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Setting up your novice for success.

It’s early in the fall. New athletes are curiously wandering around the boathouse and boats.
The challenge of getting new athletes to the boathouse might be done, but the bigger challenge is keeping young athletes engaged.

Ask around. Some of the best novice coaches have the simplest and most straight forward plan. Every good novice coach has a few key tricks up their sleeve and we want to share those with you.

  1. Have a clear plan and focus on the fundamentals fundamentals.
  2. Nurture relationships on the team.
  3. Create competition.

Have a plan and be patient.

Having a clear and solid plan for practice is key. Set a regular practice schedule, show up to that practice with a plan and a goal for the day, and stay on schedule. A well-organized coach ensures that practice runs smoothly.

Set expectations at the beginning of every practice. Novice athletes are learning from scratch. One or two goals for each practice is plenty and know that progress may be slow. A patient coach understands this and is willing to repeat instructions and drills as often as needed without becoming frustrated.

Effective communication is vital in coaching. A good novice coach can explain complex concepts in simple terms, offer constructive feedback, and actively listen to athletes’ questions and concerns. Teaching the fundamentals takes time and patience, but a solid base will set you up for long term success.

Nurture Relationships.

Fostering a sense of teamwork, camaraderie, and sportsmanship is crucial. Novice coaches should promote a positive team culture. Simple things like making sure everyone knows everyones names is important. Create small challenges done as a team or small group will help your athletes created a strong sense of team. The more your team feels engaged by you, the more effort they will give you.


If you are showing up to practice with a good plan and a daily/weekly goal, creating a competition at the end of every practice or every week can be easy. Competing can be done as a whole team, or as groups within the team.

Some examples of early fall competitions for novice are included below. Be sure to celebrate winning, but be sure to not demoralize the losers.

  • 3 x 1:00 challenge. Set up your two novice boats next to each other. Who can go the furthest in 1:00. Best of 3.
  • Wall sits as a team. Who can wall sit the longest at the end of practice?
  • When you teach feathering, have a week long completion.
    • Monday, how many consecutive strokes can you go without blades touching the water?
    • Tuesday, can you double that number?
    • By Friday can your team go for 1:00 straight?

Remember that coaching novice athletes can be a rewarding experience, and the impact a good coach can have can be significant on the future of the program. Be organized. Be clear with your plan. Promote your team as a whole. Compete. These are the things with will set a novice coach apart.