The upcoming changes regarding US Rowing's training programs and facilities, acknowledged last week following a meeting of the High Performance Committee, have yet to be explained in full by the governing body, nor has any official announcement been made regarding the release of former coach Kris Korzeniowski. The decisions regarding the movement of the men's heavyweight and lightweight teams marked a drastic break with the system in place for the last two decades, with Princeton as a focal point for the US National Team, and the new rationale seems to focus on regional, weight-class specific training centers. This much can be deduced from the text of the announcements -- but will the reasoning behind such massive changes be revealed?
There are a number of questions that immediately come to mind regarding the movement of the men's squad(s). The first has to do with selection. Since the new training centers are both over 1, 400 miles from Princeton (Chula Vista is 2, 700 miles away), will NSR regattas be held in different places for the men of each weight class (with lightweight men traveling to Oklahoma and heavyweights going to San Diego)? Or will they continue to be held in Princeton, to the possible disadvantage of the people already training with the National Team? At this point, we don't know the answer. From a logistical standpoint, you are faced with either flying the team over from two places in order for them to race, or creating three separate regattas (one in Princeton for the women, one in SD and one in OKC). Is this something that was discussed in the HPC meeting in December?
The second major question that comes to mind has to do with efficiency. Is it financially viable for US Rowing to operate two international-class rowing facilities with such a limited number of athletes in each place? Also, from a communication standpoint, how will the two coaching staffs stay on the same page? There is a two-hour time difference between California and Oklahoma, which could make scheduling internet-based video-conferences more challenging.
The third major question has to do with creating a team-wide culture and atmosphere. Separating the two men's squads essentially prevents Tim McLaren from having the influence he might have simply because he will not be there for the lightweight team. His presence will not be felt in the boathouse on a daily basis, and inconsistencies will naturally arise between Chula Vista and OKC. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- perhaps it can foster a healthy inter-squad rivalry, or perhaps the combination of Volpenhein and Parker is extremely well-suited for coaching lightweights without the involvement of the Head Coach, or, perhaps there will be a great deal of travel in the weeks and months to come for McLaren -- but it is certainly something that must be acknowledged.
Lastly, no rationale behind the 'release' of Kris Korzeniowski has been revealed. Did it have to do with coaching differences, or is there a strategy behind it? It has been suggested that perhaps Korzo will fill the void at CRC, which has been awaiting a thoroughly qualified Head Coach since the departure of Gladstone for Yale earlier this year. It might make sense, given the new, seemingly regional nature of the US men's team. Will Korzo be the one to resurrect CRC?