Australian Team Trials

I received my official invitation to the Australian Team Selection camp on the weekend and it’s exciting to have an actual date for it. It falls on the 26th and 27th of November (my birthday is on the 28th too – Happy birthday to me!) so I’ll be a busy beaver trying to get ready over the next two months.

The trials are going to run over two days, with folk from all over Australia flying in for them. They’ll be two full days of on-water trials that will consist of jumping in and out of countless boats, faking confidence I don’t have as yet and taking command of a group of paddlers who have never paddled together before.

What’s worse is that Darren, the sweep who I’ve been working closely with, isn’t going to China anymore I don’t think so I’m really going to be thrown into the deep end now in terms of what sweep I’ll be working with, because I was just starting to get the hang of working with Darren and learning his calls and pre-empting what he was going to call out which would have been so amazing for trials, but now without him there I’m not actually sure what Sweeps will be trialing.

This makes me really nervous because I’ve always had the luxury of knowing the sweeps trialing. I’ve always worked with them previously in my club, or had some knowledge of them through the other people I’ve worked with. When I don’t know who I’m working with I tend to get quiet because I’m trying to suss them out and see how they work, but that’s the exact thing I can’t do at these trials.

I’m going to miss having Darren around on the back of the boat – He’s been teaching me some great stuff both as a paddler and as a drummer that’s been helping me grow a lot, and I was hoping that he’d be considering being a part of the team. Since he’s a part of the World Cup, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that he wouldn’t be trialing. But you know – This is a sport where we support ourselves financially. We don’t have any government subsidy so it’s expensive to go overseas twice in a year.

It’s interesting how one person can really help you develop as a paddler and as a drummer. Back in Canberra is was a guy called Kel – Super incredible guy. Friendly, charismatic, and someone who had a wealth of knowledge when it came to paddling and mentoring people. He knew when to nurture someone’s talent, and when to encourage them to push them to be better. In fact, it was Kel who promised me I could represent Australia within 3 years of taking up the sport with my talent – And he wasn’t wrong. kel always bought out the best in people, and he always bought out the best in me. When I was having a shitty day, he would encourage me to leave it on the water. When I was having a shitty day on the water, he would teach me ways to use that as a way of growing in the sport and develop from the things that didn’t go according to plan. Sadly, I’ve dropped out of contact with Kel now I’ve left Canberra, but I don’t think you ever forget someone who helps you grow. And I know I will always appreciate what he’s done for me. He might not know what he’s done, but he sure gave me the world and I appreciate the heck out of him for that.

So, back to trials. I have a vague inkling of what to expect … I’ve been through this twice before. The first time, unsuccessfully because my grandfather passed away while trials were happening and I pulled out. Truthfully, I don’t think I was ready for a spot on the team then anyway. Believe it or not, I was still getting over mild sea sickness and anxiety (yes, sea sickness. In a dragonboat). The second time, I was successful. And even then, I felt like I was barely ready for my place on the team again. I was over the sea sickness thing, but I was still dealing with the anxiety. I don’t think my anxiety will ever go away, but I know this time I’m ready. I’ve been through more. I’ve experienced more. I’ve trained under two different clubs. I know more people. I’ve come out of my comfort zone by leaving Canberra. I’m familiar with the location we’re trialing in. I’m ready.

Well. Almost.

Mentally I’m ready. I have 1kg to go before physically I’m back where I need to be. So I’m getting closer already.  1kg in 2 months is good. Cut out alcohol (except for special occasions) and that ought to take care of itself really. If I make the team, I’ll be on a full time alcohol ban, so I might as well start getting used to it.

The best part about trialing is seeing all my Canada team mates (who have been asking me if I’m trying out) again. I can’t wait to relive those awesome memories and get back on the front of a boat with a nice, powerful crew behind me again. I just love it.

November, November, November. You can’t come soon enough now, can you?


Round 1: Trials

Trials are this weekend!

I can hardly believe it. It seems like ages ago that I threw my name in the ring to be a drummer for the Aus team and now round one is in 5 days and the process is beginning all over again.

Am I nervous? Yes and no. Not really at this stage, because these aren’t really my trials. Mine are mostly on water. Like I said, perhaps I’ll have to have a weigh in this weekend, and if I do, I’m totally fine with that. Despite the fact that I squeezed in some sneaky nachos at least twice in the last week, my weigh is actually on track since I’ve been nourishing my body with lots of salads and veggie patties, so I’m not stressing out about that at all which is super nice!

My trials are for my voice, my balance, my rhythm and my authority – all of which I’ve been practicing on weekends. Clad in my snow gear. Because MELBOURNE.

Training yesterday was good actually. I worked alongside one of the other drummers that is trying out for China as well and I’m learning some of the things that she does that I hadn’t considered doing (it is learning right? I don’t want to be stealing any one’s tactics here!) but she’s really great with projecting her voice so I’ve been trying to mimic her and a friend of mine said I was louder yesterday so that seems to be working. A few more weekends of that should be really helpful. Then it’s just working more on my calls. And really it’s all about key words – keeping the calls short, loud and snappy. If you’re yelling into the wind, there’s no point telling a little story to the paddlers because a) they’re too exhausted to care and b) they’re probably not going to be able to hear you anyway.

