Day: January 3, 2013

Coxing How To

Question of the Day

I know that, in general, having 8 seat back or having bow row (or having 7 seat back or having 2 seat row) do roughly the same thing, but I’ve found that there’s a subtle difference between stern backing and bow rowing, and it’s hard to determine which to use in some situations since they can have very different outcomes. Can you explain the differences and give some examples of when to use which?

Unless I have someone who is 100% inexperienced in bow, I rarely have the stern back or row when I’m trying to get a point. The bow of the boat is lighter and narrower than the stern and the bowman doesn’t have to worry about moving an extra 100lbs like the stroke does (the 100lbs being the coxswain), which makes it a little more effective and takes less time/effort. Plus, if you’re getting a point you’re not gonna rotate your back end of the boat, you’re gonna rotate the front … that should be the most obvious reason why you’d use bow pair.

The only time I really use stern pair to help me get my point is if we’re in between drills or pieces and our coach is talking to bow pair. I’d rather have 7-seat or stroke back it (and then I can finish adjusting when we start rowing) than risk distracting bow or 2-seat when they’re trying to listen to what our coach is saying.

Regarding stake boats, when backing, you always start with stern pair and work your way up the boat depending on how much power you need (stern pair, stern four, stern six, etc.). When you get close to the stake boat and can see what adjustments need to be made, then you can have your stern pair take really light arms only strokes to help you out. Once you’re locked on, resume using bow pair to get your point since using stern pair will make it too difficult for the person holding the boat to keep a good grip on it.

99.98% of the time, you should be using bow pair. It’s just one of those unwritten rules of coxing that you get weird looks for if you don’t follow it.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 4

College Coxing High School Racing Recordings

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 4

University of Delaware Coxswain Practice POV

The part I specifically want to point out in this recording is from 1:44-2:05. She’s concise, to the point, intense, and consistent with her calls – she doesn’t stop talking but she’s not rushing to get her words out either. Her calls in between each stroke are spot on and you know what she means even though she’s not saying a lot of words.

Also, after the starts when they’re doing the rate shifts, she does a good job demonstrating what I mean about drawing your voice out at 2:11 and 2:27.

Victoria City Rowing Club U17 Canadian Henley 2012

This is a recording where I question if the coxswain made them row better of if they would have rowed the same without her. This is a classic example of “cheerleader coxswain” who doesn’t sound sure at all of what she’s saying. It’s not bad coxing by any means … there’s just a lot of unnecessary cheerleading going on that could have been replaced by more effective calls.

The one thing that I liked that she said that I think we all tend to forget is “it will hurt to back down and it will hurt to keep pushing, so we’re going to keep pushing”. That’s a great call to make at the end of the race when you need to get that extra push from the crew.

You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.

College Coxing How To Q&A Technique

Question of the Day

I have been told by my rowers that I need to call them out directly more, rather than general corrections to the boat as a whole. I cox collegiate men but I’m not afraid to push them around. My problem is that I am having trouble actually seeing what the problem is. I can tell that catches are off, someone is rushing, but I can’t always tell exactly who it is. Any suggestions for improving this skill?

That’s good that your rowers want you to call them out more individually – don’t take it as a bad thing! There’s a couple things you can do to help yourself get more acquainted with the tendencies of the individual rowers.

When you’re inside on the ergs, watch the rowers for a few minutes each. Have a notebook handy and write down what you see about their stroke – get REALLY analytical about it. Look at the catch, drive, finish, hands, bodies, slides, where their chin is, etc. This will give you an idea of each rower’s “style” and from there you can make the appropriate calls, both as positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.

When you’re out on the water, ask your coach if  you can spend a day just focusing on the rowing. Maybe do a long steady state piece or something where you don’t have to talk very much and can focus on the bladework. For us as coxswains, it’s very hard to see the individual rowers since we’ve got a 6’5″ mammoth sitting directly in front of us blocking our view of the rest of the rowers. Go through the boat pair by pair, then by fours, then all eight and see what you notice about the blades with each group. Breaking it down and looking at the boat in small chunks is sometimes easier than trying to process the whole eight at once. Another thing you can do to focus your brain on the blades is too stare directly at your stroke’s sternum. It sounds weird but looking directly ahead like that allows your peripheral vision to take over, which can help you see which seat is early or late. Have a recorder with you when you do this that way you can just say what you see instead of jostling around with your pen and paper.

Ask your coach if he can record the crew when you’re on the water, preferably one day when you’re doing drills and one day when you’re doing steady state. Get side views of the entire eight (both on starboard and port) as well as 30-45 second long zoomed-in shots of the individuals, preferably shot from the side they row. A flip cam works great, but if you’re brave you can use an iPhone too. The quality on both is pretty good. If your coach has the time, ask him/her if they’d mind watching it with you and pointing out what they notice with each rower, things that they would like to see improved or have noticed about their rowing in general. See if you can spot anyone rushing, diving at the catch, being early or late to the catch, etc. Make note of what you see.

Talk to your rowers. If they’re asking you to call them out individually, they probably already have something in mind that they want you to say to them. Six-seat might know that he rushes the slide but not be aware of when he does it. Three-seat knows that his catches need to be sharper but tends to forget to just unweight the handle during harder pieces. Communicating with them and then repeating to them in the boat what they’ve told you is a GREAT way to earn respect and trust from your crew.

When you talk to the “whole boat” and tell them to fix something, internally with each rower it usually becomes “well, I know I’m not doing this so I assume that the person who IS doing it will get their shit together and fix it” … generally the rower that thinks this is the rower who you’re actually directing your call towards but they don’t know it because you didn’t say their name or seat. As you become more familiar with their individual tendencies, that’ll happen less.

When you do talk to the whole boat though, make sure you give them specifics of what you want them to do – for example, setting the boat. We tend to get lazy and say “set the boat”, assuming that everyone can feel what side the boat is dipping to and what change needs to be made. More often times than not, that isn’t the case. Instead say “let’s set the boat, starboards let’s raise the hands a 1/4 inch at the finish, ports let’s bring ’em down just a little”. The specifics make the rowers on each side think about their hands and where they are in relation to what you just told them to do, so EVERYONE can make an adjustment. Talking to the boat without giving specifics makes the rowers complacent – giving them a specific instruction, even when you’re talking to the whole crew, reels their minds back into the boat.

Related: In the boat, when you’re calling a rower out to make a change, is it better to call them by their seat or name? A rower told me that by using a name it puts them on the spot – but isn’t that the point to make a change?

Calling them out individually doesn’t strictly mean one-by-one either. You can talk to them by pairs (or sometimes fours) too if you notice that something that both rowers are doing.