Conor, thanks for your thoughtful response. I will try to address your issues point by point.
1. Purpose of regatta. The purpose of the regatta is to race for the Regional Champion that will represent the NW at the Youth National Championship Regatta. We are part of a larger organization that has a specific list of events at the YNC’s. To get to the championship a team must earn the spot in the categories that are set by USRowing. Second is the JV and Novice event champions.
I think here we simply disagree. I see the purpose of the Northwest Regional Championship Regatta as establishing Northwest Regional Champions. It’s right there in the name of the regatta. We don’t call it the Youth National Championship Northwest Regional Qualifier for a reason. Part of this is establishing a place where ALL junior rowers in the northwest have an opportunity to compete against their peers. Secondarily, this regatta serves as the qualifying event of the YNC. While USRowing does own this regatta, USRowing’s involvement has to do with reasons other than YNC qualification.
2. Athlete Experience and Success.
Agreed that the regatta itself is not responsible for creating a successful experience, but that overlooks the fact that this regatta is an integral part of the athletic experience for all athletes in this region. Otherwise, what is the preparation really for? My entire training calendar, from June to May, is designed around the NWJRC weekend. It is the most important weekend of the year for us. To suggest that this regatta is not first and foremost a championship disregards the efforts of any athlete who is not specifically training for the YNC (which is most of the participants). Last year we won only a couple events, and failed to qualify in the V8+, but all our athletes came home with at least one medal and most came home with two. The slowest kid on my team had a bronze and silver medal, exceeding everyone’s expectations. The depth of the regatta gave that athlete the opportunity to compete against her peers, and provided the opportunity for her to see how she had improved as an athlete over the course of the year. While the results were good, it was secondary to how she saw that her efforts in practice pay off. This is exactly the kind of experience I want my athletes to have.
3. Number of events per athlete.
I agree that this structure would lessen the likelihood of athletes entering more than one event, but we’ve seen coaches do crazy things in the past. Like I said before, the griping many coaches have about the event limit suggests that some will try to find ways to shoehorn their best athletes into as many events as possible.
4. Big vs. Small programs.
Perhaps I’m missing the point of your argument (probably my fault), but I don’t see how reducing the number of events helps anyone in regard to choice, other than the fact that you can’t enter more than one V2x, or 1x, etc. If the clubs that exclusively scull in these events want to propose a change that allows more than one 1x, 2x, etc. Let’s have that conversation, but you don’t need to take away the 3V 8+, or 2nd Novice 4+ to make that happen. Regarding the scheduling of events, the 8’s and 4’s have been early in the day because of the choices that we as a region made several years ago in terms of event priority. This has been the catalyst for the current structure ever since. This part of your concerns is separate from the arguments about your proposal since this could be incorporated into any schedule.
5. Serving the membership.
Like the previous point, how specifically does removing events and decreasing the number of athletes who will race in finals accomplish equity and fairness? I just don’t see it.
6. Length of the regatta.
The devil is in the details here. The overall length is not nearly as important as how the regatta is structured so that heats, reps, semis, and finals all happen in a reasonable way. Additionally, you mention wanting to have B finals, that adds at least another two hours if we are doing the YNC events. See more below.
7. Preparation for YNC.
Maybe I coach smart kids, but I’ve never had a problem with athletes understanding the “intricacies” of the YNC structure. It’s not like they need to race any differently unless you are trying to “game” the progression (in which case, good luck). Certainly this concern is not enough to warrant the wholesale changes that you are proposing.
In answer to questions:
1. These events should not be “coaches choice”. JV is an event that should be mutually agreed upon and followed, otherwise the concept of JV has no merit whatsoever. Of course, if you don’t care about JV rowers, then this is not a compelling argument.
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2. Like I said above, the details of this are hard to imagine. How would you lay several three day progressions on top of many two-day progressions? I’m curious as to how we would make that work without substantial equipment and athlete conflicts.
