Coach Levitsky is a former rowing coach for Rutgers University Crew, and currently head coach at Swan Creek Youth Rowing Club. This is Part 2 of an interview. Read the first part here.
MT- How do you see emotions playing a role in the coaching process?
Mike Levitsky- I’m good with the kids one-on-one when they’re upset. And some I can relate to easier because I can see that they are there for the personal aspect. But to work with a group of kids is totally different and much harder. Some are there for socialization, others to get a scholarship. And with a group of kids you have to find a way to get everyone to work together. With teenagers you definitely see these naturally-induced chemical changes affecting their emotions. You see the jockeying for positions in the heirarchy with the other boys, seeking out the affection of the girls, and the bravado that comes with falling short, and feeling that they need to compensate for that.
The girls can be tougher because of the bigger personality conflicts, they just want to tell other girls what to do and not be told what to do.
And those are all tough processes to manage. You just have to see that everybody is just shooting to put all their energy in the boat. Even if you see that your team has the strongest kids on a boat, if their teammates don’t trust that they are giving their all, it’s not going to work.
I had a harder time with the kids that would be acting up more so than the quieter kids. Over time I realized that it was healthy and kids need to work together, and they need to not react to that. This helped them to gel as a team, and they realized that they’re in a time where nothing is right but they’re lashing out
I realized that by keeping them calm and focusing them on the outcome that we could improve our performance.
If prior to the workout you identify your goals, you can take some deep breaths, tell yourselves we’re going to work hard, focus on what you need to do, get relaxed and see how it shakes out.
Invariably they come out of this workout feeling much better, and then they feel they can work through problems with a lot more confidence. They give things a little more time without erupting their problems out.
MT- So less venting of anger, more patience?
ML- Yeah, definitely. They start to take personality differences with a grain of salt. Their social interactions improve and they become more even-keel. I notice that change over the course of a season, where they are better able to handle that whole social piece.