Tag: lineups

College Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

I’ve been coxing for a little bit over a year now in my college crew, and we are currently working on prepping our guys for head race season. There are three coxswains, including me, but two boats so right now I’m fighting for my seat. I feel like all three of us have about the same collegiate coxing experience and have about the same capability of steering correctly for that race, so all that really differs are our styles. One of the cox’s is super happy and upbeat and really cheers the guys on to race better while the other one is really technically savvy and gets really aggressive whereas I’m pretty much smack dab in the middle of their styles. I have a feeling that my coach prefers them over me but I don’t want to change and be something I’m not. What should I do?

I get what you’re saying but I also think it’s important to point out that when you’re in the boat, even though you’re “in charge”, you’re still working for eight other people (nine, if you count your coach). If there’s something that’s preferred by the majority, you have to be the one to adapt, not them. I’m not a super peppy, cheery type of coxswain but I’ve coxed boats where that’s the style they’ve responded best to, so even though it’s not my style or personality at all, I had to incorporate some of that into my coxing because it’s what made the boat faster. I’ve also had coaches who pushed me to be a more technical, drill sergeant-y coxswain that I was prepared to be given that’d I’d only been coxing for a year or so. I wasn’t thrilled about adapting my style of coxing to be more of either of those things but I also had no right or reason to say “no, I’m not doing this”. Even now, I’ve been coxing for 15 years and I still adapt to whatever the crew wants (even when they say they’ll default to my style) because saying “I don’t want to change and be something I’m not” just fundamentally feels like I’m going against the most basic role of coxing, which is to serve the crew.

Anyways, to answer your question, you should talk with your coach. Say that you want to make sure you’re staying competitive for one of the two spots that are available and you wanted to see what observations they’d made about your coxing through the first few weeks of practice. If you’ve been working on stuff, like refining your steering or increasing your technical feedback during drill work, say that and ask if there are any other areas where they feel you could stand to make improvements that would give you a better shot at being placed in one of those two boats.

I don’t typically think you should bring up other coxswains in conversations like this but I do think a good question to ask every once in awhile is what they’re doing well that you could incorporate if it’s not something you’re doing already. At MIT our varsity coxswain the last two years was always great about keeping things running during practice, not wasting time, responding immediately when we’d ask him to do something, etc. and that was huge in ensuring we were using our time effectively. Our 2V coxswain was OK at this but still left a lot to be desired so this was something I talked about with her a lot, especially in the context of things she could do to make a case for being boated higher. Bottom line, if you get the feeling your coach prefers the other coxswains over you, talk to them and see if that’s the case … but approach it by asking what they’re doing to make things run better, faster, and smoother, not in a whine-y “why do you like them better than me” kind of way. (I’ve been in the room when college coxswains have done that and it just makes me roll my eyes so hard.)

I can’t remember what the context of this story was but a coach I worked with a few years ago said that one of the best things a new varsity coxswain asked him was “what did [the last varsity coxswain, let’s call him Jake] do that made your job easier?”. (He was similar to you, pretty much in between two other coxswains and was trying to figure out how he could get an edge over the other two in order to become the permanent 1V coxswain.) Obviously all the standard stuff applied but the primary thing was Jake’s coachability and adaptability, meaning that he took feedback, reflected on it, and found ways to immediately tweak his coxing based on what he was seeing/hearing from others. He also was able to get into any boat, be it the 1V eight or the 4V four and make it go fast, even when the boats varied wildly in the style of coxing they responded to. If you can get into a boat that likes cheerleaders and get them to respond and then get in a boat the next day with a crew who likes an in-your-face hardass and do the same thing (and steer straight on top of all of that), you’re basically worth your weight in gold.

Basically what you need to do is, one, like I said, talk to your coach and two, whenever you’re in the launch, observe the styles, presence, etc. of the other two coxswains to see what they’re doing well and then try to incorporate some of that into your own coxing the next time you go out. The absolute dumbest reason for losing your seat in a boat is “I didn’t want to change what I was doing”. You’ve only been coxing for a year so while I get that you’ve probably established a style of coxing, it’s definitely not going to be the one you stick with for your entire career so use this opportunity to identify the areas where you can ebb and flow a bit with your approach in order to give you the best shot at making one of the boats.

