April Break Staycation Day #2 

After a nice slumber, day 2 began for me with an early morning trip to Stewarts for coffee... When I returned to the house, the kids were up and snacking.  There were quite a few jealous girls when they saw my coffee - a lengthy discussion regarding the merits of the Kuereg ensued.  Morning practice was chilly, but the flat water was a welcome change from the north wind that has been the norm of the last week.  We took advantage of the water for some good technical and steady state work - finishing practice in the Artemis with a well executed Flappy drill in front of the coaches and coxswains meeting at Lees Park. #MeghanHampton

Between practices Mrs. Hogan arranged some arts and crafts for the girls, and I took 9 girls with me on a little adventure to Stewarts pond.  We loaded the little blue trailer with 3 pairs and a double and attempted to row on a previously unrowed upon body of water.  Unfortunately the lack of previous rowers meant that we needed to set up our own coaching launch and wet-launch (very chilly) the shells.  The wind was howling, but the pond would have held up well enough if not for the sole motor boater doing circles.  They were kind enough I guess... they did offer Caroline a beer... which she politely declined. #MeghanHampton

Afternoon brought another windy day, but practice went well (we had our first visitor of the day - Chuck Brown) and the adventures of the day were only half over.  Our first trip in the new blue creeper was not as smooth as we had hoped... and there were a few concerned passengers (Meghan Hampton) wondering if it would make the trip over the mountain back to Corinth.  The girls were prepared though - they figured it would come to a stop before it started rolling backwards and they could use that moment to bail out (and bring the scones in case they got lost on Corinth Mountain) #MeghanHampton

Fortunately new blue creeper made it all the way to the front door and we were greeted with even more surprises - Lizzy Fitzhenry (home from School) Sophie Coco, Kate Kolbe, and Mrs. Murphy all came up to visit.  Thanks to Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Hogan, dinner was ready right when we arrived.  After Dinner the activities continued with a delicious cake from Kate Kolbe and Arik T (nice skills!) followed by a glow in the dark easter egg hunt, and finally a HUGE Easter basket from Alida including massive amounts of candy and coloring books. #MeghanHampton

I would try to write more, but I am too tired to be articulate.. or maybe it is the fumes from massive amounts of nail polish and remover.

P.S. Meghan Hampton is really funny, just ask Kelli.




April Break Staycation Day #1 -- Good Friday.

With much excitement and bags weighing more than the athletes themselves, the VG began the April break with a trip over the Corinth Mountain to Chez SRA (after the first practice that is).  Eyes widened as ears popped going over the mountain as the houses grew more and more scarce.  A few kids may have been concerned with our distance from "anything" but most were enveloped in teeny bopper music and barely noticed the drive. 

Upon arriving, we found a brand new house emerging from a construction zone.  We could still smell the poly on the newly finished floors and there is still a fine layer of construction dust slowly settling (we will need to do a little swiffering tomorrow)... but the kids didn't notice, they were in a mad dash to claim rooms.  We had about 3 hours up here in Corinth between practices.  The afternoon consisted of a little bit of skit practicing, a bit of napping, some serious room decorating, and a few trips to the local grand union.

Back to the boathouse for the afternoon practice, we found ourselves in quite a wind storm.  Practice managed to stay productive in the crazy conditions.  When we landed, we found 4 huge trays of lasagna as prepared by Coach Brady and salad and bread from Mrs. Germano.  After a bit of a delay, we made it back to Corinth and feasted!  Unfortunately we also found out that 3 of the showers were not providing hot water... we will have to have that looked at tomorrow (new house problems) for now, the other half of the house has hot showers... and some have just decided that 20 min in the hot tub is enough for now.  It is now 9:30 in the evening, and I am the only one sitting in the loving room watching the 50" flatscreen...  I think half have called it a day, and the other half are preparing for bed. 

Wake up is at 6:30 tomorrow morning...


Rest Day in the Keys

Gearing up for the next long leg of the journey, the Masters take a well deserved day of rest (well... maybe not deserved... I am not feeling bad for their workload due to the location of that work).  OK, I am a little jealous.



Masters have the Key(s)

The SRA Masters group arrived at the Islander Resort in Islamorada Sunday evening ready to hit the water bright and early Monday morning for our first row in the beautiful Florida Keys!
With daylight savings time in effect sunrise Monday was at 7:30 am giving us all a civilized breakfast hour. As predicted, we faced strong 20-30 mph winds off the ocean side and elected to launch a few miles south of our hotel to gain access to the Florida Bay side a bit easier. We launched two touring quads and Felice, our open water/recreational double and headed out. Although the wind continued to howl the chop was moderate and rowable. Because Florida Bay never gets deeper than 7 or 8 feet even with strong winds no large swells are generated and the chop that had developed was well handled by the three shells and rowers. Water temperatures are in the mid to upper 70's - really nice!  We covered about 12 miles on day one and everyone finished the row happy and healthy albeit with a few fresh blisters. After loading up the trailer we headed back to the Islander for some R&R and pool time. Coach Bob drove the trusty Porta-Bote back the hotel by water - some of the wildest wind and chop he had ever experienced - a blast!!
Tomorrow's (Tuesday) goal is to launch from the beach in front of the hotel and head north to the infamous "Toilet Seat Pass" - a solid 17 mile excursion - we're hoping for lighter winds or we may need to rethink our route.
We met a 7 am Tuesday for breakfast and the weather prediction was for warm sunny skies and lighter yet sustained 10-20 mph winds. Undaunted we decided to attempt "Toilet Seat Pass". Since most of the route was on the Bay side the rowing was very manageable and we had a great row! Sunny skies, temperatures in the 80's, and a brisk wind to keep us cool. Again, the shells and crews handled any rough water we encountered beautifully and we had a great morning on the water. As the ocean chop kicked up considerably during our row we took out at Lorilei's Restaurant on the bay side, much to the delight of the packed luncheon crowd (Lorilei's is directly across Route 1 from our hotel). After a quick taste of "liquid refreshment" to thank the staff at Lorilei's we portaged the shells across Route 1 - hysterical!! Similar to Cat having the Juniors walk their 8's across the old 9P Bridge!! One funny aside (for those familiar with Key's notorious bumper to bumper traffic) was our concern about walking two 35 foot shells across Route 1?!?! Well, no worries as we had Judy Pawlick (no doubt a "traffic stopper" in her own right!) hold the highway open for us as we crossed. Needless to say all traffic came to a screeching halt.
Tomorrow is an off day devoted to shopping, sight seeing in Key West, snorkeling, and basic R&R.
Thursday we're hoping for calm seas to tackle the 21 mile row to our next hotel on Duck Key just north of Marathon.
Stay tuned!



