The race plan – a bag of tricks

30 May 2021

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So yeah, when it came to race time, I remember saying to Harry, you know, what’s the race plan? And he said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’

And I thought, well, you know, I’d been in bigger boats and we’d always said, for the first 10 strokes we’re going to do something, and then on 250 we’d do something, and then on a minute we’d do something, at 500 we’d do a push or whatever it might be. And this would all be scripted and worked out beforehand.

And Harry said to me, ‘Look, Greg, you’re very capable. You can do a lot of things that make the boat go fast’.

And he said, ‘What I want you to do is I want you to think about all the different things you do that makes the boat go fast. That might be pushing with your legs, it might be connecting better with your back or getting onto your feet better or finishing the stroke out better. Think about the things you do that make the boat go faster. And so when you think about them, put them in a bag, and that is your bag of tricks. And your race plan is just a bag of tricks’.

So he said, ‘All I want you to do is, I want you to go out off the start, and I want you to start the way we’ve practised, so maybe the first 10 or 20 strokes you know what you got to do. At that point, I then want you to just go off the start and then review the situation. Look at the race. If you’re going fast, just carry on going fast. If you’re not going fast and the other guy is in front of you, get one of the tricks out of the bag. And then scull along for a bit and see what happens. If after a minute, you’re in front, then keep going. If you’re not in front, get another trick out of the bag. And pretty much just go down the course, you keep getting tricks out of the bag until you’re in front of the other guy. Once you’re in front, just stay there.’

And it was a fantastic way to race and it gave me so much control. Now, obviously there were patterns and there were things that I liked to do. And I knew that if I really hung off my arms and really pressed with my legs hard, the boat would go a bit quicker for a bit, and I’d be able to do that.

But it definitely wasn’t set. It wasn’t written in stone, and I just reacted and ended up winning far more races and enjoying it too.

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Greg Searle

British rower Greg Searle was already an Olympic Champion in sweep rowing when he was first coached by Harry Mahon in the single scull.

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