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hi Kayleigh! I’m a coxswain coming out of my novice year into varsity (I’m a sophomore in high school). There’s 3 total varsity coxswains, one of whom came out of my novice year with me, and my coach told us that she’d be rotating us in and out of the 2V for some practices to see which one of us would be long-term coxing it. The first day of this, she put the other coxswain in, which at the time was no big deal as we’d be rotating, or so I thought. She has never rotated me into this boat or rotated the other girl out. Even this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but the boat I’m coxing, the ‘3V’ if you could call it that, is composed entirely of girls who row only scholastically (not for our actual club), and a few of the more advanced novii. A few girls in the 2V have mentioned that they prefer my coxing style and want me to cox them, but I have been given – quite literally – no chance. It’s really bothering me as I feel that I am capable and even if I can’t say right off the bat I deserve that boat, I was promised a chance to try and I know I deserve that much. Since the novices of the 3V will go back to racing novice once regattas start to strengthen that program, and the girls who row only scholastically will compete for their schools, I will be left without a crew. How should I handle this? Would it be too forward to discuss the matter with my coach?

Absolutely not. If she already told you that she’d be rotating you in then you should hold her to that. Talk to her before practice, remind her that she said she’d switch you guys out, and ask if you can take the 2V out today.

One thing I’ve always found to be helpful (not just in this context but whenever I have to remind people that they said they’d do something…) is to include as many details from the original conversation as possible and avoid making “you said” comments that could make you sound accusatory or impatient (though tbh you have every right to be impatient in this case). Rather than just saying “Hey, you said I could cox the 2V at some point, can I take them out today?”, say “Hey, during the first week of practice we’d talked about rotating the three of us through the 2V to determine who was gonna cox it for the rest of the season and I wanted to see if I could hop in there today or tomorrow since I haven’t had a chance to take them out yet. I’ve been working on XYZ with the 3V over the last few weeks and can see where I’ve made improvements that I think make me competitive for the 2V but I’d like the chance to show you and get your feedback before a final decision is made on who’ll be in the boat the rest of the fall.”.

The reason why I think this works (and this is just my own personal theory) is because it shows you were paying attention when that initial conversation happened because it’s something that is important to you and if you can communicate that by repeating back to whoever you’re talking to verbatim (or as close to it as you can) what was originally discussed, they’re much more likely to take your request(s) seriously and hold up their end of it. I also refuse to let people make me feel like a nagging asshole for bringing up something they said they’d do and haven’t done yet so if they feel awkward because they’re getting called out, even when it’s done in normal conversation with no negative or passive-aggressive undertones … *shrug*.

(Granted, I also fully recognize/admit that that’s because I’m in that phase of your late-20s where you realize some stuff is just not worth giving a shit about anymore. Thinking people are going to get mad or offended because I’m standing up for myself, in whatever aspect, is just not something I can allocate one of the few fucks I have to give towards.)

I’ve worked in tandem with enough coaches over the last four years that it’s become obvious when they’ve just gotten into a routine with one coxswain + crew and it’s slipped their mind that they said they’d switch someone else in there … and also when they’ve decided they just really like a certain coxswain and hope that the other ones will forget that they said they’d give them a shot (sometimes because they were never going to give them one in the first place). The former is mildly annoying but not at all malicious or ultimately that big of a deal. The latter is just a dick move and frankly, lazy AF on their part. I totally get why some coxswains are apprehensive about saying something too (in either situation – I’ve been in both and felt the same way) but you really do have to hold their feet to the fire if you’re serious about wanting a shot. If you’re not following up with them (in a timely manner), nothing I say is gonna help you.

If you’re getting a sense like they’ve already made their decision and are just hoping you forget or don’t notice that you never actually got to go out with the 2V then, again, talk to them before practice and say “I wanted to see where you were at with regards to who’d be coxing the 2V. I’ve been working on XYZ and would really like a shot to show why I think I’d be good in that boat. I don’t know if you’ve already made a decision but one way or the other, I just wanted to see if the opportunity was still there to go out with that boat for a practice.”.

The thing you have to remember – at practice, at school, at work, etc. – is that you have to be your own biggest advocate. This has always been one of the biggest lessons I took away from coxing too. I know that it’s awkward to feel like you’re calling out someone in a senior position but sometimes it’s gotta be done. It pays off in the long run too because if you can get over that feeling of thinking you can’t or shouldn’t do this while you’re young (and in relatively low-consequence situations like this), it makes it a lot easier to stand up for yourself (especially as a woman) when you’re older and in situations with actual real life ramifications, like salary negotiations, promotions … even stuff like harassment. Look at this as just another skill you’ve gotta develop and add to your arsenal. And hey, if you end up getting to go out with the 2V for a couple days, consider that a bonus.