What I Learned from Soulja Boy

Actually, Soulja Boy was quoting a Japanese proverb when he included the following line in his song "Successful"

"Today I realised I am not perfect, everything I did to get Here wasn't really worth it, why won’t they just let me be Great, you fall down seven times you stand up eight"

To be honest... I was not listening to Soulja Boy when I first heard this line... surprise (not quite my music).  I heard it first last year when Caroline Blackington quoted it.  Today I did a a little research to find out where the line came from.  I was looking for the high minded "japanese proverb" but I knew I struck gold when I could quote Soulja Boy.

The reason this quote popped into my mind actually has to do with my New Years Resolution / 30 day challenge I mentioned in a previous post.  If you have been following my blog, you will notice that I have been away from home and routine for a week.  During that time, I was able to keep up with my challenge of finding (and recalling and creating) the positive in each day... up until friday.  Then I missed a few days during the long drive home.  When I got home I realized my streak was over - I failed my challenge.  At this point I had a decision to make.  I could give up and wallow in guilt and self-pity OR I could forgive the failure and return to the effort.

It occurs to me that in every endeavor there are very, very, very few who go undefeated.  Of all the people we consider successful almost all get knocked down at least once.  Even "The Greatest" Mohammed Ali was knocked down 4 times and lost 5 fights.  In the same vein I have heard so many stories of forgiven failure and return to effort that I was going to highlight a few but I found this website while trying to confirm some stories.

It is the getting up that matters.  If you fall down 7 times, you stand up 8 times.


Mods (and a few Frosh) starring in Friday Night Practice

Once again I had the privilege of coaching the Mod Squad this Friday night.  Every since Florida, I cannot get enough of these guys (well, maybe I can get enough (am I right parents?)... but I love the bits I do get to work with them).  They are SO full of energy.  I think we all had a blast today.  You know those football drills where the guys run "footfire" until the coach says "down" and then "up" or "roll" or something like that... We did our own version with: Tebow Left, Tebow Right, Owl, Plank, Land Shark, Jolie Left, Jolie Right.  Hilarious.  We did get some good technical work done on the ergs, and a little bit of pulling... but it was Friday night and the last 5 minutes of stretching turned into a bit of a dance party... sorry parents, I was going to do relaxation/visualization and send them all home asleep... but Emma promised to sing.  So the radio went on.



Feb Break Pics

Below you will find a bunch of pictures from the 2012 feb break.  I am still trying to get ahold of a picture of the GIANT spiders.  If anyone has one...




The Long Ride Home

While the coaches had a nice comfy ride to Orlando (we each had an entire van seat to ourselves), our ride home was a little tighter as we squeezed 4 people in the pick-up truck along with all our stuff.  I think it would have been fine had we driven 11 hours, stopped for the night, and driven another 11... the other coaches were all in a hurry to get home though, and Alida (the young one) said she would pull the 12-4 am shift.  She also promised to buy us all Subway if we drove through the night -- and I love subway.  Chase agreed with the plan because it included his plan to build a nest in the back seat and curl up like a cat in a pile of laundry *he brought 5 sleeping bags*.  So, on the trip went... I kept my mind open to see how we were doing before deciding on the hotel or not.  I am not a late night driver, so I did the first shift.  We had a little bit of wind, rain, snow to contend with, but fortunately we hit a lull in the Daytona traffic, and made good time.  When I started getting tired, Alida was true to her word and used the power of her 20s to pull what I consider the toughest part of the overnight drive.  Fortunately the toughest part of the drive usually coincides with the easiest driving as you have the road to yourself.  Each time I woke up (which was often... Chases nest didn't leave much room for anyone else) I asked Alida how she was doing... "I'm fine, go back to sleep" was the usual reply, but it got snippier and snippier (of course I have no recollection of how many times I asked her - it might have been every 10 minutes).  Finally when Alida said she was tired, it was Chases turn.  After 15 hours of sleeping in his nest, he was more than ready to finish the drive.  Wind, Rain, and Snow aside, the trip was very uneventful.

Meanwhile on the Bus...

"The morning after our eventful day at Cocoa Beach, we awoke from our nice deep sleep to a phone call from Lou.. "Hello.. This is Lou.. I will going to watch the sunrise at the beach. If you would like to join me meet me by the pool by 6:30." This call was picked up by Carissa, who recited this speech to our room more times than needed. We all managed to get our sleepy-selves off to the beach to be disappointed by a cloudy sunrise. Max, Claire, Kate, 'Tex', Sam and Fiona all went for a nice run along the shore, while everyone else participated in their own photoshoots. We finished up with one last walk up to Ron Jon's, where Katrina and Jess met a "real-life Hillbilly" from Arkansas. By 9:30, we were all showered, packed and ready for the bus departure.. (including Tristan!) The bus ride started off with the Freshmen having an "Awkward Dance" Dance-Off, where Max and Sydney (Texas) brought their best moves to the floor. The rest of the afternoon consisted of doing homework, reading, and a Harry Potter marathon that continued through the morning. We stopped at Golden Corral for dinner, where everyone had their eyes on dessert bar- especially the cotton candy! After dinner, we all snuggled in (some on the ground!) to finish our Harry Potter movie. We woke up the next morning to find ourselves in New Jersey, all quickly becoming excited to be almost home (or maybe just to get off of the bus!) When we stopped for breakfast, nobody was thrilled when we stepped off the bus in flip-flops and shorts to realize it was the same old chilly New York temperatures that we had left a week ago! We continued the next few hours with our Harry Potter marathon and catching up on homework. You could tell by most faces, that we were all happy to be home, but wishing we could've taken the Florida weather home with us!"
-Kate & Jess



As the trip winds to an end, I figure it might be better if the kids report directly on the parts of the trip that I am - unfortunately? - missing.  I tried to ask for good juicy details about the Universal trip when they arrived home, but all I was able to squeeze out of them came in generalities except for a detail relating to Shaq (an underlying theme of the trip it seems).  I guess Max actually touched Shaq.  He was there getting ready to do a TV spot for the All-Star Game.

