Looking Back at Masters Nationals With Coach Austin


On August 15, 2019, members of Recovery on Water (ROW) headed to Grand Rapids, MI, to compete at Masters Nationals for the first time. Over the course of three days, our athletes participated in seven different events and competed against some of the nation’s fastest masters crews.

We sat down with head coach Austin Work to get his thoughts on the benefits of racing for new and seasoned athletes and, more specifically, what participation in Masters Nationals signals for the growing ROW team.


What is the significance of ROW participating in an event like Masters Nationals? 

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at ROW was that we have a group of women who are not afraid of a challenge. When I discovered that Masters Nationals was in our backyard this year, I put two and two together and realized that it would be a great opportunity (close to home) where we would be able to put that courage to the test. We did just that!     

What were your goals for the team and the individual participants at the event? 

Since it was our first appearance, my primary goal was that we have a great experience in Grand Rapids—both on and off the race course—and that we come together as a team during the lead-up to the event. The secondary goal was that we race as much as possible. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

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What, if anything, surprised you about ROW’s performance at Masters Nationals, whether on the race course or off? 

I knew we would be against some extremely talented and well-trained crews, so winning (while in the back of my mind) wasn't really the objective this year. We held our own and even threw our fair share of punches on the race-course. One thing I was really pleased with was how well everyone took the frantic nature of the dock, the start platform, and the landing process. It can be really jarring for racers at a national championship. Everyone seemed ready and willing to make that jump!  

As head coach, did this particular event provide any new perspective or insight into the qualities and/or needs of your team? 

Really, masters nationals was a confirmation of the amazingness of our team. We have always had great resources and equipment (thanks to Jenn), great programming (thanks to Devlin), and great rowing (thanks to everyone on the team)! It was proof of a job very well done. So, the insight was that we really do have a great thing going here at ROW! 

Now let’s talk about racing in general—what is the importance of racing in the development of an athlete? 

Racing is to rowing as icing is to a cake, and just the right amount makes the whole cake better! For our team, I look at racing as a way to put our fitness and training to the test; to see if our technique and fitness are improving. The results aren't nearly as important as the training and preparation that go into it.    

What can new and seasoned rowers gain from race training?

When we get ready for a race we're forced to rely on our training and our technique. If a rower isn't selected this time, they learn what needs to get done next time. If another rower is selected this time, they get confirmation that what we're doing is working. So, selections are a great way for us to "take our training in to the shop" to see how well the machine is running. I've never had an athlete come off the water without learning something about themselves. Masters Nationals was no exception. 

Any closing remarks?

Being part of ROW's first trip to Masters Nationals was truly an honor. Sitting at dinner with the coaches, coxswains, rowers, and their families was such a wonderful feeling. The family we've built is so strong. Racing or no racing, those moments are what keep us coming back. Of course, it was very exciting to see our boats and rowers fly down the course, especially when we had some boats trailing behind us.

Q&AJenn Gibbonscoach, 2019, racing, Q&A