Martin Stone & Notre Dame Women's Rowing

By Helen Tompkins | April 20, 2014

The Notre Dame coaching staff has been together for many years, creating a consistent process that develops their rowers on and off the water.  Martin Stone has been head coach since Notre Dame women's rowing received varsity status in 1997.  Associate head coach, Joe Schlosberg, has been working with Stone for 13 years and assistant coach, Marnie Stahl, nine years.  Volunteer assistant, Heather Schlosberg, and boatman, Kurt Butler, have both been with the women's team five years.

The process of developing Notre Dame oarswomen begins in August when the students return to campus.  The coaches identify what each athlete needs the greatest work on and then tweak individual training programs to fit their needs.

"Slight adjustments in the training program allow each athlete to reach her maximum performance," says Stone.

Some athletes who can handle more volume are given extra workouts, while rowers who need to build strength might do an extra lift per week, while those who lack endurance will do more steady state.

Stone believes they started getting better at their development process in 2011.  The results climaxed last year when Notre Dame placed 13th at the NCAA National Championships.  This season the juniors and seniors have recorded personal records on their 6k erg tests.

Stone has also seen improvements in race results.  At The Head of the Charles last Fall, Notre Dame came in 6th in the championship eight and 7th in the championship four.  In the championship eight, Notre Dame was the third collegiate eight to cross the line, just behind Virginia in 4th and Yale in 5th place.  These results show they are on track for the spring season.

Notre Dame sets very high academic standards and the team continually surpasses them.  This Fall the women earned  12 Deans List, five 4.0 GPAs, and a team cumulative GPA of 3.89.  The team consistently has a higher GPA in the spring racing season.

When asked how the athletes manage their academics, Stone says "I'm not sure how they do it, but they do it very well."

The individualized athlete development process allows for flexibility in the practice schedule, which enables success in the classroom.  During the fall the team spends a lot of time in pairs.  These practices are in shifts, so  athletes can choose time slots that works for their schedule.  In the winter, erg workouts can be done during a 3-6pm time window.  In the spring, Mondays are off so the students can get their classes off to a good start each week, with practices on Saturday and Sunday instead.

The athletes are majoring in everything from engineering to business to pre-med.  The coaches are flexible, working around class conflicts, afternoon labs, and seniors who need to travel sometimes across the country for job interviews.

Amanda Polk, was an alternate on the London Olympic team for the women's 8+,  rowed for Notre Dame from 2006 - 2008.  Polk won gold in the eight in the 2013 World Championships and is currently training on the National Team.  Polk was part of the 2006 crew that made Notre Dame's first-ever team berth to the NCAA National Championships.  Remarking on Amanda's contribution to the team's success, Stone says

"People need to see what can be done to have the confidence to go and do it.....Amanda showed others what could be done, not in a flashy manner, she just went and did it."

This is the first year Notre Dame will compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Regional Championships instead of the BIG EAST Championships for a bid to  NCAAs.  Notre Dame holds an unprecedented 10 consecutive BIG EAST Championship titles, as well as six NCAA appearances.  Coach Stone is still looking to have their fastest performance at the conference championships.

Notre Dame consistently has a very competitive race schedule.  Stone takes his team all the way West and East to race the best crews.  The Fighting Irish open the season at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational, in Tennessee March 15-16.