Tag: dad vail

Coxswain recordings, pt. 31

College Coxing High School Racing

Coxswain recordings, pt. 31

7k row to the basin

A high school coxswain emailed me this recording a couple weeks ago so below is the email I sent her with some feedback. In her initial email she also included her own comments on what she thought of her coxing (PS I love when you guys do that because it helps me narrow in on what you think you need to work on), which included things like “my coxing started very calm but in the middle it was similar to how I would have coxed a sprint race”, “I never mentioned the time and pointed out only some of the landmarks I should have”, “I have lots and lots of calls about the legs”, “Some of the focus 10s were not for anything in particular and were just moves”, “10 in 2 would be more effective than 10 here in some (most) cases”, etc.

Here’s what I said:

“I agree that your intensity level did rise throughout the piece but I think that’s fairly natural. I do the same thing when I’m coxing long pieces like this, as do other coxswains that I know. I think as long as you’re not super obnoxious about the changes in your tone or volume it’s not a big deal. I thought this was fine though.

I like the “reel ’em in” call too. It’s a good way to say “get after these guys” without actually saying that. Regarding the “10 in 2 vs. 10 here”, I agree that it’s more effective, especially in long pieces like this where it’s easier for them to zone out, to give them a bit of a warning and either say “on this one”, “in two”, or whatever so that at the very least they’ve got one stroke or so to get ready to execute whatever you’re calling for.

If you notice the intensity starting to fall off, at the very least make sure they’re still rowing well. Focus purely on their technique for 20-30 strokes if you have to but make sure that even if the pressure is falling a bit that they’re still rowing at a high level. Sometimes I notice that when I back off the typical power calls and just focus on technique, the power gradually starts to come up a bit on its own … not necessarily to where it was before but enough that I notice it and can then say “Yea, there we go! You see how we’re starting to push those puddles away again? That’s just from adjusting our posture and making sure our body prep is set early. Let’s take five now to really emphasize the swing and get the shoulders set. Ready … go!

I like doing 5s for each pair or 5s for each four during longer pieces like this. It’s something different and gives you a chance to focus on the individuals a little more than you otherwise would. Plus it gives them a little bit of personal responsibility for those five strokes. You executed this very though so good job. I liked your tone, the calls you made, etc. I’d do it exactly like that during a race if you decide to incorporate that as a move of some kind.

I also noticed that you made a lot of leg calls but I think as long as you’re diversifying them and not making the same leg call over and over then it’s OK. One thing I would practice the next time you’re out though is making calls for other parts of the stroke. To kinda force yourself into doing this, I would try something like this: for one entire practice, anytime you want to make a call for the legs, pause for a second and come up with a call for something else. The calls could be for puddles, sharp catches, smooth finishes, posture, body prep, long recoveries, bending the oars, blade height, getting max reach, etc. The goal is to not make ANY calls for the legs and instead make calls for everything else. The legs are a really easy thing to make calls for and are what a lot of coxswains default to (myself included) so every so often you’ve gotta take yourself out of that comfort zone and force yourself to do something different so that on race day you’ve got a wealth of calls built up that you can pull from. You actually already do a great job of calling for a variety of things so just consider this as a new challenge to continue building your skills in that area…

When you call for focus 10s, I would instead call for focus 5s. 10 strokes is too long to “focus”, especially during hard pieces like this, and 5 usually ends up being more effective anyways.

You do a great job of consistently giving the rowers information (and you already know what you need to give them more of – i.e. time, landmarks, etc.) and your overall tone is fantastic. Like I said earlier, don’t worry too much if there’s a gradual shift in intensity as the piece progresses. Something else that I really appreciate as a fellow coxswain is your self-awareness. I like that you listed out your own comments on your audio because that shows that you’re actually invested in what you’re doing and are keeping yourself accountable. Another thing I liked was how you clearly and concisely yelled at the other coxswains to tell them where you were as you got close to them. That’ll come in verrrrrrry handy if you’re racing at HOCR.”