3. See my comments above.
4. This is the point that gets me, you have proposed a schedule that puts the V4+ and V8+ within an hour or so of each other, yet the 2x and 4x are separate, the 1x and 2x are separate, and the 2- and 4+ are separate. It seems to me that this is a schedule specifically designed to favor teams that only row small boats at the expense of those that row 8’s. While I have respect for you guys and I think highly of you, I’m angered by what seems to be a wholesale change that serves a very small, specific group of people.
In coming up with this new event list, I think the intention was to simplify. In no way were we trying to diminish the hard work that all the athletes and coaches from our region put in all spring. We were not trying to take away from anyone's experience, but rather offer a potential change. And we certainly didn't intend to anger anyone with a suggested grouping of events.
I think it is fair to say that there are enough programs in the NW that want some level of change in the regional schedule. Personally I would like to see the events raced in order of boat size, 1xs earlier in the day, 8s later in the day. This seems pretty standard for any championships regatta.
Another reason for a suggested change is to simplify the event list, which has grown to over 60 events. We have already prioritized events for foul weather (see entry packet), maybe we can discuss cutting the youth 4xs, lwt 1xs and nov 1xs.
In regards the 2 event limit (maybe this is another topic altogether), but I would be in favor of Coby's suggestion of granting each team a waiver that would allow for one entry per gender that does not count against the 2 event limit.
Finding or developing the purpose of this regatta is going to lead us where we want to go. So far we have discussed these elements that make up the purpose:
-Qualifier for YNC’s.
-Participation/Opportunity for all
I would like to discuss each one individually to find a primary purpose for this regatta.
Qualifier for YNC’s. Since USRowing owns this regatta we are forced to pay membership to USRowing to participate. The NW Regional Championship is connected to USRowing by choice, we have the freedom to host a private regatta similar to the 5 other regions that make up the YNC qualifying regattas. I strongly support USRowing’s push to make all regional qualifiers a USRowing owned event to increase membership and participation in the nationalized system. Thus, our schedule and racing progression should mimic USRowing’s YNC race schedule. This is a step forward towards improving the NW regionals to mimic a regatta like the YNC’s or the World Championship system. In terms of preparation, using heats/reps/semis/finals will teach the athletes what to expect when they get into a heat/rep/semi at Nationals or the World Championships. There are race plans for heats/reps/semis that are different than racing finals and some take experience to learn.
Regional Championship. We agree the key word here is “regional.” The teams in our area are forced into a region that is created by USRowing. They have determined the states that make up our region and we follow it. By saying this is primarily a regional championship regatta disregards our membership in USRowing and attempts to turn this into a private regatta. We have created a number of different events like JV, 3V, 4V to develop athletes for the top level and give them a place to race against their peers. The question here is what makes up their peers? Age? Weight? Experience? Number of athletes on the team? Sculler? Sweep rower? With so many dissections of each boat type, the regatta is awarding medals that are less valuable and easier to get. The lesson for the athletes is unrealistic and false. Given the USRowing system that we are a part of, the primary purpose of this regatta should be a regional qualifier for the YNC. The extra events that we offer (in addition to the YNC events) should directly support the YNC events for the following year.
Medals. A medal is one of the many things that are valuable in this sport. We are in the high school age of athletics and should not be passing out participation medals. Many athletes have boxes of plaques and plastic trophies from participating in 1st grade soccer or baseball or basketball, but we aren’t in 1st grade. A win at the high school level is more challenging and the reality of winning and losing is a lesson learned in high school athletics. Earning a medal at the NW Regional Championship Regatta should hold a high value. With less events and less medals, the value of 1st, 2nd and 3rd will be much higher.
Participation/Opportunity. The value of participation is controlled by the coach and the team. By lowering the number of events offered, participation is sill open to all but in a more competitive and realistic racing experience. In giving the athletes a full race progression and a full ranking of each event, an athlete can more realistically track their improvement. Anytime there is an event without all lanes full, an opportunity is lost. In making less events larger, we can actually get a larger percentage of athletes down the course more times. The competition in a B,C and D final are the closest competition that an athlete can get.