Now that Max and Shaq are BFF, Maddie went in search of some taller teammates for a little pick-up playground ball - don't worry, Carissa still has the point.

Anyway, instead of trying to pull stories out of the kids, I decided to see if they could write directly...  Without further ado"

"After a fun filled day at universal, all the kids were exhausted but still managed to get up for one last early morning row. Even though the early morning rows were the kids favorite part of the trip, I'm sure they were happy to pack up and go to cocoa beach. After a final lunch at camp Ithiel, the kids were sent to their cabins to pack and clean up. Once packed, all of the kids boarded the bus... except Tristan. 15 minutes later Tristan rejoined the trip. Good thing we were feeling generous.  Once all of the kids were on, we finally made our way to cocoa beach. After unloading into the hotel rooms, the kids dispersed into several different directions, some to the pool, some to the beach and some to shop at ron jons surf shop. The kids that decided to spend the rest of the day on the beach were in for a nice surprise. While they were having a good time on the beach, they witnessed a space shuttle launching off from kennedy space center. The kids that hung out by the pool mingled with the retired folk staying at the hotel, and the other guests. The kids at ron jons had a blast shopping, ross even got some glow in the dark wax for his skim board. No matter what activity they did, all the kids came back to the hotel for pizza by the pool. After dinner, the kids had fun relaxing on their first day off all week. Emma price challenged maddie to a rousing game of shuffle board while wearing her forever lazy... That was a sight to see. That night, everyone snuggled into their beds and got a good night sleep to prepare for the 24 hour bus ride that awaited them the next morning."
-carissa and maddie



After an event full trip to an empty mall (I guess almost all the stores have moved out), the kids returned to camp for the Christmas eve anticipation like sleep.  I call it Universal Eve.  Fortunately they were stuffed with some type of mexican desert - like a donut.  Thanks to Tristan.  Generous guy bought 28 of them and shared with the girls.

This mornings row was to be a little bit shorter so everyone could shower and have lunch before the 1:00 departure for Universal.  It was a little bit windy again, but I think everyone still got some quality work done (my group learned how to spell Saratoga).  We were fortunate again to have Coach Korzo take out a few doubles.  Max and Grey, Claire and Maddie, Ada and Laura were all treated to Coach Korzo's coaching.  It is great, he tells it like it is... "no, no, no, this is all wrong" and "these are stupid mistakes, you row like kangaroo" but it is all ok.  When he says it with a smile and an accent, they love it.  I am thinking of getting an accent myself.  Seems to work pretty well. 

For my group, after our spelling lessons we took another trip to the turtle tree.  I guessed there would be 5 turtles on the tree, and I was right... until Libby scared off 2 of them so her guess would be right.  Then Gillian took care of the rest... She was ready to get back to rowing I think - great worker that girl.

After the shortened practice I got a little more company for the run home.  This is getting to be a fun trip (not that it wasn't fun with you Puggs :-)  This time Claire, Maddie, and Max all decided to join the run - though I think Maddie was in just to keep her name in the blog... she might be a little bit of a blog hog (JK Maddie, you know I am teasing, it was great to have you running :-)

I took a couple of pictures because I wanted proof that this jog is just as fun (or more fun) than the bus ride... maybe a few more people will join us for future runs.


Cat's got the Mic

Another day full of adventure!  Morning practice started with a gentle breeze which picked up over the course of practice... not enough to bring us back to the dock, but enough to be annoying.  Personally, I brought my crews in a little bit early (mostly because one girl whose name begins with "Savannah" had to use the little girls room)  It worked out really well though, sometimes having that extra time really allows you time to explain things in detail without the distraction of all that goes on when you are on the water. The trick is keeping their attention during the explanation.  Fortunately I had a little help with that.  As we set the boat on the side of the dock to do a little bit of blade work exercises, the USRowing directors of education came down with their fancy cameras and microphones to film the explanation and demonstration.  They are in the process of making DVDs for the new coaching education and certifications.  Well... as I was getting fitted with the mic the girls were busy (secretly) adjusting their pony tails and spandex... It is not often they get to be movie stars!  I had no trouble keeping their attention!  It was awesome.  They wanted to be filmed demonstrating proper technique (heaven forbid you end up as the "don't do this...")  I even put on my silliest pair of sunglasses.. but they didn't comment on them at all.  Best behavior.  I decided at that point that I am going to hire someone to sit in my coaching launch with a fake camera all the time pretending like he is making a movie... maybe I will even have him make fake phone calls to producers "Yeah, things are looking pretty good here.  Perhaps Mr. Bieber will want to come down and get the action shot"  I could get perfect behavior for a week with that one!

Meanwhile, on the other end of the lake...  Alida decided to take the frosh 8 on a grand adventure.  After leaving the little pond at the boathouse, they proceeded through another channel (under a very tight bridge that required pulling oars in a little bit) and another pond, and another channel to the BIG lake.  It took a little while, but they made it to Shaq's house!  They had all kinds of plans for what they would do when they got there (I think Klotz and Carissa had plans to challenge him to a game of basketball)  Unfurtunately when they got there they were frightened away by a guy on the dock... It wasn't until they looked closely that they noticed it was a statue of Superman.  Klotz and Carissa may be Ballers, and probably could have taken Shaq... but Shaq and Superman... they tucked their tails and rowed away.

After the first practice, Alida and I got our first kid company for the 3 mile jog home.  Max Lynch was game for the run.  It was great to having him along.  I love when kids take a little initiative like that.  He did a great job, and we had a pretty good time for the route.