How to rotate through the sixes

Coxing Drills How To Rowing

How to rotate through the sixes

This regularly gets asked by new coxswains at the start of each season so hopefully this helps you learn the order of the switches, as well as who’s being switched in and out.

Related: Transitioning by fours in an 8+ always confuses me. I know you start with stern four, then stern pair out, then three four in, but what’s after that? Who goes in and out in what order? Thanks!

It’s not nearly as difficult as it looks but it does help to familiarize yourself with the transitions before you actually need to call them.

Image via // Boston Magazine

Q&A Rowing Technique

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m racing in a 4+ this weekend at HOCR. I have rowed port for the past 2.5 years, but my coach wants to see if I can row starboard and be bow seat. Do you have any advice on making this transition effectively so quickly? Thank you!!

The main things to be aware of, especially if you’ve been rowing on the same side for a long time, are what side you’re leaning to, what hand your pulling with, and what hand you’re feathering with. Everything will be the opposite of what you’re used to so it might take a bit before you remember that you have to feather with your right hand instead of your left and lean into your rigger on the port side instead of leaning away from it towards where your “normal” rigger is. With knowing which hand to pull with, if you’ve been rowing the same side for awhile then you’ve likely developed a bit more strength in your outside arm by comparison so you might be more likely to initially pull with that hand instead of your “new” outside hand. That and leaning towards the wrong side can cause some issues with getting fully connected at the catch but once you get some time on your new side they go away pretty quickly, especially if you’re aware of the issues and actively working on them.

Seat racing coxswains

Coxing Racing

Seat racing coxswains

I’m not a fan of seat racing coxswains. There are just way too many variables and you can’t quantify it the same way you can with rowers but despite all that, there are still coaches out there that do it. It’s one of those things that you’ve always gotta be prepared for just in case it happens to you but if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll never be caught off guard if your coach decides that a coxswain seat race is needed.

Related: Can I just flat out ask my coach for a coxswain seat race? How do I go about asking such a question?

I was going through some of my saved posts on Reddit the other day and came across this year-old reply that I’d written to a coxswain who was asking for advice on how to deal with being seat-raced. They said that they felt like an underdog compared to the person they were up against (who was a year older than them) but that they felt capable of beating them and wanted to know how to get the coach to look past their age so they could have a shot at the eight.

Related: Words

For those of you that are going up against someone more experienced than you (hell, even if you’re going up against an someone who is equally experienced), I implore you to read this first paragraph down below and really take it to heart because a) you need to hear it and b) if I’ve learned anything through this blog it’s that it’s unlikely anyone else is going to say it to you and be as straightforward about it. We’re two weeks into racing season and SRAAs, Youth Nationals, conference championships, IRAs, and NCAAs is going to be here before you know it. You want that top boat? Stop talking about how bad you want it and start doing the shit you need to do to entice your coaches to give you a shot.

“Fuck age, seniority, being an “underdog”, etc. Do not use that an excuse. Those things only become factors if you pay too much attention to them and let them become factors. Cox your race and let the other coxswain(s) cox theirs. If you think you’re capable of beating them, do it.

The coxswain who is smart, confident, strategic, resourceful, commanding, authoritative, aggressive, and respectful of the competition will earn the seat in the 8+. Steer a smart course and know what you need to say to get the most out of your rowers. This requires you to interact with them in order to find out what makes them tick. Pick their brains off the water so you can get in their heads on the water.

Oh, and don’t assume that this seat race is the only thing your coaches are looking at. They’ve been watching you since Day 1, the first day you showed up to practice when you were a novice, to see how well you interact with your teammates, what your presence on and off the water is like, if you command the respect of your teammates through your actions, how well you understand the technical side of rowing, how effectively you communicate what you want/need to happen, etc. The seat race is only a piece of the final puzzle.

Saying you want it isn’t enough. I have to be able to look at you and feel how bad you want you want that top 8+. Give your rowers a reason to want to pull hard for you. Don’t half ass anything. Make your intentions known from the first day of practice that you want that top eight and you’re going to work as hard as you can to get it. Do this without being a cocky, over-confident douche. Seat racing isn’t just something you can get in a boat and do. You’ve gotta prep for it just like you do any other race. Put the effort into perfecting your steering, working on your calls, getting feedback from your rowers and coaches after practice, etc. and then go out and execute when it’s time for your race. Get off the water knowing and believing that you couldn’t have done any more or any better than you just did.

