When Steve Gladstone coached Brown’s heavyweight crew team from 1982 to 1994, Paul Cooke was one of his varsity oarsmen. This Saturday, the tables will turn as Gladstone returns to Providence as head coach of Yale heavyweight crew, which will take on the Cooke-coached Bears.

It is a poetic opening to the Bulldogs’ spring season, the team’s first under Gladstone since his appointment as head coach last August. While neither Gladstone nor captain Derek Johnson ’11 could predict how the Yale boats would fare over the weekend and through the season, both said the team is well-prepared for competition.

“The squad has really picked up a very strong team ethic and a significant portion of them have been able to put into action a lot of the new mechanics and technique we’re using,” Gladstone said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with where we’re at.”

The team has spent no more than 1 to 2 percent of practice time at race speed, he explained, because it wants to build to top pace for the three most important races of the year: the Eastern Sprints on May 15, the Yale-Harvard Regatta on May 28 and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship, which starts June 2.

As a result, it is difficult to tell how the Yale boats will match up against Brown’s this weekend, Johnson said, adding that “there’s no question Brown will be fast.”

Still, Johnson said he was confident the team would be competitive thanks to Gladstone’s new training program.

“The most remarkable thing about having Coach Gladstone here at Yale is the change in attitude he’s facilitated across the program,” Johnson said. “Guys from all levels have stepped up their effort and focus this season, and while the rowers are the same and the talent isn’t new, the squad is transitioning nicely to Gladstone’s format.”

Gladstone said he has implemented a substantially different training schedule to past years, which includes a new periodization plan that sequences training components into a program to maximize boat speed over specific distances.

Other members of the team said they were impressed with Gladstone’s efficiency as a coach and agreed with Johnson’s assessment.

Alex Mastroyannis ’11 said the team has adapted to Gladstone’s coaching philosophies and was well-positioned to perform as a result.

“We put complete trust in him, we’re ready to execute,” he said.

Yale will field five boats this weekend, with the first varsity eight competing last after three other varsity eights and the freshman eight. This is the team’s first competition since last October’s Head of the Charles regatta, where its championship four and eight finished 11th and 14th, respectively.

Last year, the Bulldogs won three of their five races against Brown. The first varsity eight lost its race by 1.8 seconds.

But the results of this first competition will not necessarily indicate how well the Yale team will perform later in the season, Gladstone said.

“Through the course of the season they will adapt to the higher speeds and become more proficient at race day,” he said. “That being said, there’s nothing more we’d rather do than win all the races.”

Before the championship season begins with the May 15 Eastern Sprints, the team has three other races. Yale will host Dartmouth for the Olympic Axe on April 9, before taking on Columbia and Penn for the Blackwell Cup on April 16 and then competing against Cornell and Princeton for the Carnegie Cup on April 23.

This weekend’s competition against Brown begins with the fourth varsity eight race at 1:15 p.m. Spectators can watch on from the Narragansett Boat Club in Providence, R.I.