A couple of years ago I worded with a sweep who was a super lovely guy, but loved to tell stories on the back of the boat and really articulate them using his hands too and I could see paddlers rolling their eyes and I’d have to try and not laugh because I’m  at the front of the boat with 21 pairs of eyes on me so POKER FACE right, so I’d have to keep beating a drum, wondering when he was going to get to the point and when I could get a word in so I could tell my peeps to use their legs and stretch their arms out a bit more. Lovely guy though. And he did twerk on the way to the start line in Canada which was entertaining.

So anyway, that’s why we use snappy calls. That, and because things can change in an instant, especially in a 2km race – when you’re going around corners and other boats are next to you and there’s clashing paddles, you don’t even have time for words that have more than one syllable in them. I think I still need to work on getting my calls shorter. I still catch myself saying things like “Keep reaching it out guys” when a simple “more reach” would suffice really. So I need to sit down and brain storm some calls; do some homework and see how I go.

We also had the drums out this weekend, and it was cool because at one stage the other drummer and I had our rhythms completely synced up and both of our crews were running at the same rate, and that was thrilling. Having two crews running next to each other, with their blades thumping the water at the exact same time and hearing the beat of the drum echo around the river on a Sunday morning is just amazing. It totally gave me bubbles of excitement for next weekend.

What else … I’ve been hunting down wobble boards too and I think I’ve found one. Pay day is this week (*throws confetti*) so I’ll probably order one and start getting on that a few times a week.

Ironically, I have better balance on the water that off the water. I’m the sort of person who literally trips over air because I’m so clumsy. I tripped on my pyjama pants the other day and they’re not even that long … It takes some serious talent to do that, folks. And I possess that talent. Unstoppable on the boat, extremely questionable on the land.

Alrighty, until next week guys … Wish me luck!

Rach xx

Bench marking: Round 1

So I guess by now you’re probably wondering how the process goes when you want to be on the Australian team. Well, lucky for you, everything is starting to happen right now.

On the 1st July (oh my goodness, that feels like forever ago!) I put in an expression of interest to be a part of the Auroras. The timeline for the entire process usually looks a little something like this:

Put in expression of interest

  • 1 month after: Attend fitness bench marking in your state. If you pass bench marking:
  • 2 months after: Invited to a selection camp, usually held in QLD
  • 2 weeks: Begin the nail biting wait to find out if you made the team or not.

It’s a rough time line, but that’s usually how things go.

So we’re up to dot point #2 – the bench marking per state, which is due to happen next weekend. My friend Tim who is a paddler technically doesn’t have to do it because he’s already selected to represent Australia for a campaign that’s happening in October, but he’s doing it anyway. His fitness tests consist of far more than mine do as a drummer (obviously) Tim’s consist of kettle bells, push ups, chin ups, sit ups, beep tests, bench press and probably something else I’ve forgotten about. Maybe a flexibility test? Perhaps a weigh in? I’ll find out more next weekend.

Bench marking for a drummer at this stage is extremely different. For starters, we don’t really have to do anything, but I don’t like to be caught off guard. Usually at this stage, the drummers divide up and help jot down the results for the men’s and women’s bench marking results – or that’s how it’s been done in the past. This time it could be different … I could be called to have a weigh in. Which if that’s the case, that’s totally fine. Weight wise, I’m in my absolute prime – I just have to hold it here for another week before I can pig out on a burger and chips.

My real bench marking is done all at once – usually at selection camps. I’m tested for my weight then, my agility on the front of the boat, my ability to balance in rocky and windy conditions, my confidence, my voice, how I command a boat, how I work with the Sweep at the back of the boat and so on.

This time around I’m stressing out. There’s so much more competition this year and one of the other girls I’m against is fierce. Her voice is far more stronger than mine and I’m wracking my brains trying to think of everything I’ve been told in the past of how to make my voice carry. I know that it does in the middle of a race, as opposed to river runs down the Yarra on a Sunday morning where I don’t really want to be too loud because I don’t want to disturb people having their Sunday morning coffee, but at the same time … STRESS. And this is only one girl! What about the others that are going to come from other states that I don’t know about?

The only thing I have that’s keeping me sane is that Serge, who is the head coach of the Aus team, casually told me about a month or so ago that I was a good drummer because I knew my calls. I’m holding on to those words, and right now I’m doing my best to work with Darren, the sweep from our club who could be going to China to try and improve my chances of making the team.

What else am I doing? Oh yes … I’m looking at buying a wobble board to try and work on my balance and strengthen my ankles so I can hover above my drummers chair if I need to. One of the Australian drummers, Pauley, was able to do that and I respected her so much as a drummer. Granted, she was a lot shorter than I was, but if push comes to shove in a 2km race and I need to stand to balance the boat out, I’ll be able to do it. I want every advantage I can get because going to China is something I desperately want to do. I can’t un-grow, so it’s the next best thing!

So these trials are next weekend. I’m (im)patiently awaiting an email with the fine details in it, and hoping I can squeeze in some time with my brother too while he’s down from Queensland. From there, we wait. And we train. And we wait. And we train.

Stay tuned for the post-trials deets!

Rach xx