Mental Training and the Sculler’s Entry
Modern Psychology approaches the problem from the standpoint of preparing the person from the standpoint of competition. This approach recognizes the old brain, the left and right brains, our inner and outer selves. This paper is a humble attempt to develop a deeper person in our athletic environment. So the bibliography is deliberately brief and pointed towards this different approach to our mental training. The authors led interesting lives including Richard Maurice Bucke, starting out in London traveling to the USA and the far west where he had to fight off a band of Indians before returning to London, Ontario and the fledgling University of Western Ontario. Jean Gebser was able to escape the Nazis and end up in Switzerland.
Peter Selig describes Rudolph Steiner to a podium “as light and rhythmic. He left one with the impression that the earth was connected to the rhythm of his walking. His posture was very erect yet fluid, his hands agile and the movements of his head, which was held back a bit yet tilted slightly forward, were very rapid. Only an eagle stands like this.” I witnessed this same sort of striking gait in Michael McNaughton as he strode in front of registration desk at the recent JoS Conference. I can remember this same sort of gait in Allyson Ahern as an oarsperson at William Smith. Her fellow athletes and coaches tried to emulate her athletic stride. Her outer person was her displaying her inner person. This type of stride I recall in myself before my injuries to my legs, but I still to flow with my cane in hand. Steiner lived fully in another world, a higher world.
I was persona non gratis at the St. Catharines Rowing Club for five years. No one would speak to me and Bob Fitzpatrick my coach was not allowed in a coach boat. He coached from the bank of the canal. It was painful. When I started to coach at the high school, a member of the club came into the school and informed the principal that I was not to coach. They, the club, rejected the sculler’s entry. On the quiet other athletes would inquire about my “great entry.”
After my first year at MIT the head coach informed me to get rid of the sculler’s entry. St. Catharines was a shock to my system and this was even more so. Consequently, I would not teach the entry at Yale, Wesleyan and HWS and would not teach it until the fall of 2011 when I was asked by Mike Hanna the Athletic Director to return and assist Paul Bugenhagen. The Women at William Smith were taught a modification of the Sculler’s entry, square, drop, pull and were effective with it. Immediately Bugenhagen saw the change in speed of his boats as registered by the technology. This would continue through the Iras of 2015. The crews were small but quick. Joe Biesnmayer was the small stroke person from Portland, Oregon and he took to the entry immediately. The crew finished 16th in the men’s heavyweight race. Paul Bugenhagen was still not totally convinced and in 2016 brought in someone who would do square blade rowing by sixes. My last practice was in the fall of 2015 when the crew that I took out that morning left the dock with gunwhales rocking back and forth. The crew returned to the dock with perfect set. A young athlete was over heard to remark, “he is a magician.” Paul never really grasped the entry. His crews did. Their performance has regressed ever since.
Now I am fully committed to this entry and have recovered from the shock of those rejections. My power curve is different from the conventional in that it is an immediate high, flat curve and remains so until the release. I can still recall feeling the entry in the shoulders at St. Kitts. There is unity between the two hemispheres.
Volker Note has a small war going on between the left and right hemispheres. He rows holistically but thinks in segments. His curve is below mine and partially flat. I have tried to have the biomechanicians explore the curve of the sculler’s entry but they are too conventional.
I think it has produced a different mind set in me. I employ the use of the old brain, the right hemisphere more than others. This is what Bucke did, Plotinus did, James and Bergson did. This is the path towards cosmic consciousness. Here is where the old reptilian comes to the fore. You are attempting to live in Steiner’s Higher World and you compete from this perspective.
My mental training began 56 years ago under Fitzpatrick. We did practice concentration, relaxation, quiet sitting, mindfulness, all in the shell. I continue it today on my Japanese Cushion. More recently through the words of David Bohm I have found how this entry fits into his Quantum world and todays science. It is not scientism.
My memory gores back to my initial practice with Fitzpatrick and how he left me with a headache and the thirty two movements of the stroke. During my sleep last night I narrowed the thirty two down to two movements. You can try this wherever you are with your proteges. There is the blade slightly over squared and the blade horizontal. You work the forearms. Hands down slightly as you move to the extended arm position and the blade horizontal. Draw the hands to the body and the blade slips to the squared position. You can do these two simulations on the dock at Craftsbury or in Rochester, NY, or at Columbia, Bates, the Charles or the Potomac dock. The blade angles into and out of the water. Two movements done with firmness.
