updated 2nd Feb 2024
See https://oxfordrowcoach.co.uk/learn-to-row/nextcourse/ for details of upcoming courses. I shall circulate updates to all those who have previously indicated an interest in attending a course.
Remember that a first day of any full course can be booked as a Taster Day. So can any subsequent “late” starter days, if offered.
I run courses for adult beginners – i.e. over-18yrs. I have accommodated younger people (as young as 15yrs) but only when they are attending with a parent or older sibling.
Courses can based on rowing (with one oar for each person) or sculling (with one oar in each hand) in crews of eight. This allows more people to be coached in less time, so more sessions can be offered. Smaller boats – usually for four but occasionally just two rowers – will also be used where appropriate.
By the end of the course, you should a clear understanding of fundamental sculling and rowing technique and be familiar with all the basic terminology and equipment used in the sport.
As the course is targeted at teaching good technique, there is almost no initial fitness requirement. The most challenging aspect of your early experiences will be handling / carrying a boat, and that is more awkward than demanding. Those seeking some fitness benefit will be offered support and advice in these areas.
Sessions are offered on most weekend days and, during the summer months, if agreed, on a midweek evening. However, missing these will not compromise your course as those unable to attend midweek outings can be offered a longer period to complete their sessions. All current courses will require people to attend weekend sessions on a regular basis. I have been able to deal with occasional cases of persons who were able to attend only one weekend day (due to work shifts, child care or religious practices etc) but I don’t recommend it as a tactic for reducing your commitment as there’s a danger of slipping behind the improving standard of the group.
Occasionally, courses may be tailored to attract some students if there are sufficient numbers to warrant it. These courses will include more weekday outings which most other (non-student) people might find difficult to attend.
Most courses are attended by 15-20 people. This requires me to organise sessions in small groups, based around the size of the boat and tailored for the appropriate level of skill of those available. The more people and the smaller the crew size, the more sessions will be required. Some flexibility in your availability will therefore be needed to allow everyone to attend sessions during the time slots available.
Due to the size and popularity of these courses, the club now enjoys a large active membership which accommodates a wide range of competences and commitments. We seek to be inclusive and particularly want to welcome and support those who want to row as a recreational activity. Recreational activity includes rowing not specifically targeting competition – although there are still less formal competitive events and challenges on offer. The Touring Group, for example, may embark on 3-4hr trips further afield or travel elsewhere in the country or even abroad to do some water work on someone else’s river.
How it works
Courses do not “fill up” so you don’t need to ask if there are places left. The format is quite flexible and the session times may be rescheduled to accommodate larger numbers, if necessary.
Over the duration of the course, I offer a number sessions (usually over 20) on all those weekend days I can (so both Saturdays and Sundays are involved). You should give your rowing sessions some priority – particularly in the early stages when basic technique is picked up in a land-based facility called a tank. Later sessions are less important as they are more about practising than learning.
Weekend day sessions are usually scheduled to start late morning (around 11.30am) and last about 1.5hrs. However, in the early stages, there may be a lesson in the Tank followed by a water outing (counted as two sessions) which will take nearer 3hrs to complete. Also, if there are sufficient numbers available to warrant it, second or even third time-slots will be offered. You will be allocated to just one but it may be later than your usual start time. (We keep all family, professional and other commitments in mind when making these allocations.)
Crews are pre-selected. You’ll be contacted by email (or, more recently, we’ve been using WhatsApp) to advise you which session you’re expected to attend. Crews depend on everyone showing up. Rowing with one crew member missing is not recommended!
During the summer, we usually offer a midweek evening session (starting at 6.30pm), which is scheduled with the agreement of the group members. The slot is usually limited by daylight to 1-1.5hrs, so only a limited number can be accommodated.
Occasionally, my commitments, local events and river conditions mean that course sessions cannot run and some days will be missed. This means that the end date of the course may be extended.
Some people want a taste of rowing before fully committing. Taster Days consist of the same contents as a first day of a full course but are offered as stand-alone opportunities for you to test the sport without committing to a full blown course of 15-20+ sessions.
Occasionally, if there is a long gap between courses, Taster Days may be offered as a one-off but this is exceptional as it is difficult to achieve viable (and reliable) numbers.
A typical Taster Day will take around 3-4hrs, starting on a rowing machine (an ergometer or ergo) and progressing to a Tank session (an indoor facility which mimics rowing, sitting next to a swimming pool). I have found that the extra skills and instruction required to organise an outing on the water are too demanding on the first day. Those seeking a one-off taste of rowing will be invited back to have a water session on a subsequent date. The cost of a Taster Day is a modest £30 – refundable against the cost of a full course (2024 cost – £180).
After the start date, sessions will be offered on most weekend days (both Saturday and Sunday) starting around 11.30am and lasting around 2-3hrs according to where we’re up to, for 6-8wks
Club activities and personal commitments can influence the dates and times of lessons.
For those unable to attend on an allocated start date, opportunities may be available to join on subsequent weekend dates soon thereafter, subject to having a catch-up session with me. You should contact me to advise me when you will be able to start and we can investigate the options.
Courses and Taster Days are subject to viable numbers of people making the appropriate commitment by paying a deposit (see below). I am looking for a minimum of 12 people to run the full course. I may run a Taster Day with fewer.
Dates of any future courses, Taster Days and events are circulated to all those who have shown an interest. They will also be Tweeted by @OxfordRowCoach.
Most people will, for reasons of their own, have to miss some sessions during a course so don’t let a planned absence put you off. However, you should give the course some priority. A degree of commitment is helpful in ensuring you don’t find yourself slipping behind the general standard of the group. This is especially important in the early stages. If you don’t attend enough of the basic lessons, you can find yourself struggling to build up your skills on shaky foundations.
If you do find yourself unavoidably missing sessions, you may be allowed a longer period to make up any reasonable shortfall. However, you are not buying a guaranteed quota of sessions. By the end of the course, it should be expected that everyone should have attended 12-15 of the 20+ sessions offered.
The total cost for the 12-15 sessions, including insurance, equipment and facilities hire and coaching from me, is £180 (2024). However, for full time students and other unwaged persons, the coaching fee has been waived and the cost comes down to just £120.
A number of Courses and Taster Days are offered each year. They are based on the Isis stretch of the river Thames at the Falcon Boat Club (FBC) next to Donnington Bridge in Oxford. FBC takes great care to ensure the courses are designed and run responsibly. After your course FBC will continue to look after your best rowing interests and will support you in your continued journey within the fabulous sport of rowing..
See fuller details of the topics covered by the course.