Monday, 20 September 2021

Woman who finds potential world beaters of the future

THE job that Livinia Cowell-Sheriff does for Leander Club is vital to its future.

THE job that Livinia Cowell-Sheriff does for Leander Club is vital to its future.

She goes out into local schools where rowing isn’t a sport and plucks out those who might have the physical capacity to make it.

When a potential athlete is discovered, she puts them on a month’s training plan that they have to complete on their own before she will teach them to row as part of the club’s junior academy programme.

Miss Cowell-Sheriff, 36, of Friday Street, Henley, was made talent identification coach in 2010, two years after becoming a full-time coach at Leander.

She says: “I go into three local schools, Waingels, Maiden Erlegh and Forest, and test kids who their teachers think might be good rowers. We chose those schools because they do not row and they welcome me in, which is very helpful. We have a lot of schools in this area that do row and if I went in to look at their kids they wouldn’t be very pleased.”

To assess youngsters, she looks at physical features such as height, arm span and weight and tests for the strength in their limbs.

“I test them and then pick the ones to do more testing,” says Miss Cowell-Sheriff. “I give them a month’s training plan and see how much they progress on their own then decide who to pick up after retesting.”

One of the key indicators is the athlete’s score on the Schwinn bike.

Miss Cowell-Sheriff says: “It’s a bike to see how long and hard someone can push themselves — it’s all about mental toughness. If they can push hard already then they’re going to stand a fighting chance. Rowing is all about mental toughness and a strong sense of single-mindedness.

“You can pick a youngster who is really tall and big and strong but you can see on the bike quite quickly how hard they can push themselves. You can teach mental toughness and make people push themselves but they have got to have some of it in them.”

Miss Cowell-Sheriff recalls testing Tom Mortimer when he was a pupil at Maiden Erlegh School. She says: “He was already quite tall and well-built but he was able to push hard on the bike and was reasonably strong as well.”

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