Do all of that and your coaches might give you a shot.”

Rule #1: never refer to yourself as the underdog. Let other people say that about you but know that the minute you say it about yourself you’ve already lost. It absolutely drives me nuts when I hear people talk down about themselves like that because if you aren’t even confident in yourself how is that supposed to inspire me to be confident in you?

Image via // @rowingcelebration

Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

I’ve been rowing for six years and since my novice year I have consistently been in the V8. Our coach told us that in order to win we need to want to win more than the competition and in order to want it more we need to work so hard we can’t stomach the thought of losing. I’ve gotten to that point but it appears that this will be my first season in 11 that I will be rowing in the JV 8. I feel like a failure and that I’ve let myself down. It’s gotten to the point where it’s affecting other parts of my life. I’m taking it out through practice and working harder than ever. I feel like I’m being over dramatic but it’s so upsetting because I’ve made PRs on multiple erg tests (all are within the top 5 scores on the team) and I can feel that my stroke has significantly improved and it’s still not good enough. I know I’m being over dramatic but it hurts a lot and don’t know how to get over it. Do you have any advice?

This is why I have an issue (albeit a minor one) with coaches really pushing that whole “you have to want it to so much you’ll do XYZ” mindset because if it gets pushed too hard then people end up in the situation you’re in where they feel like failures because they’ve essentially been conditioned to think that not winning or being in the top eight or whatever is the worst thing ever. That’s just my opinion obviously but I think it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a fine line when it comes to stuff like that.

Erg scores aren’t everything. Most boat movers are good on the erg but not all those who are good on the erg can move a boat. I’m assuming that if you talk to your coach they’ll probably say that something about your technique is what put you in the JV8 which is encouraging since  fixing your technique is easy. Well, it’s not easy but it’s something you can easily commit to working on and improving, even in a short amount of time. Find out what it is you need to work on (it might be something specific or it might just be general…), commit to making and incorporating small improvements into your rowing, talk with your coach regularly about how you’re doing, and then after a couple weeks (like, two-ish minimum) ask if you can seat race for a spot in the V8.

I don’t necessarily think you’re being overly dramatic (maybe a little but not overly), I just think you’re being  harder on yourself than you need to be. Does getting put in the JV lineup after consistently being on varsity sting a little? Yea, it does but it’s the decision your coach made so you’ve gotta go with it (for now) and move on. Don’t throw yourself a pity party over this. My take on all of it is that if you’ve been rowing in the V8 for 11 seasons then whoever took your seat must be a really, really strong rower (either power wise, technique wise, or both), which means your coach probably had a really tough decision to make. This is a good thing. You want to have more than eight people competing for your top eight otherwise it’s a “top eight” in name only but if you’ve got ten people competing to be in it then you actually do have to narrow your lineup down to the eight best of those ten. Having a good 2nd/JV8 is good/important because it means the V8 is gonna have someone to push them during practice and vice-versa which in turn means everyone is going  to get faster.  This. is. what. you. want.  Right now whoever took your seat is (indirectly) saying “come and get me” so ultimately it’s your decision whether or not to put the time and work in to reclaim your spot.

Coxing Ergs Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hello! I’m a huge fan of your blog and was wondering if you had any tips on this: my coach (who is also a coxswain) forces us to cox rowers during their erg pieces. She said that even if they say “don’t cox me” we should ignore them and keep coxing them. I’d ignore this except she watches us to make sure we do it. She told us (me and the other coxswains) that whether or not we cox the ergs will help determine what boat we’re put in. I really want to stay in the first eight (the boat I have currently) but I also feel bad when rowers tell me not to cox them and I have to. I’ve had multiple rower friends tell me they hate that they’re coxed for erg pieces. Thank you!!

I don’t normally say this so bluntly (or ever, really) but your coach is kind of awful. That’s unbelievable (to me, at least) that a coach who’s also a coxswain would say that. The number one rule of coxing rowers on the erg is respect those who don’t want you to cox them (and if that’s not the number one rule, it is now…) so to stand guard to make sure you do it under threat of potentially not being in the boat you deserve irritates me on a borderline irrational level.