Fortunately we didn't run him too hard.  The adventures continued during the second practice.  Coach Lou decided to do a little exploring with the boys.  With only a small amount of gas, he knew he couldn't go to Shaq's house, but he did make it over to the second pond.  While over at the pond, a nice older gentleman (80s we think) called out to Lou.  Turns out this guy used to row for the Detroit Boat club.  He loved seeing the rowers out there, and was more than happy to let them use his beach for a mid-practice swim.  (Don't tell the girls that the boys got to swim...)

In the afternoon the freshmen girls got their chance to be the movie stars... and this time our coxswain Jess got the Mic!  Again, best attention ever :-).   One of my favorite quotes of the day was from Coach Korzo to Maddie Klotz: "you do not row like kangaroo now" (you have to hear it in a Polish accent)

Then, after the second practice, Alida and I got our next kid company.  Ada Bielawski decided to join our run for the way home.  Again, great run (I am not sure she even broke a sweat)

Dinner was set a little early tonight, and the kids hopped back on the bus for a trip to some indoor fun place (it was storming).  I opted for the peace and quiet of an empty dorm to write this blog as well as a letter of recommendation for a former athlete.

Tomorrow we have one practice and then it's off to Universal and Harry Potter World.  This trip is too much fun!


The Mod Stampede

With all that happened yesterday, I forgot to mention the vibrant church service that was held in the church on the property.  I am not sure when it started, but it was still going on when I went to bed.  The service was loud and rythmic, there was plenty of shouting and singing... my only similar experience was when I once attended the "Soul Saving Station" on Henry Street in Saratoga.  Anyway - the kids were FASCINATED by the service, and were begging Chase to take them to the service if there was another one while we are here.  Fast forward to this evening... The coaches enjoyed a dinner out at Ceveche in Orlando (thanks to the chaperones for watching the kids during our respite) when we arrived back at camp just now at 8:55 wouldn't you know it... another Church Service was rocking the little white church.  Not 20 seconds after we wlaked around the corner we were nearly trampled by a MOD STAMPEDE.  There had to be 300000 of them (or maybe 20) running at full tilt toward us.  They were all begging for us to take them to the church service.  Unfortunately it was 3 minutes until curfew, and they had to be redirected back to the dorms. 

There you have it... Kids washing dishes, doing laundry, saying please and thank you, bringing out their trash, and now begging to go to church... I am sure if I bottle this up I could sell it for big bucks the rest of the year.

Of course there are a few downsides.  The girls have now freaked out 3 times due to spiders in the dorm that lay eggs bigger than chicken eggs.  We also had a 20 minute delay in practice while Rachel Duff had some surgery performed at the dock to remove the largest splinter I have ever seen.

On a better topic... today, on the water, was AMAZING.  It was warm and flat.  No wind whatsoever.  The kids had some great rows.  In fact, it was so nice during the AM practice that none of the coaches wanted to come in early and do a second practice... we just stayed out there until the kids couldn't handle it anymore.  (we coaches could go for hours with water that calm)  So, by the time we were all in, we only had about 40 minutes before the bus came to pick us up - clearly not enough time to get a second practice.  So we let them split themselves into 3 groups.  One group went with Chase and had a bit of fun (except the 2 boys who thought they couls wrestle him to the ground), another group went with Lou for a little relaxation and visualization exercise, and the third group wwas down on the dock sun-tanning... I hijacked that group.  Walking down onto the dock, I told them I was going to lead them in a relaxation and visualization exercise, but if they thought they would have a hard time staying quiet for 10 minutes, they should leave the group and go join Chase.  (One Sarah Christiansen took me up on the offer :-).  I then led them through some relaxation exercises and finally some visualization exercises.  That last part may have been a fruitless effort though.  I am pretty sure all 20+ of them were fast asleep by the time we made it through relaxation.  I actually heard some snoring!

Come to think of it... that is another piece to add to the wonder of Feb break camp...  They thought the nap was the coolest thing, and when we came back for second practice I got asked more than once to do the relaxation thing again.  Begging to go to sleep and to go to church on the same day?  There must be some sort of tear in the fabric of space and time here in Windermere, FL. 

So, you must be thinking... that is all fine and good... but how about the boys.  that age group boys could never act that way.  Well, actually, Coach Lou just met with one group of them who have not left their dorm (except for meals and rowing) for 3 days.  They have been playing poker pretty much continuously.  There is another group who have begun to mingle with the Saratoga Girls  (JJ from Shen seems pretty popular) so far it has been pretty easy to contain though.  I think Maddie Klotz and Carissa set the tone for the week (we are no pushovers) when the 2 of them put a hurting on 5 boys in a game of pick up basketball.  Seriously, Puggs went down to help the boys... but I think he got a little scared as well.  He said "guys you gotta play some D" and then faded away.  (Sorry Puggs, I am just taking a little poetic license here.  I am sure it went down in a much more heroic manner on your part -- or maybe I am just being nice... I will never tell)

I am sure there were a million other things worth including in the Blog, but: a) Alida and I put in another 9 miles today and I am really tired, and b) most of the funniest stuff probably happens when I am not looking :-)

That is all for tonight.



You are not going to believe this...

And you thought all we did in Orlando was row.  Today we moved our dining arrangements into the actual dining hall at camp (they were busy reorganizing yesterday).  Get this, after dinner, the kids actually clear their table and rinse their dishes.  Not only that, they do their own laundry, say please and thank you, and take out their own garbage.  Which of you parents are ready to send your kids back next year already!  I actually forgot to mention the best part of yesterday - when Mike (the guy who is in charge of the camp) gives his talk about how to behave and take care of the camp... he pulls the guys aside and holds up a toilet seat cover and proceeds to lift and lower the seat as he says "standing, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, sitting"  It was hilarious.

Back to the rowing - Today was again a bit windy, but it did not keep us off the water.  We all got several hours of water time.  First session ran from 8-12 (there was a little break for snack in the middle) and the second session from 2-4.  The rowing was pretty good, I had a great time translating all my coaching to texting language so the 7th grade girls would understand.  You will have to ask them what JWM,BBF,PPP stands for next time you see them - I hope they remember :-).

Special kudos to the Duff twins... today they took their first sweep rowing strokes and their first sculling strokes!  AWESOME.  By the end of the second practice they were doing pause drills from Turtle Tree to Red Boat to My Pond Home...

