Cruxton twins part of rowing’s new AASE programme

Trentham twins Lucy and Laura Cruxton, have been rowing since the age of 11 after local coach Darren Barton came into their school to conduct a taster session. 

Six years later they are both thriving in the sport with a bright future ahead of them in amongst a busy schedule of rowing training nearly every day, attending Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College and now completing a Level 3 NVQ in Achieving Excellence in Sports Performance (AASE). 

So what exactly is the AASE qualification?  Lucy and Laura are here to provide an insight into their experiences of the programme so far and their background behind rowing. 

Lucy and Laura are in fact part of a triplet. Their brother James, despite his physical advantage standing at around 6ft 3”, does not row like his sisters.

James was initially taken to the sport after coach Darren Barton conducted some taster sessions where the triplets impressed and were subsequently invited to go down to Trentham Boat Club to get a feel for rowing on the water. 

It was a fairly new club at the time so they were the first juniors to row there. After a couple of years James decided rowing was not for him.  His twin sisters, meanwhile, went on to develop their rowing, collecting several medals to boast in their cabinet along the way from British Rowing Championships, Home Countries Regatta, National Schools and the British Indoors Relay. 

Lucy says, “We have pretty much always rowed together, mostly in a four, occasionally in an eight, but it’s good we get on well.  The only difference is at the trials we’ve just had I was sculling and Laura was rowing.” 

Laura adds, “At training we don’t really have the sisterly competitive rivalry that some siblings do, we normally just help and encourage each other as we row in the same boat together.”

The Cruxton sisters are non identical, the most obvious visual difference is that Lucy stands at 180cm, whereas Laura is significantly shorter at 170cm.  Despite both parents being tall, although not rowers themselves, this fact has now turned into a bit of a family joke at Laura’s expense.  Laura was the taller of the two when they were younger but  Lucy has now overtaken her and it looks to stay that way.

The twins have also chosen different subjects to study at Sixth form, Laura is completing a BTEC in Sport, however Lucy is currently studying towards four A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Psychology.  So they don’t really see much of each other around college.  Similarly, they have differing interests outside of rowing, Laura enjoys playing Netball and Volleyball, yet Lucy prefers Basketball and Running. 

In amongst their busy lifestyle Lucy and Laura were successful in meeting the criteria for selection onto the AASE scheme back in November after performing well in a time trial test.  The programme is currently still in the initial stages since its inception as a pilot project in 2010 taking on 14 rowers in total, four of which are based at Trentham including the Cruxton sisters. 

It is a two-year course designed to run in parallel alongside A Level or BTEC qualifications with the aim of rolling out across the whole of the UK for the new academic year in 2012.  The scheme is in line with GB Rowing Team pathways.  In order to be eligible for selection athletes must already be registered with the GB Junior trials system and meet the performance criteria for inclusion, or they
must have been identified by Start or Adaptive Talent Identification programmes. 

The AASE is a Nationally Recognised Qualification, providing an excellent stepping stone into Higher Education through its acknowledgement by several leading sports Universities. 

Loretta Williams, Coach Educator explains, “The AASE Level 3 NVQ aims to develop and equip athletes with sufficient skills and knowledge to progress along the GB Rowing Team pathway, ultimately towards becoming a GB senior representative.  However the programme also delivers a level of education in the hope that participants who do not make it as a high performer will still wish to continue within the sport of rowing but through an alternative career path such as coaching, club development or sports science support.”

The Achieving Excellence in Sports Performance Programme delivers a structured course covering knowledge and performance to assist them in becoming high achieving athletes, comprising of areas such as nutrition, goal setting and technical analysis.  The scheme strives to provide athletes with the necessary abilities to plan, apply and evaluate their technical, tactical, physical and mental skills in rowing alongside managing their lifestyle.  Essentially the programme is allowing the athletes to add value alongside taking greater ownership of their own training which they can then implement and take back to their club. 

The scheme is deliberately run alongside other GB junior camps and trials so as to minimise the impact it has on the athletes’ school education and other commitments. 

Williams says, “We visit the AASE groups four or five times a year observing as well as taking video footage of the rowers to help gather evidence for their AASE portfolio.  These education sessions are coordinated with the potential camps and trials whereby we run workshops to deliver the next block of work.  We also ensure that our camps do not coincide with important school exams so the yearly calendar is organised accordingly.”

Lucy confirms, “It doesn’t really interfere with our school work, however if we ever need the afternoon off to attend training days or camps our school is very supportive in letting us have the time off.”

Other rowers on the AASE programme are based at Hartpury College where the funding is put towards providing a coach to deliver the training programme at the College.

 At Trentham the set up is slightly different, the rowers are registered through Richmond College for AASE but in the Cruxton girls case they continue their education at Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College.  However the funding is put towards supporting the already established local coaching programme at host clubs and assisting athletes to attend GB Rowing Team camps and trials.  The scheme therefore provides the infrastructure to local clubs and coaches that do not currently have the support mechanisms in place, by enhancing the training and education to benefit talented athletes, whilst more specifically leaving a legacy for the development of future up and coming rowers. 

It appears as though the Cruxton pairing will be parting ways when it comes to leaving home for University.  Lucy is hoping to study something Science-related at a London University, whereas Laura is looking to continue studying Sport.  Although unsure exactly where yet, she admits it will probably be at a different institution to her sister. 

When asked what it would be like if they go on to different Universities and compete against each other, Lucy replied:

“I’m not sure, I don’t think it would be so bad if we were in a crew, but we wouldn’t like to be rowing in singles against each other.”

The Cruxton twins are however united in their ambitions for the future in rowing.  They both aim to compete in the Coupe de la Jeunesse in Austria this year, with the ultimate aim of making the GB senior team.