University of Delaware 2015 Dad Vail Men’s Varsity 8+ Petite Finals

Jake, the coxswain of Delaware’s heavyweight 8+, sent me this recording after Dad Vails and it really blew me away. Easily one of the best recordings I heard all season – actually, I think this is the best I heard all season. Here’s what I said in my email to him with a few additional bullet points below that.

“This is really good – your intensity, tone, calls, etc. are on point. I feel like I’m nitpicking just trying to find stuff to critique. The one piece of advice I have is when you make a call like “walk away, walk away”, “it’s time to go”, “time to break off UNC” (great call btw), etc., immediately follow that up with a 5 or 10-stroke push just to carry over the momentum from your call. When I make a call like that I want the rowers to immediately think “yea, let’s go!” and since I know they tend to get a burst of energy from that I want to capitalize on it by immediately following up with a 5 or 10-stroke move to do whatever I just said to do, be that to walk away from the field, put away another crew, etc. If you say “it’s time to go” and then there’s crickets after that then it’s like “OK … I’m ready to go … tell me what to do …” and you kinda lose the opportunity to make something happen. You also run the risk of another coxswain hearing you say “walk away!” and them thinking you’re calling a 10 so they call their own 10 to counter the move they think you’re making. That can backfire on you if they end up getting a seat or two out of it. (The only reason why I say that is because I’ve done this to other coxswains before and if you’re down a seat or two and do it at just the right point in the race you can pretty much kill their momentum and take the race from them.)”

In addition to everything I said up above, I really like the simple “assault” calls he makes throughout the race. This is something I think a lot of younger coxswains have to learn/remember – every call you make doesn’t need to be a full sentence long and every call doesn’t have to be “a call”. More often times than not you can easily get away with saying something simple like “assault” and that will convey the same exact message as “OK guys, this is where we get after it and start taking back some seats”.

Another thing I really liked was the build up into the sprint starting with the “10 at base” at 4:55. I like how he calls the first five of that ten, says “assault”, then starts the next five with “next five, bow ball”. THAT is what I mean when I say to simplify your calls and cut out all the excess. You know exactly what he wants and how many strokes you have to do it and it only took four words to communicate that. Now, what I really liked about the sprint was how he transitioned into it. At 5:12 he says “shifting up to a 38 over two … shift one, shift two …” and then they hit it. I like the simplicity. If you’re trying to figure out how to get your crew to shift up at the end without doing a big build or anything (or alternatively, you’re only going up two beats and don’t need five to build into it) then I’d definitely suggest trying the shift over two and seeing how that works. (PS If you haven’t read this post on “in” vs. “over” vs. “on” check it out so you understand the difference between all three and make sure you explain it to your crew too. In, on, and over do not mean the same things!!)

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

College Racing Rowing Video of the Week

Video of the Week: 48spm

If you thought Princeton’s sprint vs. Brown last weekend was sick, wait til you see FIT’s sprint vs. Michigan in the last 10 strokes of the MV8+ finals at Dad Vails this past Saturday.

If you haven’t seen the Princeton-Brown video, check it out here. Fast forward to the 1:09:27 mark for the start of the race and the 1:14:00 mark for the sprint (and the commentary, which is hilarious).

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 22

College Coxing Racing Recordings

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 22

George Washington University 2014 IRA Men’s Varsity 8+ C-Final

If you wanna watch the race footage with the audio over it you can check that out here. If you just wanna listen to the race, the Soundcloud link above is probably better since you’ve got the announcer’s voice competing with the coxswain in the video.

At 3:28 when he says “get ready to take our move…”, that’s the kind of aggression you need when you’re in the thick of it and have to do something to separate yourself from the pack. A few strokes later he says “We’re movin’, half a length up OSU, half a length up FIT…”, which is not only a good example of how to call your position on other crews but it also demonstrates exactly what you want to do after you call for a move – let them know if they’re walking and if so, by how much.