So, right now the kids are getting back from walmart (the other amusement park) and I am recovering from my runs today (Alida and I and sometimes Puggs are running to and from most practices... today that was about 9 miles total.  I think we are more tired than the kids)

The other big news for the day... Our friend and world renown elite rowing coach Kris Korzeniowski
 showed up in town and has agreed to come out for some coaching sessions!  Imagine that... A coach who has coached the national teams of Poland, Italy, China, the Netherlands, Canada, and the US... now working with 7th and 8th graders.

I hope the kids are having as much fun, and are as tired as I am.  15 minutes to Curfew.  Goodnight!


All settled in

We are just now approaching the end of day number 1 (or maybe it is day 2 - I think I lost a day somewhere in Georgia). The report from the bus, all 26 hours, was actually very positive.  Coach Lou had some nice videos to share, and there were several movies played - but the highlight of the trip (at least from the chatter I heard) was the "speed dating". Coach Lou had everyone rotate seats every 5 min and get to know the other people on the bus.  We did have a little scare at the very beginning... I am a little hesitant to admit... We had miscounted at some point and found ourselves with one extra person.  Fortunately there was an open seat on the bus (until Virginia - when we needed to pick up a second driver) so the coaches van met up with the bus and we off-loaded Mrs P. into the van with us.  Perfect solution.  While waiting for the bus, we were even able to scout a nice buffet for them to stop for dinner.  Fast forward several hours and we are rigging our boats at OARS in weather that was in the 80s.  Unfortunately it was very windy and the on-water rowing was at a minimum.  A few kids got to go out and do a few loops in the little pond, but those who stayed on land with me did a great job learning some technique on the erg.  I was talking about posture and demonstrating good posture and trying to explain. (I was going for Jaguar-driving-posture vs low-rider-driving posture.)  Anyway they didn't know what a Jaguar was... So I asked for the name of a fancy car... They said Lamborghini.... And I smiled... These kids like speed ;-)

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My New Years Resolution

This year (I am not sure why) I was not prepared for the coming of the New Year and for the New Year's Resolution.  Perhaps it was because I was in the midst of processing a new version of the resolution.  So, while I contemplated the new resolution, I took on an intermediary challenge.  The intermediary challenge was "no cookies after noon".  I was teased a bit for that choice, mostly because I did permit myself candy after noon.  It was just cookies - but that is for a future blog post.  So, on to the resolution...

2011 for me was the year of TED.  If you have never watched a TED talk, you are in for a treat!  The first inklings of the new resolution came when I watched this talk by the Google Engineer Matt Cutts

So, 30 day Challenges... interesting... this got me thinking.  This also fit nicely with a recent bit of inspiration found in Seth Godin's Blog.  Now the question is: What is the right challenge?

For inspiration, back to TED.  


So there it is.  Combining the ideas of these TED talks we have the makings of a really interesting and potentially influential 30 day challenge. 

On the right hand side of this page, you will find a link to 30 Day Challenge #1 - Creating Positive Change.  I encourage anyone inspired by the TED talks to join me in this challenge.  I put together a simple form to help you with the challenge.

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Thanks for Voting

At current writing, SRA girls 2- is leading the Voting for the 2011 Crew of the Year on Row2K.  First of all, I would like to thank all of you who are voting for the crew.  But, more importantly, I want to share a little bit about that crew and why they deserve to be the 2011 Crew of the year.  The back story of this crew is worth knowing.  I will not go ALL the way back to the beginning (Row-Ride-Race program and a bike ride to Canadian Henley) but rather just focus on the Henley experiences.  In 2010, Kristi and Lizzy began to find some real speed in the pair as they had both decided to invest deeply in the boat over the summer and trained 10 practices a week.  Their hard work paid off with an advancement into the finals at the Canadian Henley in 2010.  However, disaster struck when the backstay popped in the final and they were not allowed to finish the race.  They were a shoe in for the Henley Gold.  Devastated, they decided to enter the Champ pair - they knew they wouldn't win that event, 2 of the pairs were Canadian Olympians.  However, they finished a very strong 4th place, and when they returned to the Dock, the Canadian National Team Coach Al Morrow congratulated them on a fine performance.  I believe it was that moment when they decided that 2011 would be their year.  They had felt the Henley Gold slip through their fingers, and they knew they could be strong again if they put their minds to it.  In November of 2010, I got a call from them saying that they wanted to start their quest for an epic 2011 Henley.  I gave them a training program that began in December and lasted through the Canadian Henley.  The program had them practicing between 9 and 11 practices a week, before school and after school.  They traveled to FL for Christmas Break to train together, they traveled to FL for Feb break to train together.  They supplemented their team training with their pair training until the day after USRowing Youth Invite.  Then Kristi moved back to Saratoga and they began their on water training in the pair.  All summer long they trained 9-11 practice a week, morning and afternoon.  They dutifully focused on their core work after each afternoon training session.  They were determined to return to Henley and claim the reward for the work they put in.  After some early season racing which proved they had top end speed, they decided to enter not just the Jr pair event, but 6 different events.  They made finals in all of them, and won the Jr, U23, and Champ pairs (the other events were 3rd places I think).  The reason I am adament that this is the crew of the year, is not that they were able to pull 7:20s in the pair 3 times during the season, and not that they won those pairs events by over 14 seconds each, and not that they won races so far above the Junior level... It is because they showed a level of determination, investment, and stick-to-it-iveness WAY beyond the levels of all but the most elite.  They suffered countless setbacks (I think I saw more tears from this crew than any crew I have coached) but each time they learned and they responded with such tenacity that I was inspired.  When I thought they might fold, they doubled down.  Witnessing this story first hand inspired me more than I can tell.  This recounting doesn't even scratch the surface of this 3 year adventure.  If they win this Crew of the Year, it will be WELL deserved.


SRA Coaching Restructure Explained

As I am sure you have heard, 2012 will see some significant changes in the SRA coaching staff.  Before I go on explaining these changes, I feel it is important to think about change for a minute and about the feelings surrounding change.

