Can Yildirim's Blog

About Rowing and Being Team

July 24, 2023

I’ve been always a standard footballer kid since my childhood as many others who grows up in Turkiye. Never done any other sport so long. There is no question about almost everyone had the milestone for themselves during the pandemic. For me, it was Rowing. 

Having many restriction in place, sculling was a great option for me to try. I wasn’t so hopeful whether I’d like it but wanted to give it a shot. The moment I finished my first learn to row session, I knew that It wasn’t an easy sport. My hand hands were full of blisters, I had constant fear of capsizing and felt sore afterwards… 

I completed around 6 lessons in Istanbul at Vira Rowing Club and got back to London. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep rowing. Being away from the Thames a few kilometres, I had no excuse to find a rowing club near. Applied for learn-to-row courses and started to go to Team Keane Rowing Club.

Rowing requires constant dedication, learning and concentration. Land sessions are as important as water sessions. Every stroke is a new move so this constant cycle of movements has to be perfect each time and all together. Here are the lessons I learn from Rowing.

Quitin Head 2023

Every stroke is a new version of you

A stroke has four phases; the catch, the drive, the finish and the recovery. You repeat these four phases around every 3 seconds. And each phase has special techniques to follow. Bad news; a number of things could go wrong, good news; you have the next stroke to fix those mistakes. Usually, when you fix something the other one goes off. The only thing you need to do to trust to process and try to fix those mistakes.

This gave me some perspective on life. We keep doing the same things every day, every day is another stroke. The most important thing is that if you review yesterday and try to fix it today. It’s likely something else will go wrong today and the other one tomorrow. But we know that you’ll learn at least seven new lessons in the next week. That’s what makes that week better than the previous one. 

If something is wrong in the boat see what YOU can fix

It’s teamwork. If you are in an eight, you have nine people on board (eight rowers and a cox). Eight people should do each phase at the same time… When you don’t, you compromise the balance and the efficiency of the boat. Trust is essential when it comes to rowing, following the person in front, and doing what they do. If there is something wrong like balance, you should immediately look for what you’re doing wrong and try to fix that in the next stroke. “Somebody else must be doing something wrong” is not an attitude in the rowing sport.

Follow the Procedure, Prioritise the Safety, Respect the Equipment

As software engineers, we have a problem, and that’s being “agile”. We are not afraid of making mistakes as usually, our mistakes are relatively easier to fix compared to other occupations. When you have the safety and expensive equipment, you can’t be “agile”, you have to be a little bit “waterfall”, and make sure instructions are clear and done when needed. 

Every rowing club has safety procedures to follow, that should be understood well. It’s documentation you can’t ignore. Pieces of equipment (Boats, Oars ) should be treated well whether you’re boating or putting the boat back into the rack. 

Teams should have procedures, and a code of conducts written, understood and exercised. It’s a great feeling when a team handles an unexpected situation without any hesitation. That’s only possible with a well-trained, single-minded team and amazing to see a team acts like a single body. 

Speak up, shut up and know which one to do when

It’s a tough one I should say! As rower proactivity is key. Several safety issues on the water can cause accidents, you need to speak up about the problems you need to see. This requires you to quickly evaluate the problem. 

“Speaking up” also can quite quickly lead to chaos as everyone has an opinion about what may be wrong. You should leave it to the coach, captain or whoever streets the boat. 

Once everyone in the crew knows what to do when, it becomes extremely comfortable and enjoyable to do this sport. 

In tech teams, speaking up is usually encouraged. Proactivity is one of the key things that keeps a team alive. Under the name of proactivity, team members may introduce unnecessary distractions to the rest of the team where you need to take your speed up or solve the actual problem. 


In conclusion, my rowing journey has been transformative, teaching me valuable life lessons. Every stroke on the water reflects the chance to learn and improve, both in rowing and life. Personal responsibility and teamwork are essential; I’ve learned to identify and correct my mistakes, contributing to the crew’s balance and efficiency. Respecting procedures and safety measures has shown me the importance of discipline and structure. Effective communication means speaking up when necessary, but also trusting in the team’s guidance. Rowing has become more than a sport; it’s a metaphor for life’s challenges, enriching my perspective as I navigate life with dedication and unity.

If you’d like to join my Journey,follow me on strava.

Can Yildirim

Written by Can Yildirim who lives in London. Full Stack Software Engineer. Follow me on Twitter Linkedin

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