I like how he goes down the boat at 4:18 and calls out certain individuals then calls out the seniors. That’s a great way to get just a little more out of the rowers when you already know they’re giving you all they’ve got. It’s that sense-of-personal-responsibility thing. 

Other calls I liked:

“Five to open the angles…”

“Move away from FIT, fucking put ’em in their place…”

Temple University 2014 Dad Vail Women’s Varsity 4+ Semi-final

The audio’s a little choppy on this one but otherwise this is a solid recording from Temple’s coxswain. She emailed this recording to me so below is part of what I said in my reply.

“This recording is great – my favorite ones to listen to are the ones where I don’t have to pause it every five seconds to make a note of something. You do a really fantastic job of being right in the moment and communicating to your crew what they need to know about what’s happening inside the boat as well as outside the boat. Far too often a lot of coxswains will get too focused on just spitting out the race plan and end up not making calls for anything else. I really liked your buildup into your 20 when you a couple of the girls if they were ready to go – that’s a great way to keep the boat engaged in what you’re doing and keep them focused. I love the 10 that your bowman calls – that is a really creative and SMART strategic move.

One suggestion – maybe don’t count as much at the start throughout the high strokes and the settle. It can get monotonous after awhile so don’t be afraid to change it up and replace the numbers with catch or finish-related calls. You called it really well though – tone, intonation, intensity were all perfect. Don’t change any of that.”

Other calls I liked:

“Break ’em through the bridge…”

“Here we go, we got each other’s backs…”

Drexel University 2014 Knecht Cup Women’s Freshman 8+ Grand Final

There’s not much I would change here except for all the counting. I talked about this a bit in the power ten post from last week. Over the course of 2000m it’s probably unnecessary to be calling more than five or six power bursts. It’s important to remember too that just because you’re calling a 5, 10, 15, or 20 doesn’t mean that you have to count out every. single. stroke. Calls like jump, swing, attack, legs, sit up, breathe, together, send, long, stride, press, power, etc. are just as effective when you intersperse them between or in place of 1, 2, 3, etc.

Related: All about Power 10s

I’ve talked about this with regards to tone in the past but make sure that you’re making an effort to match it with the calls the you’re making. If you want calls like that one to relax at 3:10 to be effective, maybe try not to sound possessed as you say it.

At 5:30 she says “It’s gonna be intense, it’s gonna be a fight, get ready…”, which sounds like something that would have/probably was said at the start of a Muhammad Ali – George Foreman bout. Good call coming into the last 500m.

Other calls I liked:

“2, be an animal, 3, be an animal…”

“Bow four, I need your speed…”

“This will be a dogfight, get dirty, get proud, now walk…”

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

Coxswain recordings, pt. 20

College Coxing High School Racing Recordings

Coxswain recordings, pt. 20

Marietta Tiger Navy Lightweight 8+ 2014 Midwest Championships Grand Final

This is from Sunday’s final in the lightweight 8+ at Midwest where they finished 2nd overall and received an automatic bid to nationals at Mercer.

One of the big things I talked about with our coxswain when we were going over this on the way home was that she’d make calls like “even”, “a deck up”, “they’re sagging”, “pulling ahead”, etc. but not say on who. If it’s just you and another crew up on the rest of the field then calls like that are fine but when you’re still within the pack, you can’t assume that the crew knows who you’re talking about. Similarly with regards to “specifics”, there were several times where the margins she called were way off. That’s one of the things that you’ve got to be accurate about if you’re gonna make calls for it, which you should be. If your crew is the one that’s up, you make the call based on where you – the coxswain – are. If your crew is down, you make the call based on where your bowball is. The latter is obviously tougher to gauge than just looking straight across to the other boat but it’s not that difficult if you possess even the slightest amount of depth perception. Being up a length means the crews are bow to stern – the bow of the crew that’s behind is on the stern deck of the crew that’s ahead. Being up a length of open means there’s a full boat length of open water between the crew that’s up and the one that’s down.