First, in my experience, all change - regardless of our initial reaction to that change - needs a moment to be grieved.  As with most things in life, we adapt to the situations surrounding us, and when those situations change, that part of ourselves which has adapted will be left a little confused.  It is important to take a moment to grieve the change in order to allow a re-adaptation to the new situation to occur.  We need to acknowledge that.

Second, change can always be for the better.  It is a matter of perspective.  For those with a positive outlook, change is always an opportunity to remake ourselves - and it is a chance to remake ourselves with the knowledge of all that we found positive and negative in years past.  Quoting the late Mitch Hedberg, "I wish I could play T-Ball now. I'd be way better than before.".  He said it as part of a joke, but it is very insightful.  Every time we get an opportunity for a new beginning, we get to bring our knowledge and experience and intent to the new venture.

That being said, let me start explaining the restructure with the Varsity Boys:

First, I want to thank the guys for the time that I got to work with them.  I am extremely proud of the steps that the boys program has taken in the past year - in size and speed!  (did you know that since Chase took over as freshmen boys coach and I took over Head varsity the program has grown such that for the fall of 2011... there were 55 varsity and frosh boys, and there were 56 varsity and frosh girls!  This is the first time in SRA history that the squad sizes have been even close equal!)  Over the year, there were many times I posed the question to myself if I could continue coaching the boys and the girls effectively.  I knew there were sacrifices that had to be made in order to coach both squads - the biggest sacrifice being the lack of interaction I had with either squad outside the time on the water.  But, I loved coaching both, and there were plenty of positives as well.  Almost grudgingly, I continued to keep my eyes open and search for a situation that I thought would be better than the current situation.  I spoke with a few outside coaches but none seemed better than the current situation until I suddenly realized that the important things I was looking for were actually right in front of my face.  Chris Chase could be a full time coach at the helm of the program.  Chase has 15 years experience.  Chase was the 2010 high school coach of the year (did you know he won that award last winter at the Coaches Conference?).  Chase knows (instituted many) the values of SRA.  Chase has worked with many of the current varsity as freshmen.  Chase is a visionary and a builder.  He is passionate and can express his passion well to the youth.  He is one of the most successful coaches in the country.  He represents continuity for a boys program that has needed continuity.  As I started thinking of Chase as a candidate I was overwhelmed by the degree to which he fit the description of what I was looking for.   Chase being the best freshmen coach in the country for over a decade had, at first, caused me to overlook him as perfect candidate.  Now, as much as I will miss coaching the guys (and I will deeply) I am extremely excited for them.  I know Chase will bring the passion and the vision that they are looking for, and I am very excited about working in partnership with Chase to continue the connection that the boys and girls have had over the past year.  Chase and I will continue working together to unify the style and the technique and the instruction and the training of the varsity squads.  We both believe that the combination of our coaching strengths will lead to an even stronger boys and girls team.  While we both may be confident in our abilities, there is no ego between us, and since 1997, we have learned from each other, and this new venture will allow us the opportunity to continue growing for the betterment of SRA.

Of course the transition of Chase from freshmen girls coach, to freshmen boys and girls coach, to now just varsity boys coach, leaves vacancies in a few places.  And, we can all acknowledge these are not easy shoes to fill.  Chase has been the top freshmen coach in the country for over a decade.  However, over the past few seasons I have realized that we have, in Alida, one of the best young coaches in the country.  Alida's attention to detail in rowing, her ability to communicate with the kids, and her connection to the kids is well beyond her years. As a head coach, I LOVE the way Alida's girls row.  I love the technique that she instructs, and I love the rhythm she can instill, I love how she can hold them accountable for their performances while keeping them positive and encouraged.  As Chase and I will continue learning from each other on the varsity, there will be things that Alida will learn from Chase (why not pick the brain of an expert).  There are many things Alida will bring to the table on her own and there are traditions she will maintain on the advice of Chase.  One of the very exciting parts of this transition for me is that Alida, as the freshmen girls and JV girls coach, will have the opportunity to work with the girls for more than one year.  That continuity will REALLY help the current difficulties of the sophomore year (in the past it had been difficult for freshmen to move to varsity and settle in).  The other exciting part of this transition will be the inclusion of Alida as a full time coach!  This will complete the symmetry of the boys and girls sides of SRA.  The boys will have 2 full time coaches (Chase, Matt) and the Girls will have 2 full time coaches (Myself, Alida).  To be able to bring this level of investment and continuity to SRA is truly a blessing.  One of the guiding principles of our program is that coaching is the most important piece of the puzzle.  20 years from now, the kids will remember a few of the races, and they may remember the make of their boat.  But the pieces of the puzzle that will have made a difference in their lives are the coaches and those teammates who fought by their side in pursuit of challenging goals.

On the boys side, we are equally excited.  Lucille Murphy has been coaching with SRA for several years now, mostly with the modified girls, but often assisting Chase with the freshmen (boys and girls).  Those who have had Lucille as a coach know she is a great communicator and she will hold a high standard.  She is tough and fair.  She will let you know when you are out of line, and she will high five you when you are doing well.  Lucille has worked great with Chase over the years, and their partnership of developing mod to freshmen has proven to be a Linda Muri/Charley Butt type partnership for their level. (google those names if you don't know them)

As Chase moves to varsity and Lucille to freshmen, Lou will take an expanded role with organizing the modified program.  We are fortunate to have someone on staff who has the experience of Lou and has a background in which he built the Burnt Hills modified program and brought its numbers up to near Saratoga numbers while he was there.  Lou is excited to help organize the travel especially and is already instituting an off season optional program in which kids are welcome to bring friends.

On the junior side of the program we will be saying goodbye to Tom (he got a job as a physical therapist at Sunnyview), but we are hoping he will stay connected with the program as he remains local.  Maya and Nicole will stay with the mod girls, Lou and Jordan will stay with the Mod boys (doubling to work with the varsity boys).  Matt will stay with the Varsity Boys, Bean will stay with the Varsity Girls.  Susan will stay in the Office :-) 

Some other important notes before closing this long email.

