It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of 2019 already! This holiday season I wanted to share my reflections on RowHero as a product and as a company.
RowHero started several years ago out of a personal desire to make performance improvement in rowing more data-driven to more people. I saw opportunity, but the vision was unclear, and the products have been all over the place. We’ve worked on better visualizations for NK SpeedCoach data, lineups for masters, force plate sensors for shells, and a few other projects before we revamped how coaches record erg data for their teams. After many years of experimentation and experience coaching at the master and junior level, I can be clear about our mission going into 2020: to empower young people and their coaches to forge their own paths to peak performance.
I coached juniors for the first time in 2018 and learned what a pain it was to record and catalog erg scores, so in response I set about making RowHero the database of scores that fit on my phone. It worked for our team, but when you build something, you never really know if “they will come.” 2019 was about proving RowHero was more than just a hobby project that worked for my team.
I wanted other teams to prove that this wasn’t just a better way to record scores. I wanted to see that this could totally transform the coach-athlete relationship in ways I didn’t expect — to make a coach more aware of the little successes and failures of everyone across their team, to promote focus on what gets in the way of peak performance, and to help athletes take more ownership of their trajectory. Even though my foray into junior coaching was short, my passion did not stop.
Are we “there” yet? No. Do I have reason to believe we’re on the right path? Absolutely.
Service to Others
In 2019, we served six teams in the Seattle area. That’s up from just one team (unpaid) in 2018.
- The varsity girls and boys at Sammamish Rowing Association
- The varsity girls and boys at Pocock Rowing Center
- All of Seattle Prep
- The Cascade Acceleration summer camp
Together we recorded about 23 million meters of erging over 182 workouts. The teams are large, so given about 45 seconds per piece to record them on paper and about 45 minutes to enter scores and analyze them in a spreadsheet of your choice, we ended up saving coaches and coxswains almost 250 hours of team time.
That plus recording splits (e.g. 500m splits for 2Ks) and stroke-by-stroke piece graphs means that it’s not just about the time saved. You just can’t get this data for a large team any other way.
I’m pretty proud of that! It leads to…
- Less stress in the erg room
- Time better spent fostering high quality follow-ups with rowers
- Time which can go toward recovery and self-care, which we as coaches usually neglect. (Been there!)
Tools for Coaches
This year we focused on creating tools for coaches to get visibility into their team’s progress.
In this case, it means an iPhone app.
The app requires no workout planning or programming ahead of time. (As a coach, I know what it’s like to handle several pre-practice athlete meetings and then be expected to jump right in to practice. We miss stuff.) Each athlete connects a phone or tablet to their Concept2, and the entire workout is recorded automatically. It’s effortless, even “mindless,” to set up.
The app shows results of every athlete’s piece immediately after they finish, along with comparisons to previous pieces and PRs so it’s easy to see progress. Coaches can also view their entire history of workouts for the season, or even across multiple years.
You can also drill in to any athlete’s piece, revealing strengths and weaknesses that would otherwise be hidden behind an “average split.” Take the 2K below at a 1:53.5 average. The fact that this athlete took significant off-strokes after 1000m would be lost.
We believe athletes are more than their splits.
Rankings traditionally sort by one metric: speed. It is not always the most important one. At the younger levels, it is easy for genetically gifted athletes to rest on their laurels and still rank high vs. their teammates who are less talented. Effort isn’t always rewarded or even noticed. We want to change that.
In 2020, we aim to provide a number of new ways to rank your team:
- How much faster athletes are today vs the last time they pulled this piece
- How close athletes are to a season or all-time PR
- How fast athletes were compared to their potential* for the piece
All of these ways allow rowers to focus internally on what they can do to get better. They also happen to change the playing field so slower athletes have their chance to shine.
We don’t claim any ranking is “best.” Emphasis on different metrics creates different incentives for your team. As always, context is important for a coach to set with any information they provide to their team.
* Potential is a new metric we’re working on for each piece. It answers, “How fast could I have been if I executed my piece perfectly?” It’s experimental, so more on this in a future post.
Tools for Athletes
In the final months of the year, we put together a website to start providing athletes a way to look at their own scores. It is very simple, focusing on individual piece results rather than trends for now, but we plan to expand in 2020 to give athletes a better sense of their progress.
2019 was about proving value. 2020 is about offering that value to more coaches and teams across the United States. Below I’ve laid out our top 3 goals for the year.
1. By Fall 2020, RowHero offers high-quality services outside of the Seattle area to teams with a PM5-only erg footprint.
Though not a requirement, today I am usually observing in the erg room with RowHero to make sure nothing goes wrong. I’m usually not needed, but the set of tools I’m using to correct mistakes (devices don’t get plugged in, an athlete records their workout under the wrong person’s profile, etc.) is not available to coaches yet. That’s the first thing that needs to change.
Additionally, RowHero still provides the hardware required to connect to the Concept2 ergs. There is still quite a lot of work and support infrastructure needed for athletes to record data on their own phones. This needs to happen to be able to expand out of the Seattle area. Forcing clubs to store and charge dozens of tablets is not a tenable solution.
The PM5 is a requirement so that RowHero can record data using Bluetooth. It is easier to implement and test compared to a USB connection.
2. All athletes can record their own workouts with PM5 monitors (Bluetooth).
Part of living up to the RowHero mission is that athletes in teams who have purchased a subscription should be allowed to record their own workouts separate from the team. Offering this requires us to create clarity on the business model — will this be free or paid, or somewhere in between?
3. All athletes get access to their results.
The website described earlier is only available to a handful of athletes today for testing, but we plan to get it out to everyone. There are some challenges with the user account model that we need to work through, first.
Thanks for reading this far and sticking with us in 2019! 2020 is going to be a great year for all of us!
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Have a great day!