Michael Morgan: My Coaching Journey – Part V

Coaches who have played a part in moulding me as a coach

The 1965 Sydney Junior eight at Henley Melbourne, coached by Stewart Derwin. The stroke Joe Fazio and Michael Morgan in the 7 seat were in Mexico three years later.

8 February 2022

By Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan continues his story about his coaching journey in Australia. This is the final part of the story. Part I of his story is here, Part II is here, Part III is here, and Part IV is here.

I have been very lucky to have many wonderful coaches who all left their mark on me. They all had different strengths, which I was able to draw on as I learnt the craft of coaching. I like to think that I had a bit of all of them in me.

Ernie Chapman – 1952 Olympic bronze medallist, strict disciplinarian, high ideals. Wouldn’t ask you to do anything he hadn’t done himself.

From Phil Purcell a member of Ernie’s 1966 winning Head of the River crew.

1. I think that the fact that the 1966 Eight was successful might be said to colour how one might relate to the coach. In the case of Ernie, however, I think he was respected by this group for the influence he had on us. 

  2. What you saw with Ernie was how he was, at that time and on all occasions subsequently that We / I interacted with him. He was straightforward, decent, honest, understated and unique. I think others would support me when I say that he influenced us from that time forward. 

  3. He expected dedication and hard work to achieve the purpose of winning the race, two attributes that remained important always. 

  4. He listened to others. I can remember that it was Doug Burrell who worked out how we could get longer in our work and Ernie followed his advice.

  5. He was a good family person.

  6. Above all else, he was liked for who he was and not what he could do for you.

Tom Chessell – 1952 coxed and coached the 1952 Helsinki Olympic eight to a bronze medal. Tom was a meticulous planner and having been a coxswain could get in the boat to see how it felt.

Being coached by two Helsinki Olympians at 15-17 years of age gave me my first real awareness of rowing after school. They were both members of Sydney Rowing Club. With the 1964 Olympics being in Tokyo and in the same time zone as Sydney, the Olympic Games came into our lounge room. Later, of course, my invitation to row at Sydney came from the stroke of the Helsinki eight, Phil Cayzer.

This connection with the 1952 Australian eight was a major influence on my whole life.

From Peter Purcell a member of Tom’s 1963 winning Head of the River crew.

Tom to me was such a humble man and this reflected in his total focus on us and it was only ever about us. There was no ego or hubris on his part. This left us with the utmost respect for him and I believe we gave our all to what he had set out to achieve. I also believe it resulted in there being no fracturing of the spirit of the boat.

 He was such a meticulous planner. In the days of pre computers he was able to cover all the bases and leave very little to chance. He gave us the EDGE !!!!

All of this came from a person who had achieved so much at the international level himself. He was passionate about the sport and a lifelong student of the sport.

From Max Goldsmith, the stroke of Tom’s 1963 winning Head of the River crew:

When I think of Tommy I picture a man in control, calm, exuding confidence, I always felt he never told me all he was thinking, just what he wanted me to hear, there was always an economy of words.

I think this came out in many of my experiences with him … putting me in the bow of the eight in third term 62 …… some challenging words before stepping on the ergometer later in that term …. giving us a program on Saturday morning, leaving out the afternoon plan. Gold Cup day .. we won’t bother with that regatta bad track , pole, wind, we need more work, put in our biggest morning of the year ….later, maybe row around and watch, take your racing shirts just in case you decide you want to row the heat then we will come home …… well your in the final I’m not really keen, what does the crew want to do? Us not calling out “hands on the boat, lift , lower, pass it out” … no count off when ready , no half forward are you ready row’’ doing this in silence and by feel at Penrith …I think it surprised the other school crews in the Penrith shed…. more mind games. Also mid to late season he would re seat Turnbull and myself and then row past the High, Shore, Kings and Grammar boatsheds, “well if stoke gets sick someone else needs to have sat in that seat”.