Athlete Experience. The experience of an athlete is constructed from many factors that are not the responsibility of the race schedule. The coaches, the parents, and the program directors are in charge of the athlete’s experience. Yes, NW regionals is an integral part of our season and the end of the line for some athletes, but the priority of the regatta is not to satisfy all. Athletes, coaches and parents will inevitably be unhappy with something, but we should not host a regatta to make everyone happy. We should host a fair and safe race for the regional champions that will go on to YNC’s.
I am going to try really hard to keep this short and not stray to far from the point.
Rather than make a large, wholesale change to the regatta, I would prefer to move is small, more predictable steps. I just spent the weekend teaching coaching certification classes, and kept reinforcing the idea that you don't try to get athletes to change everything at once, you start with the most important change and work from there.
What specfically does not work for people on the current format, and can we make a couple of changes to try to address most of their concerns? I would like to see a list of what isn't working and go from there.
I can say that I will never vote for a huge change to the current format without seeing what the results of that change might look like. I believe that if you are going to make a proposal like you did, you owe it to everyone else to at least "game" a schedule. Take all the entries from the 2009 regionals, put them into the events they would likely be in under your proposal and create a schedule. What would it look like? I don't know. My big point is that you don't either. I suspect that most small boats would be racing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, especially since entries would be going up. When would we fit in petites? Again, I don't know.
Show me the goods. Take the time to create a likely schedule and let's see how that would work. We all know what the current regatta looks like.
Thanks to those who have responded so far. This is exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. My original goal was to make suggestions, hear what a broad cross-section of the region wants, and then create a proposal to be voted on at the Jan. 30 meeting. The responses have been helpful in figuring out what is realistic to propose for this year, what drawbacks there are to the changes, and how we can find a compromise that satisfies all of us.
That said, we have only heard input from 4 clubs (out of the 21 in our region). I would be really interested to hear what everyone else thinks. Having a discussion over this list serv, or even better on the forum thread, will save us painstaking time during the meeting (I think you all know what I'm talking about). I know everyone is busy, but I'm only asking for 10 minutes of your time to write a few thoughts. If this proposal creates increased discussion and collaboration among us, it will be successful.
Now a few facts that hopefully will provide some insight into why I want to see changes.
The number of entries in each Regional Championship Regatta, and the number of clubs in each region, as recorded by RegattaCentral:
Southeast: 248 entries from 36 clubs
Midwest: 332 entries from 29 clubs
Northeast: 311 from 53 clubs
New York: 498 from 73 clubs
Central: 240 from 28 clubs
Southwest: 536 from 26 clubs
Northwest: 537 entries from 21 clubs
As you can see, we have the most entries of any region, and the least number of clubs.
Now let's take a look at our own regatta, and why we have so many entries. We allow multiple entries and we have twice as many event offerings as most other regions. However, 25 of our non-YNC events in the 2009 Regatta had 9 or fewer entries. Here's the data from last year:
Events with 6 or less entries (number of entries in parantheses): Total: 15 events
M 2nd Novice 8+ (3)
W JV 1x (6)
M 3V 8+ (4)
M 2nd Lt 4+ (4)
W 4V 4+ (5)
M 3V 4+ (4)
W JV Lt 4+ (4)
M 4V 4+ (3)
W JV 8+ (6)
M JV 8+ (4)
W 3V4+ (6)
W 3V 8+ (4, including 2 from the same club)
W Youth 4x+ (3)
M Youth 4x+ (5)
W 5V 4+ (5)
Events with 7-9 entries: Total of 10 events
M 2V 4+ (8)
W 2nd Novice 8+ (8)
M JV 4x+ (9)
W JV 4x+ (9)
M JV 1x (9)
W LT 1x (9)
W Novice 1x (9)
M JV 2x (9)
W JV 2x (8)
M 5V 4+ (7)
The value of a medal is severely diminshed when an event is undersubscribed, while another event in the same boat class and gender exists. The non-YNC events with under 7 entries in 2009 were mostly made up of boats from the 5-6 "larger" programs. The majority of the region (the remaining 15-16 clubs) suffer because this uses valueable time in the regatta that could better serve the majority of the athletes by offering a standard race progression that involves heats, reps, semis, and A, B, and C level finals.
