FEATURE: Renae Domaschenz juggles a trio of roles in her busy life.
ANU Boat Club have a proud and long history and have been blessed with some World class athletes throughout the years. Two of those, Kathryn Ross and Renae Domaschenz, are current members and share an extraordinary relationship.
Ross won the Women's PR2 Single Scull at the 2019 World Championships in Linz, Austria coached by Domaschenz, who herself, is a coxswain on the Australian Rowing Team. In the first part of a two-part feature on the duo, Domaschenz tells us of her rowing life and combining competing and rowing, alongside her job in STEMM research.
Over the past decade, Domaschenz has progressed her way through the ANU Boat Club as a successful coxswain and coach, before coaching in the ACT Academy of Sport's rowing program, and then coaching and coxing for the Australian Rowing Team.
Making that transition to coaching from athlete could have been a daunting task for some, and combining the two almost impossible, but Domaschenz has taken it in her considerable stride.
“I’m very lucky to be able to put myself in different shoes,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of not only my friends, family and colleagues, but also that of Rowing Australia, their major partner Hancock Prospecting, along with the ACT Academy of Sport, Rowing ACT and ANU Boat Club. It really does take a huge group effort to succeed on a world stage.”
“I try to stay disciplined, I plan, I sacrifice, I organise myself accordingly. A balanced life creates better athletes and better coaches. The individual ultimately drives this though, and I’ve learnt over the years to take ownership of my actions and how to be most effective in the ‘right now’ and how to apply myself to the task at that moment.
“There’s research that shows athletes who are able to balance their training with education seem to be very successful on the world stage, so why not coaches? Coaching is a demanding lifestyle, while there are very few female high performance coaches across all sports, let alone in the rowing community. It is possible to manage, but it isn’t always easy.
“There are also fewer women with careers in STEMM. I therefore hope to be a role model for young females by showing that developing and enhancing your professional skills helps you to be accountable and resilient in life, and sport, while opening up many career opportunities.”
After coaching Ross to her win at the 2019 World Championships, Domaschenz then jumped into the Australian PR3 Mixed Coxed Four to steer them to fourth in their World Championships final, in turn ensuring Australia secured a berth at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games to be held next year.
For this, as well as her all-round contribution to the sport, she was named as Rowing Australia's 2019 Para Coach of the Year.
“I was honoured to be identified for simply being one of many people helping Kat towards her goal,” Domaschenz recalled. “It was a really great feeling to be recognised for my contribution to Kat’s journey but this comes with great appreciation to the rest of the team around me who support my role in supporting Kat.
“I was also appreciative of the coach-athlete relationship Kat and I have built over the years to get where we are today. Good relationships create success. We don’t see many female coaches being awarded for their contribution to their sports success, so I hope I can inspire more upcoming female coaches, in any elite sport across Australia, to keep doing what they are doing.”
A strong relationship is the key to the success that Domaschenz believes has helped her athlete achieve. It’s clear that Domaschenz is all-encompassing when it comes to her charge, sharing that there is more to Ross than just what we see on the water or standing on a podium at the end of a successful race.
“Kat is more than just an athlete, she’s a great person,” Domaschenz said. “She believes in herself and believes she can be at the top of the podium. She has built resilience in life and sport. She clearly has talent and ability, but more importantly she has incredible self-discipline and puts in the hard work.
“Early mornings, sore muscles, the odd injury, sacrifices. I also love her intrinsic sense of optimism. She believes she can beat the best and anything that gets in her way, but no athlete makes it to the top on their own and she understands the importance of remaining coachable no matter what her success, no matter her experience.
“Kat has found her sense of belonging and therefore has trust in the process. The journey to the top is a long one, and she is surrounded by people who are striving to be the best in their individual roles, yet are also fully committed to working hard with her because they are genuinely passionate about getting her over the finish line in front of everyone else.”
Rowing is not only physically demanding but can take its toll on the athlete mentally as well. There are times when it’s hard to drag yourself from the warmth of your home to a gym, or river, on freezing cold mornings to achieve your goal and Domaschenz knows first-hand the qualities that are required to be successful at the sport.
“Sportsmanship, perseverance, competitiveness and compassion, are all qualities I look for in athletes,” she commented. ‘They need to demonstrate these qualities over the course of the season and hopefully the many seasons ahead of them.
“Rowing looks graceful, and sometimes effortless when it is done well, but it takes years to build strength, balance, mental discipline and the ability to continue on when your body is demanding you stop. This is more difficult than identifying talent in the first place.”
One thing is for certain, in her own rowing career, and that as coach of the World Champion Ross, Domaschenz has shown those qualities over and over. And she’s not done yet.
Story: Russ Gibbs