An Interview with RowLeeds Volunteer Coach, Kristiana

"...I realised the difference I could make, and really got the ‘aspiration raising’ part of the programme"

Kristiana is currently a volunteer coach on our RowLeeds Indoor Programme. As we recruit for next year's coaches, we asked Kristiana a little about her role and discovered just how much she is inspiring our young people.

Why did you volunteer for the RowLeeds Indoor Rowing Programme?

I really liked RowUK’s idea of encouraging kids to get into a really interesting sport that isn’t normally available to them. There’s an opportunity to speak to the young people about going to university in a casual setting, which I think is really great.

What got you into rowing?

I was lucky enough that my school offered it, and it was a really big sport there. I remember thinking to myself ‘I’m tall, I might actually be good at this.’ So, I gave it a go, and it turns out I was! I wouldn’t have got into it if I hadn’t been able to just give it a go in the first place.

What skills do you think rowing has given you that make you a better coach?

Determination and a new-found sense of resilience. Empathy, I know what they’re going through. I know how tough that erg is, I know what it feels like to have 5k ahead of you. I’ve dug deep to finish the last 500m of a 2k test. I guess I learnt a lot about coaching, and the role of a coach by being coached myself. It doesn’t matter whether you are the coach or the athlete, you learn a lot about fundamental communication skills.

Oh, and adaptability. When you get thrown out in random crews, you learn how to make a team out of anyone pretty quickly. Rowing isn’t like football, there’s no player of the match. It is the ultimate team sport. I think that is what makes it such a good sport to be introducing young people too. There aren’t many other sports where you have to quite so in tune with each other in order to be good.

What do you find to be the most rewarding moments?

Their energy. They turn up to the session with bounds of energy, and it really gives you a boost! They are so open to coaching as well. I had someone ask me the other day if they could go to university, and that was a really cool moment. That was when I realised the difference I could make, and really got the ‘aspiration raising’ part of the programme.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a coach?

I think trying to create session plans with crews, groups and squads that are constantly shifting and growing. I coach on the water as well as in schools and this is a challenge that goes across all the sessions I run. Continuity can really help a coach as you can build on each session, but new combinations keeps it interesting! It’s good that both coach and rower are challenged.

It can also be hard to find the right balance between being kind enough that the rowers consider you friendly and nice, but also being assertive enough that they respect your decisions. I don’t want to be scary, but I do want to get the best out of people.

I’ve coached seniors a lot before and some juniors, but only down to J14s. Our club is quite young and lots of year 7s attend. I’ve found it challenging adjusting my vocabulary and the way I explain things. Taking things back to basics is hard, but rewarding when you see it make sense to the younger athletes.

What are your aspirations for your club?

I want to encourage kids to stay in the sport. We’ve got to make it enjoyable for them, especially since we aren’t rowing on the water. I want to grow a club that is dynamic and fun.

I want to see the pathways between the RowLeeds Indoor Programme and my club, UoLBC, begin to strengthen and grow. For me, I want to facilitate UoLBC in their racing at Henley, and I do see this as a part of that.

Looking on three years from now what do you hope your club members will have taken away from being involved in the programme?

I hope that they will have learnt some useful life skills. That they will have found a sport that they find fun and engaging, but that also challenges them. And I want them to stay with it. Rowing has always been a huge stress reliever for me. I think to have the opportunity to build that stress reliever into their lives is really good.

What do you think the three key attributes to a successful coach are?

  1. Communicative

  2. Empathetic

  3. Honest

If you could recommend one top tip for new coaches volunteering with RowUK, what would it be?

It sounds cliché, but enjoy it! The kids are great and really rewarding. I love enjoying their energy and enthusiasm.

What is your club motto/favourite mantra for your club?

Always arrive with a positive mental attitude.

Want to find out more about coaching with us next year? Drop us a line at

Read more about the RowLeeds Indoor Programme.

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