Kevin MacDermott may be a fresh face to some Craftsbury campers. Now in his third season with the Center, Kevin is taking on head coach responsibilities for the first time and will be involved with seventeen of this summer's thirty-three sessions at the Center.
Like many, Kevin's rowing began with joining his school's crew. For Kevin, it was 7th grade at the Haverford School. On through high school, Kevin rowed, played soccer and wrestled. It was Kevin's time at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT when the siren song of skinny boats really became irresistible. He was the captain of the Wesleyan team his senior year and Head Coach Phil Carney invited him to return the following year in 2000 to coach the freshman. He's remained at Wesleyan, becoming assistanat head coach, taking over the former role of one of his mentors, Craftsbury Director of Sculling Norm Graf.
It was in this role that he's experienced his best competitive rowing moment to date, when Wesleyan won the Varsity 8+ title in 2004. "The great thing about the experience was that here was a crew of real, hardened rowers that really rowed to their potential," Kevin noted.
CSC: You've coached here the past several years, and have increased your coaching load each year, what do you most enjoy about the Craftsbury experience?
I really enjoy the atmosphere of low-stress cooperative learning. It's a great environment to converse with people, and really understand their goals, and help to achieve them. Given the focus of the schedule, there are few other time demands so as a coach I can work on fully understanding the campers' needs and work to address them.
It's a nice change of pace from collegiate coaching as well. I have a lot more tasks and responsibilities that demand much of my attention during the season, here it's all about the individual athletes.
CSC: Coaching at a Div. III College in the northeast and its rowing culture, how do you deal with the glam factor of some of the sport's Div. I titans?
Division I rowing is all about rowing. Division III, we want to compete, train hard, and treat the sport seriously, but remember that rowing is just part of the larger picture. For instance, one of our team members is currently editor of the school paper. I was part of an improv comedy troupe and wrote for the school paper during my time at Wesleyan. Like the Center, we have a bit more freedom and an environment where we get to know the whole person and try to develop that whole.
CSC: I know we've talked around campus about specialization in rowing. Can you talk more about that?
The best way to become a better rower is to row more. Limits exist as to how far one can carry this: psychological, physiological, etc. You're not doing yourself any favors by doing less or trying to push through those limits. This is where cross-training can come in.
Ultimately, you become a good rower by being aware of your body and being aware of good stroke mechanics. With this knowledge, it's about being able to move your body in that specific way. So there's a lot of ways to accomplish these goals: strength training, yoga, pilates, stretching, you name it. I'm really looking toward the total athlete, back toward that idea of the whole again.
I've enjoyed talking about this with Rich Davis. Rich coached St. Paul's for thirty seven years and won practically everything. They won New England Championships at least every other year, won at Henley, you name it. As a rule, his rowers had to play another sport in fall and winter, and then they'd row in the spring. You don't need to specialize so exclusively to win.
CSC: You mentioned acting during college, are you still active in the theater?
No, but it was great training for coaching. I was a theater major in college and had pursued acting in San Francisco after my freshman year and moved to LA with an eye toward film and TV, but it was a real eye opener for me. Anyone who knows me knows that isn't my scene. That was about the time that I realized that I wasn't after that part of the dream.
But it's worked out great for coaching. Education is the most important fundamental of coaching. I think the more tactics one has to draw from to educate and engage people, the more effective you'll be as a coach, and the background in public speaking, creative thought, using lots of different media all fit really well into coaching and all come from my theater background.
CSC: What's the most common error you see in people's rowing?
Almost everyone needs to relax. Let go of the stress, the tension and row in a relaxed manner. It helps all over. The tension leads back to 10 different technical issues, but they're all routed in that tension. Get rid of the tension and the problems are resolved.