I want to be proud of this regatta, and I want it to truly be a Regional Championship. A regatta that gives out medals to the majority of the athletes in a single boat class is not a champoinship regatta. My proposal has less to do with improving YNC qualification methods and everything to do with creating a better Regional Championship. Thank you and l look forward to hearing all of your comments.
Again, what the other regions do is interesting, but not particularly relevant. I think it is a good thing that we aren't teaching kids to be specialists and are teaching to both sweep and scull, row small boats, row big boats, etc. They are kids and they should be building as big a skillset as possible. The region that does things the most like us is the Southwest, and they have a schedule very much like ours. Just a few more clubs, and just a few less races.
Having more boats in an event doesn't make it more competative, it just makes it bigger. Boats that don't stand a chance of being in the finals let alone medalling don't make it more challenging for the medalist. By having fewer event choices, you force kids into a race where they have no chance. That isn't a racing opportunity, it is a rowing down the course opportunity. Heck, they may not even get a chance to race that one crew they've been trying to catch because that other crew might be in another heat.
Our event selection allows kids to row in events with kids of similar accomplishment. I think that is a good thing. If other regions are more "professional", I don't think that is necessarily a good thing and we shouldn't emulate it.
You spoke about being fair to the majority of the region. What exactly is the majority of the region? If five clubs have a total of 150 kids and two clubs have 250 kids, what's the majority? Being at a large club, I have kids who will never do more than watch a YNC qualifier event. Should I throw them under the bus?
The trick of this whole thing is to try to serve the broadest constituancy possible. Big clubs, small clubs, novice rowers, potential national champions. I think we do that pretty well. Heck, the fact that almost every club can find something in the schedule that doesn't work that well for them is an indication of that.
I can state with certainty that the region is changing. However, it is changing gradually, and I think that our regional championship should change the same way - gradually to suit the evolving needs of the region - all of the region not just the small boat rowers at the small crews.
I agree that gradual changes are the best and safest for ensuring a managable regatta. The things I am proposing do not need to be enacted all at once. It could be accomplished over a number of years. For example, for this year, we could elimate a few undersubscribed events, and choose one YNC event to test out a full progression system with.
I need to emphasize a very important part of our proposal that will show it is equally good for all programs and all levels of athletes. Our race progression includes having petite, C, D, and E or however many finals necessary to give every kid a race in a 'final' against boats of similar speed. This gives every kid multiple races in a single event during the weekend, and as the regatta progresses, they truly race boats of similar skill and speed to their own. This allows MORE competition among the 3Vs, for example, because they will have the opportunity to match up against Varsity or JV 8s from smaller programs that may be of equal speed, but currently aren't allowed into the 3V category. It also gives the 3V kids a feel for what a race progression is. In my program, the 3V is a development boat--they are usually younger kids that want to improve and maybe someday race in a YNC boat. Every single crew will get a 'rank' at the and of the year, and then they can work to improve on that the next year. If we wanted, we could even award the '3V' trophy to the winner of the C final.
The drawback from this is that it takes a lot of time in the regatta. The solution is that coaches will be more likely to enter athletes in only one event, given that this guarantees them 2 or 3 races over the weekend, no matter how poorly they fare in their heat. Another option would be to enact a one-event limit.
A one event limit would not mean that we cannot teach kids how to row a variety of boats classes and events. This is up to the coach to decide how they spend their time in practice. There are plenty of races earlier in the season to 'experiment' and learn new skills; a Regional Championsip should be a place to perform in the boat that you have decided to train in the most.
