Day: February 14, 2013

Coxing Novice Q&A

Question of the Day

Hey I’m a novice coxswain but I have learned very fast and all the guys on varsity want me to be a varsity coxswain and I’m a really good motivator. But the varsity coxswain right now is a girl who has been coxing the same amount of time as me and who isn’t really good at all and it’s only cause she is a senior. How can I really prove myself to my coach? I am a junior. I’ve already showed him my recording and he said just to work on more technical stuff. What’s your opinion?

I think if you have a good grasp on everything else, I’d take his advice and start honing your technical skills. Ask him specifically what you need to work on – is it technical stuff like steering or is it being able to spot issues with the bladework and give technical feedback to the rowers? Take note of what he says and then make a concerted effort to work on those things. When you go out, tell your rowers that you’re trying to work on this or that or whatever and then get feedback from them after practice on how you did. With stuff like steering you can’t really do that but in terms of making technical calls, you can improve a lot by talking to your rowers and finding out what calls worked or didn’t work. If your coach sees you making the effort to improve and at the same time sees your crew getting better as a result of that, that’ll be a huge notch in the win column for you.

Another thing you could do is propose the idea of coxswain evaluations. This will allow the rowers to evaluate both coxswains and provide some useful information to your coach, potentially stuff he wasn’t aware of beforehand. It can also help him make decisions on who gets what boat since he’ll have more tangible info in front of him other than seniority and what he’s observed on the water. It’s also good stuff for the coxswains too, obviously.

Related: How are coxswain evaluations conducted?

You have to assume though she did get the varsity boat for a reason other than the fact that she’s a senior. A great way to ensure you never get the boat you want though is to accuse your coach, no matter how innocently you put it, of doing something like this and then saying “well, I’m the better coxswain and they like me more anyways, so I should have that boat.” Instead, find out what her skills are. What is she good at? Ask her for advice. If she’s really good at steering, ask her how she navigates a tricky turn in the river or how she always manages to dock perfectly on the first try. Learn from each other. As a coach, I’d be much more willing to consider someone for a varsity spot if I saw them working with all of their teammates and not just ignoring the ones they didn’t think were very good or deserving of their spots.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 5

College Coxing Racing Recordings

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 5

Rochester Institute of Technology Liberty Leagues 2012

Right off the bat, I love her “get us out ahead” call. Obviously that’s always the goal but making this call right at the start gives the crew an immediate objective.

At 1:20 when she says “they’re probably at our four seat”, you want to tell them where the other crew is but you don’t want to say “probably”, “maybe”, “might be”, etc. That gives the rowers the opportunity to look out and see if the other crew actually is where you think they are. Even if you’re not 100% positive, act like you are. Instead of “probably at our 4 seat” just say “they’re sitting on 4 seat”.

When she says “they’re dying, we got ’em” at 3:51, that would have been a great spot to make a move and really break that other crew.

At 4:24 she says “gotta go right here and now, comin’ up on 500m … gonna be close … you can see it, you can taste it”. That’s a great call to get them pumped for the sprint and let them know it’s going to be a close fight. Immediately after that would have been a great opportunity to take a 10 or 20 to make a move and really hammer the message home (to her crew and the rest of the field).

Other calls I liked:

“They know we’re out for blood…”

“You want that fucking banner? Let’s see you get it now.”

“Punch it, let’s move…”

“Fuck them, let’s GO!” Definitely – definitely – a call I would make. Reminds the crew to focus on themselves and, well, fuck that other boat.

UCLA 15 on, 15 off

This is bordering on a little angry with her tone of voice but overall the intensity is good. The only thing that could have made this better (and maybe justified her almost-angry tone of voice) is if she’d been sharper with the counting instead of drawing out each number. This is a good example though of why it’s important to project your voice rather than yell – it’s easier to stay sharp with the calls when you’re using your core to make yourself loud vs. just yelling from your throat, which doesn’t give you same amount of control.

UCLA W4+ Drills + steady state

Between 1:28 and 1:31 she did a great job of changing her tone to reiterate what she was saying about hooking the blade in. She also does a really good job of connecting the puddles to the crew at 2:12 and using that as a visual cue to get the crew to lengthen out and get the spacing back to three inches of open. Another thing she does well throughout the recording is calling out the rowers for individual corrections.

Other calls I liked:

“Swing and run…” Great call to make during cut the cake.

University of Washington V8+ 2012 IRAs Grand Final

This isn’t actually a recording, it’s a video montage of some of the footage from IRA’s last year overlaid with some of Sam Ojserkis’s audio. I can’t embed it here so you’ll have to watch it over on Vimeo. Since Washington is easily one of the top programs in the country, I thought it was worth sharing. “No one’s going to hold our pace” – that’s confidence. I like the definitive “OVER!” at the end too.

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

Coxing Novice Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

What would you say differently if this post was asked by a varsity coxswain?

I’d still bring it to the coach’s attention but as the more experienced coxswain (thus a team leader by default) I’d also take the coxswain(s) aside and ask/say something along these lines.

Why did you join crew? Did they actually want to do it or were they forced to find an extracurricular to partake in?

You lack of enthusiasm has become quite noticeable to the rowers in your boat – did you know that?

It’s been noted that you don’t enjoy going out on the water. It’s kind of a big part of coxing so if you don’t enjoy being out there, I’d say it’s time to start reevaluating if rowing is the sport for you.

Regardless of whether you enjoy it or not, if you’re going to be here you need to take it seriously because coxswains who are flippant about safety or not paying attention because they’re uninterested can quickly become some of the biggest hazards on the river.

Are you aware of the responsibilities of a coxswain? If yes, any particular reason why they’re not doing them? If no, explain what they are (general responsibilities and any specific ones that your club has).

Can you handle the responsibilities? If yes, good. Come back tomorrow prepared to do better. If not, again, time to start reevaluating things.

Explain the team dynamic to them – what’s the philosophy, what are the team’s goals for the season, why are the coxswains important in helping achieve those goals, etc.

Let them know that you and the other varsity coxswains (and rowers) are there to help (and that you want to help) but they can only help you if you’re willing to listen and learn. A blasé attitude is not going to be accepted by anyone who chooses to be a member of the team.

That is all assuming you’re talking to a novice. If you’re talking to a fellow varsity coxswain, this is what I’d say:

Seriously, you’ve been already been doing this for 2, 3, 4 years. Underclassmen look up to you  and you’re expected to set the example. Get your shit together.

Things are a little different when you’re a varsity coxswain because you’ve got more experience and an assumed leadership role on your side. You should however, like I said, alert the coach to the issue but let them know that you’ve talked to the person and this was what was said. This makes them aware of the situation and gives them an opportunity to quietly observe the person to see if any improvements can be seen.

Related: How do you deal with coxswains who just don’t really want to do what they’re supposed to do? I’m a very passionate novice cox but there are others who tend to slack off and don’t like going out on water and aren’t very helpful/motivating to the rowers. Some girls on their boats have come up to me and asked me to talk to the other coxswains.

If after a week or so things are starting to look better, let the issue rest for the time being. If not, then it’s time for the coach to step in and talk to the athlete and really lay down the law of shape up or get out.