practice. After a discussion of the days plan, me and the rest of the men’s rowers went to the tanks and ergs, putting focus on the recovery, then the drive. In the recovery I learned a lot about the angles of the wrists and how the preparation of the hands and wrists in the recovery affect the power in the drive. I really got a better grasp on hanging off of the par handle. For the drive sequence we practiced the Russian drill. This drill helped me to hang off the handle even more during the drive and put more of my body weight on the end of the handle.

For the second practice at 2pm, we focused specifically on the drive sequence with the 10 10 10 drill and catch placement. I learned how to better back in my blade in the tanks today, further improving the drive in my stroke.

All in all, today was a very successful day of rowing and I learned a lot more about the drive sequence and how to prepare for it during the recovery.

The Grand Valley State University Rowing Club challenges its student-athletes to reach the highest level to which they aspire both academically and athletically, while continuing to build and sustain a nationally competitive intercollegiate rowing program.

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