However, there are enough 'slots' in the YNC events, that if a team entered every single event once, you would need 40 athletes! I don't think very many clubs, even the biggest ones, have 40 varsity rowers in one gender. Therefore, it's possible to enter every single YNC event. Sure, not every kid would medal and go to Nationals, but that's how a championship regatta works. Most of my team will never go to YNC (in fact a much smaller percentage of my team attends each year than at a larger club), but that's okay. Success for them is doing their best, not neccearily getting a medal. This is a value that I like to teach.
Also, the Southwest does not have 3V events, besides the 8+, and has very few JV events. Many kids down there race only once. It is not a perfect system, and this is why I have proposed a full race progression for every athlete for the Northwest.
Hey Steve and others,
I'll try to limit my comments to the duration of halftime.
First, I see that I'm a little late to the party and that there has been a lot of disucssion of this topic on the discussion board - http://pub44.bravenet.com/forum/static/show.php?usernum=3768885695&frmid=684&msgid=1095815&cp=1&cmd=show. I post these comments there as well.
As for comments:
1. The net result of this radical schedule departure and reprioritization is to marginalize the 3v, 4v, 2N, and 3N rowers of the region. I can't support that. It also removes a lot of choice from the 1V, 2V, and 1N rowers, like racing in more than one event. I can't support that either. The only outcome I see from this schedule is the same winners in the same events with a lot more people who had no chance to honestly compete against them in the first place.
2. I think we need to focus on best serving the kids in our region. Other regions have different ideas about how to do that with their kids, but that doesn't mean we should do what they do.
3. One of the reasons behind our current system of one entry in 1V-4V events is to allow maximum regional participation in Cinci. In 2002 the GLC boys went first in the 8+, first and second in the 4+, 4x, and 2x. Back then only the top two spots were invited to Cinci, which means that the NW had very light participation at nationals that year. Our current system has allowed a much broader participation at nationals and allowing multiple entries from a single club in YNI events might change that.
4. Another benefit of our current schedule: kids can row two events. Big boats and small boats, sweeping and sculling, kids from the NW can get a taste of it all, if that is their coach's choice. College rowing may all be all about the 8+'s or rowing one event, other regions may be all about that too, but we don't have to be and I'm glad we are not.
To be clear - I'm very proud that our region provides the variety of racing opportunities that we do. More would be better, not less.
5. "The value of a medal is severely diminshed when an event is undersubscribed"? Perhaps, but only when there is not speed pairity between the entrants. Speed parity provides true racing and valuable achievements. You don't have to believe me, just ask some of our local Olympic Champs from the women's 8+ in Beijing. Only 7 boats entered the event, but I'm pretty sure those gold medals don't feel dimished to Mary Whipple or Anna Cummins.
More to the point, I know my kids feel pretty accomplished when the earn a gold from regionals. They also feel good about a hard fought silver or bronze or fourth place when they take their best shot after a season of preparation against a crew they are close to speed pairity with.
I'm not interested in taking that away from them - not from any of them.
See you next weekend,
I've been following the discussion now for a couple of weeks, and thought I would speak on behalf of a smaller club in the region.
I 100% agree with Coby. Whether you are a small or large program, the racing has to be about the kids. We had a very positive experience at regionals last year. I appreciated the fact that I was able to race my kids in multiple events whether that was sweep, sculling, 1V or 2V- and feel that they were placed in events where the level of competition best fit them. Athletes in larger programs need to have that same opportunity.
Also, if the proposed schedule is adopted, I am not sure that the quality of racing would improve. Referencing Jason's message earlier, with heats, reps, semis and finals, most athletes would be racing 7 times in one weekend. That is a lot of racing! Would their level of fatigue effect the outcome? I'm not sure.
As for the diminished value of the medals...I don't know where that is coming from. We had athletes medal for the first time in a 5 year rowing career last year. It didn't matter to them if there were 4 entries or 12, all that mattered to them was the fact that their hardwork all season had payed off.
Bottom line, I strongly believe that this is a regional championship over a YNC qualifier and we are obligated to offer events at every level of competition.
See you all next weekend,