Day: February 6, 2013

College Ergs Q&A

Question of the Day

My team only ergs once a week but we are still an extremely well known competitive team. I am wondering if this is normal as most people seem to erg multiple times a week. And also will going from a once-a-week erg to a multiple times a week erg in university be a hard transition? Thanks!

I wouldn’t say it’s totally abnormal. In the winter my team would erg every day but once spring season rolled around we’d only erg once every two weeks for their 2k test. If you’re only erging once a week during winter training that’s definitely unorthodox but if your team isn’t suffering any ill effects (I assume because you’re rowing the rest of the time?)  I wouldn’t worry about it.

Regarding making the switch in college I would say this: just because your team right now only ergs once a week doesn’t mean you only have to erg once a week. You can erg as many times a week as you want. It might be an adjustment switching to a more “normal” erg schedule in college but I don’t think it will be that difficult. It’s like when the semesters switch and your class schedule changes – it’s weird for the first few days but then you get used to it after the first week and that becomes the new normal.

Coxing How To Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

If the wind pushes the boat into the grassy reeds, how do you get out of it without being pulled out by a coach? Do you have the side that’s not stuck back? Thanks!

First things first is to tell your boat to be quiet. Everyone is going to have an opinion on the best way to get out of there and there’s a good chance that someone or everyone will be annoyed at the situation. It’s your job to tell them to listen to your instructions because the more at-attention they are, the faster and easier it’ll be for you to get out of there.

The biggest thing here is making sure your skeg doesn’t get broken or bent. If it’s shallow or the weather’s been bad lately (and there’s a lot of debris in the water), you’ll need to listen for any bumps or noises that indicate you might have hit a log. Sometimes they can get caught up in the reeds too which makes it hard to avoid them. Make sure you don’t push it straight down because it’ll just pop right back up and do more damage (possibly catching your fingers in between it and the skeg, which would probably result in some form of bloodshed). If you don’t here any bumps or anything but still find it hard to steer with the strings, you might have to stick your arm under the boat and pull off anything that’s gotten caught around the skeg and the rudder.

As far as actually getting out of the reeds, if you’ve been blown in from the port side, for example, would require some backing mainly from the port rowers. You can have the starboard side assist but it could be hard for them to row if their oar is in the reeds. As soon as rowers (starting from bow pair) start getting clear though, have them row.

To clear your the blades if you’re really stuck in there, I’d feather the blade and just hack back and forth a bit to cut the reeds down a little. I saw a crew do this at a regatta once on the way to the start line and they were out of there in about two minutes. Unless the wind is really bad and negating anything you try and do, I wouldn’t do more than arms and body rowing. This is to avoid swinging the boat to quickly and sharply, which could cause damage to it if you hit something under the surface.

I’d start out with 6 and stroke backing to get your bow pointed towards open water and then have bow and 3 row to swing the bow out. Once your bow pair or bow four are clear of any visible reeds, have them row full slide to get the rest of the boat free. Once you’re clear, quickly put your arm back in to pull off any lingering reeds on your skeg/rudder, get your point, and row on. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a crew get out of a situation like that only to sit idle once they’re clear and then get blown right back into the reeds. You have to get away from them if you want to avoid getting stuck again, so row up a few hundred meters to a spot where it’s clear and then stop if you need to.

Coxing Novice Q&A

Question of the Day

Is there some sort of quote/song/inspirational thought you have to help boost your mood when you’re depressed/after a bad practice/race? And how do coaches “pick” novice coxswains? Is it initially by size, then trait/abilities? Or do they actually take the time to “watch” who they’re thinking of coxing before deciding? I think last year on my team our coach chose the two smallest people but for the first two weeks (on land) watched us interact with each other.

I don’t have anything specific, I just turn the radio up and try to use the music and the drive home to help clear my head. It’s a good way for me to zone out and let everything else go.

Related: What do you like to do to cheer yourself up after a lost race or tough practice?

I think coaches do both of what you said; some choose by size, some by traits and abilities, and others look at both. There are way too many coaches that pick coxswains based purely on how small they are which they then come to find out has no bearing whatsoever on how skilled they are. Ultimately, I think a coach would rather have a slightly taller coxswain who has the personality and affinity for coxing vs. a small person who has neither. I know I would.

During winter training I think they do watch the coxswains to see how they interact with the team, if they’re capable of taking charge and leading them through a circuit, do they show up on time (or at all), etc. Once they get out on the water, he/she will watch to see how quickly they pick up steering, how confident and trustworthy they are, how safe they are, do they follow the rules of the river, etc. If they put a novice in the varsity boat to get some experience, he might ask those rowers for a quick opinion on how they thought he/she did. In the end they’ll take all that information and make a decision from there.

Related: Why would a coach put novices with varsity rowers in a boat for training? What benefits would that get the novices, and wouldn’t that be very frustrating for varsity rowers? I’m not one of those novices and I really wish I was but I don’t really know in what parts of my rowing it would help, if you know what I mean.

That might not be how every coach does it but it’s how I’d do it. If you’re curious why you weren’t boated or why you were put in the boat you were, ask your coach. Unless you have seriously messed up somewhere along the line and know that that’s probably the reason why you’re not in a higher boat, the only person who can give you that kind of insight is the person who made the lineups.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking why you were put in certain lineups either as long as you aren’t petty or accusatory about it – “Why did you put me in that boat? Those rowers suck!” or “I am such a better coxswain than Emily (with zero evidence to backup that statement)” are two easy ways to get on your coach’s (and teammates) bad side. Done correctly, it’s a great way to get feedback on how you’re doing so far and what you can improve on so that the next time lineups are made, you can possibly move up a boat.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

I know a coxswain’s number one job is to steer straight but one of my fellow rowers decided that sounding aggressive and making good calls is what MAKES a cox. There’s a girl who she says “just sounds like a cox” but hasn’t perfected steering/navigating yet. The view is that you can teach a cox to go straight/proper channels with time but you can’t teach them to sound passionate, aggressive, motivating, etc. What do you think?

Yea, I mostly agree. It’s very easy (well, not easy, but easy by comparison) to teach the basic skills – steering, what to say, etc. – but it’s damn near impossible to teach a coxswain how to be passionate, encouraging, assertive, intuitive, self-aware, etc. if they aren’t already all of those things.

Related: I was reading on a rowing forum a commenter said that good coxswains are born not made. They can be guided to be successful but not much more than that. Is there any truth to it?

When I was a novice people told me I sounded exactly like a coxswain should before I’d picked up any of the actual necessary skills because the majority of the personality traits of a coxswain are my part of my natural personality. It’s just who and how I am so already having that foundation in place made coxing come very naturally to me. My coaches could focus on teaching me how to steer, spot technical inaccuracies, etc. and know that I had everything else already covered.

Related: The “Three S’s of Coxing”

What makes a coxswain is both set in stone and completely flexible. As experienced coxswains, we all just kind of know what makes a good coxswain in the general sense but what makes a good coxswain to each individual crew can be completely different. The basic stuff (steering, execution, leadership, etc.) is all a given – you just cannot be a good coxswain if you aren’t strong in those areas – but your individual style is what makes you good for your crew.