Alida, Chase, Lou, Nicole, and I are all planning to go to Florida for the Feb Break.  I am very excited for that time for the younger girls to get to know Alida as they do Chase.  We will also work to arrange a meeting (maybe just after Thanksgiving to talk about the Feb trip and in order for all the frosh and mods to meet with some of the new coaches)   Also of note: Because of this recent development, the boys will not be going to TN.  It is the direction we plan to go in the future, but in this case it was not in the plans for the Chase household.  I sincerely apologize for the change of plans.


Varsity Boys: Chase, Matt, Lou/Jordan

Varsity Girls:  Cat, Alida, Bean

Freshmen Girls: Alida

Freshmen Boys: Lucille

Mod Boys: Lou/Jordan

Mod Girls: Maya, Nicole, maybe a little bit extra help here.

I hope you all see the potential in the new structure that I see.  Thanks for reading this "book".



Jr. Speed Orders - Day 3

Race Day!  I love race day!  With racing to begin at 10:30 for the juniors, we were not pressured with time in the morning, but as it turned out, we needed all the time we had.  Our great hotel, unfortunately, let us down when it came to breakfast.  Turns out there was no complimentary breakfast, and the buffet was $12.  In order to save a little cash, all the kids ended up ordering breakfast sandwiches - but they took so long to arrive that we had to get them to go!  We arrived at the race course just in time to see the Men's Heavyweight pairs and singles start through the line.  As soon as they all were through the line, we had to launch all the junior shells off one small dock... Worked fine for Sacha and Boss who were among the first off the dock, but by the time all 32 boys singles launched and the girls pairs got off the dock, they had 10 minutes to warm-up, and the line of Mens singles waiting to land was backing up.  They really needed another dock. 

After launching the crews, Mrs. D and I had planned to watch the start and then drive to the finish to catch the finish as well.  However, the distance between the crews was big enough that by the time Regan started, Boss was near finishing.  So, after watching the starts I headed over to check out the results of the Elite racing and of yesterdays 6K ergs.  (top womens splits... 1:44, top mens splits 1:33).

Since we couldn't make the finish, I spent the time with my friend Richard (that was the guy who I traveled with in Switzerland if you remember my last blog) and some of my other friends from Jr. Worlds, I also got to spend a few minutes with the Wisconsin coach.  She was there watching and was excited to see the SRA athletes.  She is hoping to watch practices when we train in TN this April (Wisco trains in TN the week before us). 

When the crews landed we started loading the trailer up and waited for the results. While the Wegners knew that Bromfield had gained on them and Kerri had struggled with her forearms, the other crews felt they had pretty good races and were excited to see where they ended up. 

Luke Boss 3rd, Sacha Castellani 8th, Murph/Lexi 1st, Kerri/Kelli 3rd, Regan 7th

Full results HERE

I was so excited I punched a hole in a boulder (no wonder Lexi was scared yesterday)

When one looks at the level of competition here, these were tremendous results.  Results aside, this was an important and exciting trip.  It reminds me of the first time that Lizzy and Kristi went down to the Jr Trials.  It was so exciting to see these kids make the decision to invest a little deeper and test themselves in this type of situation.  This version of travel and training is a great supplement to our big team environment.  I really hope to make this a standard part of SRA - We do our SRA thing, and anyone who wants to do a little more and invest a little more can have this unique, high level, special, experience.  I think if you ask any of these guys, this was a nice way to reward a little bit of extra work, and I believe it sparks a bit of excitement of "possibility".  To be honest, the results here were even more than I had hoped for.  I envisioned this as the opening of the door of possibility.  Like Lizzy and Kristi the first time they went to the trials, I would have been happy with just the experience... the great results were a bonus.  I hope they all are excited to take the next step.  And I hope it inspires them to go "all in" like it did for Kristi and Lizzy and Ryan their senior year.

After an eventful dinner stop, and a new plan to print bumper stickers (Cheerleaders of Science).  We arrived home.  Parting, they said "good night Dad" to me and our big happy family went our separate ways.  Though I was relieved of the responsibility of being a Dad of 7 kids, I must say there was a little parting sadness, that is a group of Kids I would be PROUD to call my own.  The whole trip was a fantastic experience, and if you need proof, you can refer to this quote from Mrs. D: "I am actually sad this trip is over".  How about that! A chaperone wanting to extend the trip.

Sacha, Luke, Kerri, Kelli, Regan, Murphy, Lexi, Mrs. D, thanks for a great trip.  I cannot wait for the next one.  (I will add more pics to the slide show as they email them to me and you can find some more here)



Jr. Speed Orders - Day 2

Armed with a "cheat sheet" as written by the girls, I will attempt to describe the adventures of the day.  Knowing that there was no morning practice, and the athlete meeting would be held at 11:30, I might have told the girls that they could sleep in.  However, sometime before the Lexi approved "sleep in" time.  Mrs. D got anxious for a diner and some coffee, clearly we were on the same wavelength because I was ready to go shortly thereafter, as was the rest of my room and Mrs. D's room.  Somehow the other room missed the message though, because when Regan knocked on the door at 9:30 (several times) she was met by some very confused girls.  Fortunately we made it to my favorite Princetonian Diner and then the athlete meeting in time.  After an uneventful meeting and a strategy session to figure out how to watch the elites take their 6K test, we got distracted by the Princeton Tanks (they were next to the bathroom).  The kids "snuck in" to the tanks (the door was propped) and took a few strokes jeans and all. 

After the meeting and the tank excursion we realized we were running a little late for the Princeton Tour, so we went in search of parking (of which there was none - Homecoming football game).  I dropped the crowd off somewhere near the middle of campus and they ended up bumping into the tour just in time.  I, on the other hand, parked the van somewhere on the otherside of New Jersey, and began a wild goose chase in search of the Tour.  Between the texts from Mrs. D and a very friendly freshmen girl from Romania, I eventually joined up with the Tour.  I was proud of the kids as they worked their way to the front of the tour group. 

After the tour it was finally practice time - however - we needed to stop back at the hotel quickly because the guys didn't have their rowing clothes.  This presented Lexi the perfect opportunity to practice her helicopter take-offs on the helipad.  HILARIOUS. To everyone except Lexi... she was dizzy for 15 minutes

Practice was windy again.  Relatively uneventful (or at least nothing that can top the Lexi-Copter).  2nd trip over the course was a good idea though.  I think they are getting comfortable with the course.

