Team Science – Take #2

Jack Mercer, Biomechanist and Performance Analyst, brings us up to date with part two of our behind-the-scenes look at the science used by the GB Rowing Team


Team Science

Here we go with the second in our series taking a look behind the scenes with the GB Rowing Team Science Team. We are now well into pre-Games prep which means the focus has shifted for everyone and the atmosphere has ramped up a notch.

Through the winter training block the emphasis was on long work sessions for the athletes with fewer monitored sessions. This gives us in the Engine Room the opportunity to work on projects and develop our service ready for race preparation and regattas.

Since Sarah wrote our first blog, the Physiology team of Sarah Moseley, Mark Homer and Gareth “Gaz” Turner have been supporting the Senior and Paralympic squads in honing their pre- and post-race strategies. This helps to ensure our athletes are physically primed and hit the start line in the best shape to deliver a winning performance. Similarly the post-race strategy is designed to help each athlete recover well and recover quickly, ready to race again.

Typically, the Science Team doesn’t travel to regattas early in the season, however this season one Performance Analyst has headed out to provide useful feedback on racing. The Senior/Olympic team being away gives the rest of Team Science valuable time at Caversham with the Paralympic and Development squads. It’s important to capitalise on these times to bring everyone into the support we deliver as many of the Development squad will be joining us as Seniors next year and everything we do now aids a smooth transition into them becoming full-time members of the GB Rowing Team.

The racing season is typically a busy time for Jamie Thomas and me with Biomechanics and Performance Analysis responsibilities. Coaches and crews come home from racing with new ideas and areas they want to investigate and tinker with, so we instrument the boats in order to give a little more insight to best inform the coaches on their athletes’ performances. With boats sometimes taking a couple of hours to kit up, and up to 14 boats instrumented at a time, we get to spend a lot of time out in the boathouse. Very occasionally we venture outside but only if the sun makes an appearance – a rare treat at Caversham.

I’m writing this on our Women and Lightweights pre-Olympic training camp which has taken in a bit of Italy, Germany and now France – everywhere we go we have fantastic hospitality from the local clubs and we are always thankful for the Lottery funding which enables us to train in superb locations. Due to the size of our squads we split for training camps with the Men’s squad and half our support team taking in the Austrian mountains and now the Italian lakes. This training block comes off the back of three successful, albeit challenging, competitions.

I was out at the Europeans in Brandenburg and the Lucerne world cup and Jamie went out to the Poznan world cup – conditions couldn’t have been more different; biblical storms and delayed racing in Poznan, pouring rain and flat water in Lucerne versus hot sunshine and strong winds in Brandenburg – the worst conditions I’ve ever seen our crews out in, let alone race in. Although not ideal these are good tests for the squad and for us as a support team as well; learning how we deal with various situations in order to deliver the best support regardless of the conditions.

These regattas are useful for Jamie and me as we familiarise ourselves with the Performance Analysis service that “Team Science” will be delivering for the Olympic Games. The feedback we provide is beneficial for the Team whist we are able to iron out kinks and optimise processes in order to get effective information and analysis back to the coaches quickly, ready for debriefing their crews. Through the winter we spent a lot of time developing new tools to enhance our analysis so these field tests are crucial.

On the same theme, Jamie and I were up in Manchester a few weeks ago for the EIS Biomechanics and Performance Analysis ‘Ready for Rio’ Forum. This was a really helpful for us to chat to our counterparts from other sports about how they’re prepping for Rio. It’s an exciting time for British sport and the same can be said behind the scenes – lots of top class support work going on.

If you want to keep up with goings on between blogs we’ll be tweeting on and off throughout the summer. Follow us at:

Mark Homer – @markrhomer

Jack Mercer – @jackamercer

Jamie Thomas – @jamiethomas87

Gareth Turner – @1GTurner

Sarah Moseley – @sarah_moseley1

And for general updates follow @GBRowingTeam