Steve Trapmore

Dad.info caught up with the Cambridge University Chief Coach Steve Trapmore MBE, an Olympic Gold Medalist from the British eight crew in Sydney, to find out about life after the Olympics and about being a dad.

Steve competed in the British Rowing Team for seven years and won the Gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, he also went to six world championships winning Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. He is now the chief coach at Cambridge University Boat Club. They battled with Oxford University in the annual varsity boat race on 6th April 2014.

What is the Varsity Boat Race and when did it start?

The first Varsity Boat Race was held in 1829 and involves Cambridge (the Light Blues) versus Oxford (Dark Blue). Most people in rowing and more widely in sport know about the boat race. It is kind of like the Grand National and most people have a favourite. Until I got the job here, I really didn’t realise just how deep the heritage was.

It’s a one chance race, you either win or lose. It is not like international racing where you get a second chance or reportage. It is broadcast to over 10 million people. For many, it will be the pinnacle of their career, for others, they will go on to achieve Olympic success or become world champions. Just looking at the names around the walls, you will see the heritage and pedigree that exists.

What makes the boat race special?

International rowing is 2,000 meters and generally, it might sound strange, but you are rowing your own race. The boat race is three times that distance and you are rowing against the opposition and you need to outwit them, respond to their challenges, and it is on a course with bends, varying conditions and wind. 

As the coach, I am not there to row for them: I need to knit them into a cohesive team. The cox, steering and motivating the crew is the on-board coach and tactician.  It is such a difference from being an athlete myself, but I love that challenge.

Can you tell us more about one of the famous rowers who have taken part in the Boat Race?

Hugh Laurie rowed at Cambridge and had the number four seat in the 1980 boat race. For me, this represents the diversity of the crews and individuals involved. Hugh has gone onto international recognition on TV, as House in US and as a Musician.

How did you get into rowing?

I was not good at conventional sports and in fact, was not considered sporty at school at all. My dad took me down to the rowing club with him and I was the cox for his crew on a number of occasions. I loved being part of something with my dad, so the next logical progression was to have a go myself. It all began from there.

How did you progress?

I really wasn’t very good at all to start with. Many of my peers were physically bigger than me, but I stuck at it. I remember winning my first pot (tankard) and feeling elated. I kept training and made it my mission to be technically strong since I wasn’t as big as some of my team mates.

What happened after the Olympics?

I struggled with a back injury and eventually was forced to retire from the sport. For a number of years, I ran a business with another member of the Sydney 8 Luka Grubor, which was a software development company.  We were located in Putney and I maintained close ties with my rowing club. An opportunity came up to coach the Imperial College Rowing Squad based on the Thames. From there, the Cambridge Opportunity came about and it presented me with an incredible opportunity to be involved with something so special and historic.

Tell about some of your funny experiences?

Putting on my first nappy was an experience that was not my finest moment. I had practiced before with tea towels on dolls and was ready for the challenge. My wife was still in hospital having given birth to our first child, and I wanted to show I could be helpful. I literally spent 40 minutes pinning the nappy on. I was really conscious not to let my first born fall off the bed and was all fingers and thumbs. I eventually presented her to my wife and the nappy just fell straight off!

I of course became an expert with nappies in the dark, in restaurants and at a wide range of different venues, so stick with it.

How did Fatherhood change your life?

It has probably relaxed me a little bit. It is a little bit like coaching in a way. You have to be methodical. I try to think about what I am trying to teach them, they react to your mood and approach. I try to think ahead. So if I only have five minutes in the morning, I try to approach things calmly, otherwise we all get stressed and five minutes becomes twenty minutes.

My wife is very supportive and in particular, with the job, working weekends and training at different times. But then I come home and become ‘dad’, spending time reading to the kids or being there for bath time. I love those moments and really value them.

I have loved them turning into little people. It didn’t occur to me that holding this little baby would develop a personality so soon in becoming a little person.

Do you have any hints and tips for being a good dad?

It is just something that you have to go out and experience for yourself.  You will always have people telling you, but you need to go out and do it…

What do you think about dad.info?

There isn’t anything out there for dads, so this is a really exciting resource. There always seems to be lots of advice and guidance for mums and not for dads, so I really would encourage people to spread the word about www.dad.info.

Parenting and role models

I am sure I share aspects of my mum and my dad.I couldn’t have got where I am without their support. While I was a kid at school I was not sporty in the slightest and never picked for any team. That is why rowing for me was such a great outlet for me, I learnt a bit and then began to develop some talent.  My dad asked me to accompany him to the rowing club. My early memories were coxing his senior crew.

My dad is an engineer, always tinkering with little bits and bobs and taking things apart. I have a lot of that in me, my squad will always find me tinkering and trying to make things work better.

I never set out with any role models and didn’t believe I was like them. I fall into the ten year rule of development and it took me hours and hours to achieve success. I don’t know if I had any real role models identified as such, but I was training with them and around them for hours and hours and didn’t want to let them down.

If you were a Superhero, who would you be?

He-Man from Masters of the Universe or Bat Fink, I really loved them.

Favourite Food?

An English Breakfast, but I am also a big fan of sandwiches.

Your motto?

You make the day your own. I wake up and say today is going to be a great day and I am going to make it that.

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