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Katy Knowles thrives in dynamic squad as Cambridge University prepare for the Boat Races

CUWBC assistant coach Katy Knowles at Goldie Boathouse. Picture: Keith Heppell. (26872829)
CUWBC assistant coach Katy Knowles at Goldie Boathouse. Picture: Keith Heppell. (26872829)

Katy Knowles has already shown the ability to practice what she preaches.

She joined Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club as assistant coach last August, having previously been an England Talent Pathway and Start Coach with British Rowing.

That was the latest step on a coaching route that began in 2008 but, before that, Knowles was an accomplished junior international rower.

Learning the sport at St Neots Rowing Club, she raced at the GB trials and won in a quad at Henley Women’s Regatta, all under the tutelage of Martyn Rooney, who is now Jesus College coach but before that coached at CUWBC before they went professional.

With that background as a competitor, it became an obvious decision to step outside the boat.

“I thought ‘what do I know a lot about and what do I love doing?’ and rowing was the main answer,” she said. “I spent a lot of time rowing as a teenager and I did sports science at university so it was kind of a natural follow on that I did some coaching voluntarily to start with.

“The thing I found difficult about the transition was verbalising what you’ve been doing for so many years, and explaining it is quite a challenge to start with. The experience of being a good rower is quite important for teaching how the boat feels and things like that, and understanding what the athletes are going through as well.

“I’ve had several different jobs, coach mentors and people that you work with so you pick up more ideas from them as well. You start off just repeating what you’ve done and add to it as you go along.”

Having worked with athletes at a development level, it meant that Knowles brought a good understanding of how to teach and communicate with the athletes in the Light Blues, where she works with the lightweights.

But there have been new challenges to adjust to for Knowles.

“My job before was a lot of one-to-one coaching and I really enjoyed it, but I just wanted a bigger group, a bit more of a dynamic squad and a different challenge, and the Boat Race is certainly different,” she said.

“It’s a really nice atmosphere, all the squads are really supportive of each other, they get on really well socially as well as just getting on with the work when they have to on their own in training.

“It’s good that they get to share resources as well. They get a few different coaching eyes looking at them, they get S&C support, physio, sport psychology, nutrition.”

She added: “It’s a shorter season than I’m used to because normally the big events nationally are in July and August. Here you start training really hard, really early so the peak is really soon.”

The Lightweight Boat Races are on Sunday, March 15, and the Boat Races are on March 29.

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