In memory of Nick Garratt (by Stuart Reside)
“Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”
These were the 6 P’s according to Nick, and a mantra I am sure many here today would be familiar with.
Thank you to Nicks family and the organisers for providing me this opportunity to say a few words about Nick. I hope Nick’s lesson on avoiding piss poor performances will help me do justice to the great man.
I feel very privileged to be here to talk about a man who meant so much to so many of us. I like to think I represent a generation of rowers who were influenced by and lucky enough to have been coached by Nick.
For a man who never had children (well none we know about!)….Nick had a profound impact on so many young people and families. For me, he was more than a coach – he was a friend, a mentor, and in many ways a father figure; he guided me through some critical years as a young man and created some lifelong memories and friendships. I am still benefiting from his influence today.
I first met Nicholas Richard Garratt in 1992 when I was 14. Nick was the head coach of the talent program at WAIS and had encouraged my mum and sister to bring me down to Canning Bridge to have a go at rowing. Nick would have been about 43 at the time. My memory of that day was Nick holding the single scull teaching me how to feather and square the blades, then slowing pushing me off to get the feel of the scull with no support…. apparently he said to my mum later that one day I would row for Australia. From that time on, it felt like Nick made it his mission to help me get there. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure he told most parents (and many hundreds since) the very same thing! Yet he was happy to take on the role of getting as many young kids like me into the boat and the sport of rowing that he loved so much.
A particularly vivid memory of that first day in the boat with Nick, as he was standing on the shore watching me bang and crash in the boat, were just how bloody big his calves were!! If they were the calves you needed to be a decent rower then I had no chance! We joked over the years that Nicks quads had slipped into his lower legs from all the running he did.
Over a period of 8-10 years, Nick played an enormous role in the success of WA rowing, and built a squad of young rowers who thrived under Nicks passion, hard work, expertise and most importantly his great sense of humour! Nick allowed, initiated and encouraged enough skulduggery to keep our young spirits up through the toughest of training sessions, camps or regattas.
When you arrived home from a camp or regatta with Nick, you were guaranteed to have some classic new stories to retell around the dinner table. If I look back, many of these moments occurred in the confines of our trusty hire cars. In fact I think Nick was happiest in the driver seat of a 12 seater mini van, heading to or from the rowing course with athletes in the back encouraging him! Whether it was a quick stop off to unbolt a new street sign to hang up back in the Perth rowing club change room, or getting stuck under the Penrith mall carpark roof – you could be guaranteed a laugh on the journey!! I’m pretty sure hire car insurance premiums will decline on the news of Nicks passing
Now if there was one place nick spent more time than most, and that was the Nullabor plain. One of the downside of coaching in WA is you have to transport the boats over east to regattas. No one would do this more than Nick. As the man he was, he wanted to be personally sure that the boats would arrive safely and ready for his athletes, and I don’t think he trusted anyone else to do it right. Nick would never want to sacrifice our time in the boat, so at his own peril he would leave Canning Bridge at the very last minute then drive like a mad man non stop for the 4,000k’s to the regatta. We would arrive fresh off the plane to nick just pulling the wrapping off the boats, not a wink of sleep & covered in diesel and dirt from his epic journey – yet beaming from ear to ear & still cracking jokes. He would have done that drive at least 50 times and not once did I ever hear him complain about it. One trip almost ended in disaster, with a gust of wind from a passing truck causing Nick to actually roll the 4×4, yet such was his care for the equipment Nick skillfully ensured that the boat trailer remained upright, with only a minor scratch to a couple of boats.
While we were honing our rowing skills, Nick was mastering the art of life in the dinghy. I actually think his body may have adapted to the environment, with those broad shoulders perfectly designed to let him sit comfortably in his seat while easily reaching back to the throttle!.
Nick had some great inventions for his time in the coaching boat, non more ingenious than the piss- a-phone! Nicks spin on the essential megaphone…. an ingenious invention to allow guests on board to go to the toilet without getting any drips in the boat….well his male athletes at least. No one could navigate a dinghy between a set of oars better than Nick – carefully matching the speed of the boat, Nick would approach with water bottles ready, the ‘persuader’ or the ‘AFS’ in hand, ready for a quick rig or crew change – & priding himself on not even touching the boat or oars with the edge of the dinghy. But when it came to dinghy driving, nothing would get more laughs than when the tide was just right Nick would end the session by approaching the shore at full speed, and at the last minute slamming up the engine, bracing, and skidding as far as he could up the grass almost into the shed!! It was even funnier when he would occasionally mis judge the conditions, and Nick would go flying into the nose of the boat, but always come up laughing and cracking jokes!
Nick used to pride himself on finding newer and tougher ways to train. I mean just one look at the man and you knew he was tough as nails – that wry smile, strong hands and broad shoulders. Now Perth is a pretty flat city, but if there was a hill Nick would have us running up it. Some of his favourites were Jacobs Ladder, Cardiac Hill, the DNA tower, Reybold Hill & Rookwood St up from the sheds. At training camps Nick would really dial up the pain…once he had myself, Jono Fievez and Time Perkins run from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek some 30ks straight up….he knew that if we got there, it would only make us stronger. A training session was never complete without a set of Janouseks ! I’m not sure exactly where Nick came up with this crazy exercise, but he absolutely loved it!! (in fact the more we hated something the more he loved it); If 20km on the water wasn’t enough Nick would always insist on a couple of hundred
Janis’ to finish the session. Then there was his bench pull test – a gruelling 210 rep bench pull test to replicate the number of strokes in a rowing race. Or the full crew chin up competitions….. He just loved flogging us!!
But no matter how hard the session, one thing you could always rely on with Nick was post training nutrition. I swear he spent his entire salary on feeding us after training. On a cold winter morning Nick would heat up the pie warmer in the change room and have fresh warm bread rolls ready to go when we came in. After the most gruelling of ergos, runs or weights sessions, powerade or sustagen were always ready. I’m not sure it helped my teeth, but it certainly helped me come back for more… And that was Nick, always thinking of his athletes, getting the best out of them each session and ensuring they recovered ready for the next!
I found out early on, that Nick was a big believer in re-hydration post training. Towards the end of a long session of ‘junk yard weights’ at the Perth rowing club which normally finished around 7pm, Nick would duck over to the raffles hotel and grab some bottles of stout and lemonade and have portagaffs ready to go for everyone. We had no idea what a portagaff was, but we loved it.
More important that the drink was the time we had chatting and laughing in the boat shed after the session. I would often ride my bike home around 8:30 at night half drunk, mum looking at me sideways, and crash out for the best nights sleep ever.
Fittingly, my last conversation with Nick was at the 20 year reunion of our winning WA Kings Cup crew from 1999. Nick couldn’t get back for the get together as he was prepping his young chargers here in Canberra for selection, but we called him when we were on the water to say hi. We all enjoyed Nicks voice over the cox box and his few wise cracks on how we were rowing, and how much he enjoyed that win. I can certainly speak for that crew in saying how instrumental Nick was in that victory for WA. As we know now, Nick went on to coach many more victories for NSW – they were certainly lucky to have him.
I could go on about Nick all day. From his Olympic coaching achievements, to his love of photography, his care for the environment (particularly our rivers and waterways), or his passion for travel, history and art….he was full of surprises knowledge, and modesty.
But to close, I just want to say thanks to Nick for all the special times he gave us. Times that shaped so many lives, and forged so many treasured friendships. I will always be grateful for my time with Nick. And one thing is for sure, the sport of Rowing is better off from its time with Nick.