Our two week racing program in Holland is designed for competitive juniors seeking to gain an edge on training and racing skills. We find sending athletes abroad increases their awareness, both personally and athletically. This allows them to benefit more from the experience – especially when they are placed in a training environment with, and surrounded by, kind, cooperative people in a safe culture. Though our program in Holland is not as intense as our five week program in New Zealand, it is an intermediate step that relies on taking athletes out of their comfort zone in order to accelerate the learning process.
Holland has a strong tradition in the sport. Though their 15 Olympic medal appearances over the last 20 years speak for themselves, to highlight some recent successes: they won the junior world championships in the JM8+ in 2015, took bronze at the Olympics in the M8+ behind Germany and England, silver in the W4x, and gold in the WLt2x.
Dutch juniors tend to be more independent than their counterparts in the United States – via small boat training and the freedom they are given in their schedules. They cycle to training, work, school, and back home again on their own. Rowing is a student-oriented sport, where collegiate clubs are student run and junior programs are not tied to a specific school.
The aspect of “differential learning” is key to understanding recent Dutch rowing success. Differential learning is the idea that juniors approach specialized training (i.e. elite level 8+ rowing) more successfully with a high variance in their day to day training, while maintaining awareness of activities’ relationship to their specialization. Rather than having rowers only train in an 8+ and on the ergometer, they train in small boats, do specialized circuit workouts that mimic the rowing motion, etc. Differential learning allows greater proficiency in specific skills via focused variance, or focused “playing around”, as the 2015 world championship Dutch junior men’s 8+ coach put it.
Junior athletes who would like to improve their technique, gain insight on training methodology, and undertake international racing while learning more about how to enjoy the sport and (depending on how much effort they engage) a small amount more about who they are as people are encouraged to apply to this program.
Students rowing in Holland go overseas for 2 weeks, during which they live with a host family and train alongside their European peers. Students cycle between the boat club and their homestay, as well as around the city. The training and homestay environments may initially feel foreign to overseas athletes, but this is meant to raise their awareness as well as facilitate a connection via a shared enjoyment of rowing. Since English is a basic educational requirement in the Netherlands, there is no language barrier. Competitive drive and above average maturity are pre-requisites for this program.
Like New Zealand, Holland is designed more as a ‘program’ than a kids’ ‘rowing camp’, and may allow athletes to be competitive on an international level for the first time.
The ultimate goal of the program is to provide junior athletes with an opportunity to spread their wings for the first time and develop technically, experientially – and potentially, emotionally. These things naturally contribute to more independent, self-confident athletes who will continue to utilize the lessons learned long after they return home.