Christchurch Boys’ is a school that is close to our hearts here at PROSKIFF. Both Michael and Todd Petherick previously coached the squad and Michael even coached Logan Keys when he was a student there in 2008.
CBHS is affiliated with Canterbury Rowing Club where Michael and Todd are also Life Members and the school has been very supportive of PROSKIFF, buying the first boat ever made. A coxed four/quad whose record now stands at three golds from three Maadis.
Back in 2011 Logan joined Todd’s coaching team and stepped into the Head Coach role in 2015 when Todd resigned to concentrate on the business full time. Skip forward to 2019 and CBHS are the top dogs in New Zealand schoolboy rowing, having brought home the coveted Maadi Cup and Star Trophy for overall points as well as a host of other major trophies from the six days of racing at the regatta.
Each win was a reason to celebrate in itself and even before the last race, CBHS had achieved their best ever result. “We had won 7 gold medals leading up to the final race so even without the Maadi Cup it had been a successful regatta,” says Logan. “It was still nerve-wracking to watch. We were only just in front in the last 500m. But once that last big one was in the bag, everyone could really celebrate our overall success.”
Canterbury performs very strongly in secondary school rowing but it is usually the private schools that dominate. To win at what many consider the largest school sports event in the Southern Hemisphere was the stuff of dreams when Logan competed at Maadi during his school years.
St Bede’s College was the first Christchurch public school to win the Maadi Cup in 1991 making CBHS just the second in almost 30 years. “Even five years ago we never thought we would win. In 2016 we got third and we celebrated like we had.”
Logan sees the success of their 2019 campaign as the culmination of many things built up over the past eight years starting with establishing a solid rowing programme to build depth in the squad. Something that's helped significantly by providing a larger pool of talent to draw from.
“We have grown from around 40 to 60-65 rowers in recent years. Part of this year’s success is from being able to build on the strength and experience each year with the returning rowers.”
The coaching team worked with the 14 guys in the senior group over four years. Logan feels that continuity is a huge factor. “They had no success in their first two years, little in their third year, then in their fourth year they won almost everything.
“One of the big wins leading up to Maadi was in February when we beat Christ’s College in the Eights. It was the first win for that crew, first time we beat Christ’s College this season; the first time in the last four years!”.
The performance over the season elevated CBHS to the competition favourites at Maadi. “Christ’s were right on our tail in that last race, so they really were still the crew to beat,” remembers Logan. “Beating them twice was immensely satisfying.”
If he had to name a key area of the coaching that made the biggest difference, Logan thinks taking a low-key approach to the event worked really well. “It might not seem all that exciting, but just not pumping up the event as something special helped with the psychology of the squad. Less hype meant they were more relaxed and better able to focus on doing well technically and not worrying about the result,” explains Logan. “We’ve had it in place for a while but probably really got it right this year with the calmer approach.”
The growth in numbers has opened up opportunities for other changes too. The coaching team applied a squad programme rather than a crew programme, rotating places and trying different combinations in the boats. Logan felt this created more internal competition, and the boys developed more through learning off each other.
“We picked the Maadi crew a few weeks before the regatta rather than earlier, so those in the running were more focused on making each other fast instead of worrying about the competition. We took two strong crews with us and having a bigger squad there really changed the overall morale for the boys,” Logan affirms.
He feels that could have been the last vital ingredient to the squad’s winning formula.
“One was the top crew with the pressure and the other was there for the experience and to help with the pressure of the event. It made the overall atmosphere more fun and relaxed, with a big group of mates there supporting each other. B-boat crew still worked to go as fast as they could but were also there as support.”
Logan sees the success of the 2019 season as a great example to other schools and kids wanting to get into the sport, with the key message being you don’t need to win from the start. “With rowing it’s about building up to success, which these guys proved.”
Images supplied by CBHS Rowing Club