Australian rowing coach Ellen Randell shares her insights for success

Ellen RandallWhen anyone else returns from a successful World Championship campaign, they likely take some time off. Not Ellen Randell, coach of the Australian lightweight women’s quad that won the silver medal this year. She returned to an assignment due for her University degree in International Development and rejoined the busy lives of her husband and two daughters. No surprise her favorite quote is Nelson Mandela’s:

 “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

As a young teenager, Ellen wanted to be a world champion. Years later, after the reality hit that she may not achieve this as a rower, the opportunity to coach emerged and a new avenue for being the best in the world opened up. From being an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) apprentice rowing coach, to running the AIS Talent Identification program, her coaching career took off and she became the first woman to coach rowing for Australia at the Olympics.

Now with a swag of medals, she is by far one of the most successful rowing coaches around today. Known for her tireless contribution, strong communication skills and perseverance, she contributes much to women’s rowing and is an important role model to others. Ellen takes the long-term view in developing rowers and the culture she grows within her crews reflects her own strengths: strong work ethic, willingness to contribute, solid values and ethics, and winning.

When asked to identify the top factors of her success in coaching, she says:

  1. Her mother instilled in her that a girl could do anything if she worked hard enough.
  2. Both of her parents were strong on “you are responsible for your own actions and reactions”.
  3. The importance of perseverance (learned through hours of music practice she was ‘strongly encouraged’ to do).
  4. An inner drive to be the best in the world which also ties with her spiritual belief of using what you have been given to do and be the best you can.
  5. Strong family support.

Unwavering family support is a key theme for Ellen. She believes what made a significant difference to her coaching was having children.

“It took the focus away from me. Being responsible for someone else and looking outward on life made a real difference. It grounded me and helped keep day to day coaching problems in perspective. It was a turning point in my coaching career and it made me a much better coach.”

Beyond teaching technical rowing skills, Ellen sees her role as a coach as managing people. Her goal is that when an athlete leaves her program, they are a better person than before they joined.

“The journey of an athlete is really important. As well as being able to achieve the best you can from your physical body and mind, the person you are and the influence you have on others is just as important.”

Rowing is described as the ultimate team sport. Ellen believes that how you relate to others to get the best from them as well as yourself is fundamental to achieving at the top level of rowing. It is also an important life skill. “I have coached several very talented athletes who have struggled to communicate with their team members and weren’t perceptive enough to comprehend the effect they had on those around them.”

“I feel it is my job as a coach to steer an athlete in the right direction, help them maximize the resources available, enable them to achieve their maximal performance, and also be the best person they can be.”


 Ellen Randell

  • Rowed for Australia in 1983 and 1984.
  • Has coached for Australia since 1987, including 16 World Championship campaigns and two Olympic Games.
  • Won World Championship titles in 1989, 1995, 2007 and 2008, Silver in 2013 and 2014, bronze in 2008 and achieved podium results at multiple international regattas as a coach..

Ellen Randell has attended Athlete Assessments Coach Development Workshops, used the AthleteDISC Profiles with her crews and is a long-time personal friend of Bo & Liz Hanson.

This article was featured in our latest People+Sport Magazine: Team Success Edition which is available to read online and in PDF here.

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