Interpersonal and extrapersonal coordination in high-performance rowing

by Sarah-Kate Millar

Institution: AUT University
Year: 0
Keywords: Rowing; Psychophysics; Coordination; Ecological dynamics; Interceptive tasks; Behavioural dynamics
Record ID: 1309041
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10292/7560


Rowing presents a unique perception–action problem. The challenge is not for rowers to try to couple their actions together, as thought by many, but rather, it is to coordinate their actions with that of the boat. This thesis reveals how high-performance rowers exploit visual regulation in a novel way to achieve interpersonal coordination, by timing their movements with the water and the boat. The objective of this thesis was to expand knowledge regarding the role of timing in high-performance rowing and understand the perceptually driven solutions in successful performance. Previous literature surrounding timing in rowing has been predominately biomechanical and has focused on the rower or the boat in isolation from each other. In contrast, this thesis takes an ecological dynamics perspective, viewing the rower’s relationship with his/her environment as one system. In this approach, emergent behaviours are tightly coupled with perceptual information perceived by the rower. Involving experts in making judgements about performance in order to understand the rower–boat relationship was a fundamental approach adopted in this thesis. This idea is based on the premise that methods adopted by expert coaches have emerged through constant testing in the harsh world of high-performance sport; meaning that only successful ideas that have stood the test of time are utilised in the performance environment. An initial qualitative study with expert-level rowers and coaches was undertaken to establish the importance of timing and how it was achieved. The original findings from this study shaped the remainder of the thesis. Specifically, expert rowers and coaches stated that while interpersonal coordination between rowers is crucial for performance, it is not achieved by direct coupling to each other’s actions as generally thought, but indirectly through individual rowers timing their movements with invariant information provided by the boat and water. The connection with the boat and water was termed by experts “rowing with the boat”. Hence, if both rowers can row in time with the boat, then they will be in time with each other; but they do not actively seek to row in time with each other. An additional important finding from this study was that experts also identified the catch section of the rowing stroke as strongly influential on timing success. This thesis used an innovative method to distinguish successful strokes from less successful ones. While performing in the boat, rowers identified nominated strokes as either Yes or No strokes. This was based on their perceptions during the performance environment about the speed of the boat and the success of the catch. This technique proved to be an accurate method for measuring performance variables, and Yes nominated strokes were found to reflect that the boat was travelling more quickly/better than it was when rowers identified No strokes. Quantifying what experts termed “rowing with the boat” was an important outcome from this thesis, where it was…