After practice I promised some of the smellier ones they could go back to the hotel for a shower. (just kidding, though the late notice on wakeup times did cause a few of them to go more than 24 hours without a shower).  Seriously, I was kidding about the smelly part, I have allergies, I couldn't smell anything.

Things really started getting interesting when I tried to find parking for dinner.  There is a nice parking garage a few blocks away from the restaurants, and given my difficulties finding parking earlier today, I decided to just pay the fee...  I knew it was going to be a tight squeeze when I pulled the creeper van into the lot and asked Mrs. D to see how close the racks were to the ceiling.  The sign read 7' and change and we had an inch or two to spare.  So I gave it a try.  There were no spots on the first floor, as we made out way up around to the second floor, there was another sign! 6'10.  Oh no!  You would think they would put the minimum height at the gate.  Now I am stuck.  We actually had to back our way back down the ramp and out the exit in reverse.  We created a bit of a traffic jam in the parking garage, and the guy on the sidewalk as we pulled out said "That's interesting" but, we made it out unscathed, and after creating a few more traffic jams in search of parking, we made it to dinner.  We were in no hurry thought, Kelli paid for 3.5 hours of parking (even though there was only 1.5 hours until the parking was free)

Dinner at PJs was a blast, the food was pretty good, and I almost punched Lexi.  I was demonstrating something, and she definitely thought my punch was going to hit her (it was well short).  After a moment of stunned silence, I found out that a large percentage of our sweet innocent girls secretly harbor a dream of punching someone right in the face.  Sacha got a little scared and decided to pay for the entire dinner... actually that is not true, but he did pay $65 for dinner until he realized they over charged his Moms credit card - somehow they ended up giving him back cash (Better make sure you get that cash back mom!).

On the way back to the Creeper, we made a long and excruciating stop at the Princeton Souvenier shop.  I had planned to sit on the couch and wait for the girls to determine how to spend the rest of their food money, but the stop got a whole lot more interesting when Sacha tried to negotiate with the clerk for a blanket, and then Murph found 2 sets of baby shoes that were tangled together.  She didn't realize they were tangled... when she picked one up to look at it and 4 shoes lifted up together she, of course, determined they much be shoes for dogs.  It was a flattering shade of red on her when she realized they were baby shoes and she had exclaimed aloud the dog shoes hypothesis.

That wraps up the check list that the girls remembered - it seems the funny stuff really sticks with them.  We also spent the day trying to find someone to loan us a quad and a double for Sunday.  We were going to stop at the Braxton regatta on Cooper river after the mornings racing, but it seems we cannot find anyone to loan us equipment this last minute.

We also almost left out the part when the cheerleaders in the hotel decided to call the girls the cheerleaders of science (I have no idea).  At least Sacha made it through the day without the tiny stalkers accosting him.

My favorite part of the day though...

The lady at the front desk was really cute.  While waiting for the girls to go to dinner I got to talk with her a bit.  She was really nice.  She gave me her number.  It was ZERO.

Ha Ha, that was a joke, I stole it from Mitch Hedberg.  Anyway, everyone is in good spirits, and tomorrow we actually get to race.  Thanks for the well wishes.  That is all for now.



Junior Speed Orders - Day 1

As mentioned in the previous post, this fall we have a new group of athletes who have decided to go above and beyond the normal rowing season in order to challenge themselves in pursuit of lofty goals.  The day began at 7:30 this morning when we loaded up the "creeper" and hauled the little blue trailer down to Princeton.  Along the way - at one of several bathroom stops (4 hour drive - seriously?) - I got the email confirming that there was no 6K erg test for the Jrs, only for the elites.  This seemed to bring a little excitement... I think Kelli actually sang a song.  Actually, Kelli sang a lot of songs, so maybe it wasn't related to the news.  When we arrived at the race course, it was very chill... like there was no one there telling us what to do, we just unloaded the trailer (easy because we never derigged our boats!) changed in the van, and then hit the water.  It was very, very windy, but the race course is protected, so the water wasn't all that choppy.  On the water there were a lot of crews doing their thing.  What was cool about us though was that there were 5 boats all out there together keeping an eye on each other.  While the rowers were out on the water, Mrs. Delaney and I went for a run.  I bought new shoes recently - they are hideous - but I had to try them out.  Maybe I'll post a pic later.  Anyway, Mrs. D can run!  We ended up running about 8 miles down to the finish line and back.  When we got back the kids had already landed and put their boats on the trailer.  We had a little scare when I realized I had locked the key in the van and taken the wrong key on the run with me (fortunately the back door was not locked). 

Following the practice session, we loaded up the van again and hit the road for a visit to Dunkin Donuts (well, actually Villanova, but Mrs. D made sure we found Dunkin on the way).  We just missed the Crew Coach at Villanova, but the folks in admissions were very cool.  They gave me a prize for bringing so many kids... Then they gave Sacha a bottled water when we left (As we exited the door he shouted "This place is Awesome").  Our self guided tour quickly turned into a guided tour as the twins had a friend from the track team who is a freshmen at Villanova meet us and show us around.  When we could stand the cold no longer, we got back in the van and returned to Princeton.  On the way to the Hotel we stopped at Wegmans for dinner (always a favorite), and the kids thought it might be fun to pretend like we were one big happy family... Suddenly I went from single and without child to father of 7.  I sprouted a few more grey hairs (Kelli said "hey Cat, look, you are even turning blonde like us")

Arriving at the Wyndham hotel (thanks priceline) we passed the helipad on the way to registration.  As we were reveling in our good fortune on the way to the "south tower", suddenly a small group of cheerleading girls started following Sacha around with a video phone!  He kept turning back to try and frighten them away, but they persisted until he ducked into the elevator.  It was pretty funny.  After settling into the rooms, the girls went down to the pool and hot tub (we don't race till Sunday) and Sacha and Boss played a quick game of raquetball.  I guess Sachas fan club found him again, but he evaded them and made it back to the room. 

Its 10:00 now, and we are settling in.  The athlete meeting is at noon tomorrow, so everyone is looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.  Good night for now (Oh yeah, I saw a license plate from Hawaii today too!)