In 2010 at a reunion at Western, my old coach Jack Fairs told me about a concussion that I had at MacMaster University in Hamilton Ontario. It was my fourth con concussion in five years with three other occasions. It left me with no memory of what I had just read. I think that over the years my extensive reading, serious reading, my mediation and my reliance on my right brain and reptilian brain prevented more serious damage. Read the front page stories of the NY times on the results of concussions with horror and fear.
Silence and Slowing Down
You must take every opportunity to experience the power of silence and the accuracy of slower movements. I am always practicing my Steiner walking pattern.
I remember my readings of Sir John Franklin and his commitment to slow movements. With the slow motion the accuracy of the movement improves and you can perform smaller and smaller movements or the movements become smaller and smaller and not as gross. Refinement is a direct result of concentration and there is far less energy expended. We must incorporate smaller muscle movements into our daily drilling. We are attempting to produce a dancer in the shell, not a weight lifter.
I think for training, I must return to the Nureyev and the Zatopek models. Along with slow motion, the thirty second and one minute highs are crucial for mindfulness training. The silence takes us directly to our inner selves and the distinct possibility of revising our physical movements. It is a right brain action on our parts. This development only occurred in the past 200 years. We don’t know the ancient Greek consciousness levels.
My consciousness development began in 1974 with the reading of Ken Wilber’s The Spectrum of Consciousness and the study has continued ever since with my probing into the left/right brain phenomenon. It was intellectuals like Goethe, Bergson, James, Bucke, Steiner, Owen Barfield, and more up to date people like Ken Wilber all of whom pointed the way. They displayed a much deeper understanding of the human consciousness and the possibilities that young athletes could achieve mentally.
The athletes had to be introduced to these readings and this I did at Hobart – William Smith. There has to be an intellectual underpinning to your mind training. This is what Percy Cerutty had in his training of the greatest miler of the 20th Century, Herb Elliott. Cerutty was reader and a thinker. In the forward to his little book Athletics: How to become a Champion, he writes. “I freely admit debt to all of the great minds that have gone before, from Plato and Aristotle, right through Newton, Hackenschmidt and Hoffman, the fathers of the modern world athletics era.”
“I have read widely , on all subjects, ranging from Freud to Krishnamurti, Buddha and Jesus, to Carrell, Jeans and Einstein.” The final three mentioned were the great physicists of his time. Today we have David Bohm.
Cerutty and his methods were a favorite read in my early coaching days. Cerutty loved the outdoors, especially his seaside camp at Portsea and there are pictures of him leading Herb Elliott and his other athletes up w large sand dune at the age of sixty-five. I loved to get my athletes outside during the severe winters of western New York state.
Our athletes need this type of education.Nureyev was pure power, grace and flow. Zatopek was a model in my early coaching. He did a practice session of 60, 1/4 mile runs in sixty one minute sessions, there was little rest between the sessions. His arms flailed but his legs were in perfect alignment( As pointed out to me by the track coach, Elmer Swanson at Wesleyan University). Zatopek won the 5000m, 10,000m and Marathon in the 1952 Olympics. Zatopek spoke six languages and was very friendly with western athletes.
My consciousness is at a high pitch when I walk today with the assistance of my cane. I am still attempting to walk with flow and good posture. My thoughts go to the subtlety and ease of the entry. I can still see it in my mind’s eye.
- Owen Barfield, World’s Apart: A Dialogue of the 1960’s
- Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution
- Richard Maurice Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness
- John H Deck, Nature, Contemplation and The One
- Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin
- Pierre Hadot, Plotinus or Simplicity of Vision
- William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
- Krishnamurti, The Wholeness of Life
- Gary Lachman, The Secret Teaches of the Western World
- Ian Mc Gilcrist, Ways of Attention
- , The Master and hid Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
- Wilder Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind
- Plotinus, The Enneads
- Peter Selig, Rudolph Steiner as a Spritual Teacher
- Rudolph Steiner, How to know Higher worlds
- Michael Talbot, Mysticism and the New Physics
- Ken Wilber, No Boundary
- , The Spectrum of Consciousness