Then the attention to detail .. he specified a different boat, different oars, checked the boat over and over, he was also ahead of the game.

Stewart Derwin – Stewart was the perfect coach for a young boy straight out of school. He very quickly had me dreaming of Olympic endeavours. Taught me how to enjoy rowing, although as an 18-year-old boy, maybe too much at times. I was very naive about life at that stage, but Stewart taught a young boy a lot more than rowing.

One of the lessons that I learnt from Stewart was that boys fresh out of school needed to get up to a bit of mischief at times, but then also learn how to turn on when commitment and work were required. Years later as a coach, I always thought when new recruits joined the club somewhere they needed to let their hair down and have some fun which at times included introducing them to old party tricks like the ‘3 Man Lift’, dance of the ‘Flaming A’ and stomach battles etc. Tales like these are perhaps best left for another article?

Phil Cayzer – Stroked the 1952 Olympic eight and from all reports, he was the leader and dominant person in the crew. Phil had been there and tried most things. He had a very good eye for technique. His major strength was probably his ability to recruit oarsmen. I won’t use the word “poacher”, although Phil was a good salesman and hard to refuse at times.

The day I left school, I was sent by Dad on brother Eric’s recommendation to ‘The Outward Bound School” on the Hawkesbury. Brother Eric was working for Woolworths at the time, and they were sending young executive’s to Outward Bound as a character and team building exercise. I soon realised that my motives for attending were about the Olympic Dream. At the end of the four-week camp, I arrived home for my Mother to tell me that a Phil Cayzer had called to see if I would come down to Sydney RC that night for a row. I did get the train and bus from Warrawee to the rowing club that night and filled in for one of the members of the senior eight, who was late. Fifty years later, I am still making the journey to Abbotsford although these days as a club Vice President to attend Board meetings.

Phil loved the sport, and his crews were always treated as part of his and wife Melva’s family.

David Boykett – David was the coach of the 1970 Australian eight for the World Championships in St Catharines, Canada, that I rowed in. He was a former Olympian and PE teacher at Scotch College Melbourne. He had a similar career path to myself. David used an American book on swimming to base his training. This apart from his own experience as an oarsman. If David wanted something he didn’t sit about. After the Tokyo Olympics he wanted an Italian Donaratico eight for Mercantile Rowing Club, so he bought one. The same in 1970 when he wanted a German Karlisch for us to race in, so he went and bought one. The details of raising the money could be worked out later.

In the late 60’s and 70’s, there was always a lot of anecdotal talk about the benefits of altitude training. In Australia, there was nowhere high enough to really experiment scientifically. David had his own ideas, which resulted in our crew training in surgical masks, which wasn’t very pleasant in a Melbourne winter when you inevitably trained on while suffering cold and flu. We were though definitely deprived of oxygen similar to training at altitude.

Alan Callaway – Alan coached both of the Olympic eights that I rowed in. He was always around and hence when opportunities arose, he was there. He was also a very good planner and a meticulous person. Although Sports medicine was in its infancy in the 60’s and 70’s, Alan was a keen student of its practical application.

In 1966, Alan coached the coxed four for the World Championships in Bled. As part of their training, they had the benefit of altitude training with some of the Swiss team at St Moritz in the Swiss Alps.

With Alf Duval, Peter Dickson and John Ranch in the crew, the experience two years later was invaluable when we got to Mexico.

Lance Robinson – The black and white of Haberfield ran through his veins. Lance coached me in my first representative crew. A bit like Phil Cayzer, Lance had been a successful stroke of many eights and knew what it took to move the boat. He also had a very good eye. Prior to the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games, Lance had been the New South Wales coach, and Alf Duval and I, and the likes, learnt our lessons well from him. When we went back to Sydney RC, we followed Lance’s teachings as we increased the workload at the oar.

Tomorrow HTBS will run Rebecca Caroe’s RowingChat interview with Michael Morgan.

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