Two Centuries of Competition
By Peter Mallory
Life tends to press ever forward. Too few people ever glance into the rear-view mirror of history.
At the memorial reception for Allen Rosenberg in Philadelphia, the people who attended were mainly those who knew Allen personally, now mostly old gray-haired guys talking about their upcoming ablations, myself included. Where were all of today’s coaches paying their respects? Don’t they realize that most of them are coaching the Rosenberg Style?
Of course, the answer is, “No. No, they don’t.” They don’t seem to realize that the technique that most of them believe in and follow was first formulated and then promulgated by the little man from Vesper Boat Club who has now passed away after a long life of passionately giving of his very essence to the world rowing community.
Allen’s reward? He lived long enough to witness much of the rowing world forget his name even if they never forgot his message. Almost every book and video produced in the last 20 years continues to echo his approach. Mention the overlapping sequentiality of legs/back/ arms, and most rowers from here to Timbucktu will nod their heads knowingly and genuflect reflexively.
When I wrote The Sport of Rowing, I referred not to the Rosenberg Style but to Modern Orthodox Technique. I knew that any approach to boat moving, any rowing ideology, indeed any good idea on any subject always becomes larger than its originator.
Ideas are funny things. A really good idea can be immortal, even if we rowers and coaches never are. But make no mistake. The progenitor of Modern Orthodoxy is a single individual, Allen Rosenberg, the most influential coach in the world during the last half century!
As for the Rosenberg Style, it had its predecessors. Parts of the writings of George Pocock appear to some to resemble Allen’s thinking. Along Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row during the 1940s and 1950s, the 1st Generation followers of the great coach Frank Muller surely provided inspiration to Allen as began his career coxing at Vesper.
But Allen always gave the credit for his technique to himself alone. He had carefully observed the rowing around him, and what became known as the Rosenberg Style was the result of his own thoughtful analysis. He considered it a unique and original approach not copied from any antecedent.
And now it will live on in others who hardly know that Allen Rosenberg once touched people’s lives personally and directly.
Valerie Kleshnev says that 85% of the thousands of rowers he has tested worldwide more or less follow an approach that I have traced back to Allen Rosenberg. FISA Development Director Thor Nilsen has used it for decades in his continuing effort to spread rowing to developing countries around the world.
A fitting tribute to… what was his name again?