At 1:28 you hear the stroke say “down” because the stroke rate was too high and the crew didn’t lengthen out as much as they needed/were supposed to. From personal experience I’ve found that this is almost always because I called the settle poorly. When I’ve been sharper with the calls and given the rowers more prep time to get ready for them, they tend to be smoother and more “on” in terms of getting the stroke rate where we want it in the fewest strokes possible. Sometimes it’s because of tendencies that individuals have (i.e. rushing) but I also kinda take the blame for that sometimes because there’s almost always something I could be saying to address that. In this case, better preparation for the settle(s) and sharper calls would have helped.

At 2:03 the coxswain says “competition’s New Trier”, which we already knew going into the race so I’m not sure why she made that call but regardless, you’ve established who your main competition is, now use that to do something. This would have been the perfect spot (especially after that call and the fact that it was right at the 500m mark) to take a ten  to regain the two seats they just took in the last 100m or so. Between 2:21 and 3:21 though New Trier walks nearly a full length on us. As a coxswain you’ve got to recognize that that’s happening and make a call to counter it. It’s fine to be “in the zone” but you can’t be so in the zone that you ignore everything that’s happening outside the small confines of the coxswain’s seat.

5:58 was the only part of the race that really pissed me off. She calls “20 to go” and then the crew took three strokes. Three strokes after the coxswain called last 20. This was another thing I talked about with the girls and later with our head coach – when you’re racing, you’re giving 97, 98, 99% every stroke. When your coxswain calls “last however many to the line” that’s kinda when you re-negotiate with yourself about how much you’re hurting and say “OK, there’s 20 strokes left … I can go little bit harder over these next 20 to make sure I finish on completely empty”. You prepare to kill your body just a little bit more because your coxswain’s told you there’s a finite amount of strokes left – it’s balls to the wall, lights out for the next 20.

When you over exaggerate the amount of strokes left by seventeen there’s a good possibility that you just robbed your crew a few tenths of a second. It’s not about the rowers pacing themselves for the end or anything like that, it’s just them digging deeper within themselves to make sure they use up every last drop of energy they’ve got. There is a big difference between the two; one’s physical and one is mental. When they cross the line after only three strokes, there’s a possibility that they’re gonna think “Wait … what? I’m 99% empty, I’ve still got 1% left”. If five, six, seven people think that, how many tenths of a second do you think that amounts to? In this race a few tenths of a second wouldn’t have made a difference but who’s to say it won’t at nationals? When I coxed the lightweight 8+ there our semi-final had like, two seconds between 1st through 5th place. That margin between the individual crews was small. In situations like that, tenths of a second matter. When medals and championships are on the line, tenths of a second matter.

University of Delaware 2013 Dad Vail Lightweight 8+ Grand Final

Right out of the gate, the way she calls the start and high strokes is great. Her tone, how she’s annunciating the calls, etc. all vibes right with the strokes and just flows perfectly. This goes a long way in helping establishing the crew’s rhythm off the line.

I really loved how coming into Strawberry Mansion (which is about 750m in, I think) she says “as soon as we’re straight we’re gonna light it the fuck up“. I think her calls immediately after the bridge were a little lackluster though. Everything felt rushed and not as on point as most of the other calls up to this point. After a call as a strong as that “light it up” one I expected a little more fire when she called the move at the thousand.

As they’re coming into the last 500 she starts getting pretty shout-y and cheerleader-y  and also maybe a little too cocky because even though they were up, they definitely didn’t have it 100% in the bag yet. That’s an important thing to keep in mind, you’ve gotta cox the whole race, not just the first 1750m and then cheer the rest of the way. Overall though I’d say this was pretty solid … especially considering this girl was a walk-on who only started coxing eight months before this race.

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