I genuinely just don’t understand the thought process there. I guess if I tried really hard then maybe I could explain it as her wanting to see how you cox the rowers in high-pressure situations but that seems like it might be stretching it. Have you ever asked her one-on-one why she says to ignore the rowers and cox them anyways, even after they’ve said to you that they don’t like it, or asked her what she thinks is gained by doing it (either by you or the rowers)? If you haven’t I would do that, at the very least to see what her answer is. Maybe have one of the rowers go with you so she an hear their side as well.

If I was in your position, this is one of those situations where I’d choose my relationship with my friends/teammates over a spot in a boat. If I had the first eight you’re damn right I’d want to keep it but not at the expense of losing the respect of the people in that boat. I think in your case they probably understand the difficult position you all are in (or I would at least hope they do) but if I was one of the rowers I would want to see you stick up for us rather than make a decision based on personal gain … if that makes sense.

Basically I’m saying that as the coxswains and, presumably, some of the leaders on the team as well, the rowers want to know that you’re gonna stick up for them and have their backs and this is one of those situations where I think it’s important to stick up for the people saying “don’t cox me” even if that means you might get taken out of the boat you want to be in. It’s a trust thing if you want to give it a label. They want to know you’re not going to throw them under the bus just to get the boat you want. If that isn’t something that your coach can understand then … that’s pretty unfortunate.

Racing Rowing

Question of the Day

Why do coaches put out mixed crews for races? Don’t they want us to win? Your blog is AMAZING!! You have helped so much, thanks! 🙂

To be honest, I never really understood mixed lineups during races either but all in all I think it’s a pretty harmless thing to do. Mixed lineups during practice, especially at the beginning of the season, is great but I probably wouldn’t race those lineups at any point past the first race or two. I really don’t think it has anything at all to do with winning or losing though. If your coach races mixed lineups and you’re curious why, just ask him/her what their rationale is behind that. Once they explain it it might make more sense to you and seem less random/dumb.

In my experience it’s largely been a chance for the less experienced rowers to be in a boat that’s (hopefully) more stable which in turn lets them focus a bit more on their stroke and technique without having to worry about all the other distractions that would otherwise be present in a boat made up of entirely less experienced people. For the varsity rowers who might be/probably are pissed that they’re rowing that lineup, all I can say is … chill. You were in that position once too and there were probably varsity rowers that at the time felt the same way about you. Part of being able to call yourself a varsity athlete is knowing that there’s some responsibility on you to help the less-experienced rowers get up to speed. Just go with it and use that time to set a good example by having a good attitude and focusing on rowing well as an individual. The boat’s probably not going to feel perfect but again, you should look at that as an opportunity to figure out what adjustments you can make to your rowing so that when the boat feels similarly once you’re rowing in your regular lineups you’ll already know what changes to make before your coach or coxswain says something.

Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

So due to a bunch of injuries a girl from the boat below us got moved up to our boat for the time being. Well another girl in the boat above us is now injured, and so they need to pull someone from our boat for the next race, and our coach said it will be our other port, the girl from the boat below us who is only with us for the time being. I swear I literally harbor 0 bad feelings or jealously for her, I just have to wonder from a coaching standpoint why they would make this choice. Thanks!

We’ve had some similar issues lately too. Just going off of that I’d say your coach is looking at this one of two ways: either the girl he moved up is one of those rowers who fits in/meshes well with whatever boat she’s put in (versatility and flexibility are golden qualities for a rower to have from a coaching standpoint) or she’s literally his only option for one reason or another (it’s hard to guess the reasons because it can vary so much). In most cases though where I’ve seen a coach make a lineup switch like this it’s because of the first reason I listed.

Pro tip though, in late April/early May, don’t get injured and/or sick. Take care of yourselves! I know coaches might act like all they care about is their lineups (that’s probably how it’s come off to our team lately) or like they’re pissed at you because of something that’s (nine times out of ten) completely out of your control, but I promise neither of those are true. The vast majority of coaches out there really care about you guys and look at you as way more than just a body in a seat.

From my perspective with having to deal with these same issues over the last couple of weeks, it’s way more frustrating on an administrative level than anything else. When we hear that someone is sick, injured, etc. we’re automatically thinking about if it’s even possible to make a lineup switch/change, how we’re going to re-configure those lineups to give each crew the best possible shot at winning, what the limitations are on how many events people can row in, how close one event is to another, etc.  and if that’s going to affect anything, and on top of all of that, the paperwork (with updated lineups) that has to be re-submitted to the regattas we’re going to that weekend. If it comes off like your coach is mad at you, think back to this post and know that their irritation is more than likely related to the things I just listed and not towards you.