Now that the fall recruiting season is winding down I wanted to share this video that I came across a few months ago. If you’re not familiar with him, Geno Smith is the coach of UConn’s women’s basketball team (always one of the top programs in the country), as well as a former head coach of Team USA’s women’s basketball team. What he says in this video might be in the context of basketball but it’s applicable to any sport and something to keep in mind as you progress throughout your career and the recruiting process.
ONE YEAR AGO
VOTW: Behind the Scenes of “The Boys of ’36”
VOTW: That time a boat sank at HOCR
TWO YEARS AGO
QOTD: Hello! I was wondering if you have any tips for when you feel burned out with coxing. I just don’t feel like I’m really doing my best in the boat and I feel like I have rowers who do not appreciate me or all the stress that I’m putting in to be the best I can be. I’m not getting any feedback even though I repeatedly ask for it and just don’t feel like a respected part of the team and while I love this sport I don’t really know what to do.
QOTD: Hi, I love your blog! I just started coxing this year and it has been so helpful and informative so far. My question: for my team’s first regatta this fall, I coxed the 3V which I was pretty proud of considering I’m a novice cox and the 1V and 2V are coxed by upperclassmen. However, for the next regatta, I found out I got moved down to the 4V. I want to know why and how I can get back in the 3V, but don’t want to annoy my coaches or seem like I’m resentful or overly focused on myself instead of the team as a whole. I’m not super upset by the switch but I’d really like to be back in the 3V for the spring. Also, I was told to be more “bitchy” in the boat, but I want to make sure I’m constructively assertive and not mean or unnecessarily aggressive. Do you have any suggestions for how to talk to my coaches about this or to get back into a higher boat, or tips for being “bitchy” in a helpful way? Sorry if this question has already been answered! Thanks so much!
College recruiting: Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails (Posting a pt. 2/follow-up to this post next week based on an email I got this morning. Stay tuned.)
THREE YEARS AGO
QOTD: Hi! I’m a freshman coxswain on my college’s club crew team and I coxed for four years in high school. My team is going to our first race this weekend and it’s a head race. We only have about 1000 meters of water to use when we practice, so we haven’t actually rowed a 5k at practice and my boat has only really had one practice together. How do I go about coxing a head race when my boat hasn’t been together very long and some of the boys in my boat have never even rowed 5000 meters continuously?
VOTW: What makes the fastest crew?
QOTD: Hi! I’m a high school junior and I’m fairly certain I want to row DIII in college. When does it make sense to fill out recruitment forms? I’m going to visit a college I’m potentially interested in in about a month and I was thinking of filling out their form and maybe sending the coach an email but I’m not sure if I’m serious about the school yet and I don’t want to waste their time. Thank you!
QOTD: How do you as a coxswain help your rowers when they are erging in the winter?
FOUR YEARS AGO
QOTD: Hi Kayleigh! Last week, I lost my voice after one of our fall head races. I was talking to my coaches and they said that your “coxing voice” shouldn’t come directly from the throat or something like that – it should come from deep breaths from your stomach or the bottom part of your throat. I am now officially confused and don’t know who else to ask! Help please? Thanks!
QOTD: Hey, so I am the 2V coxswain and we almost always practice with the 1V. Our coach usually starts us a length ahead (or something like that), but the 1V always comes back up. I was just wondering how I can keep the rowers calmer and still take great strokes as they walk on us (and if that happens in a race situation).
QOTD: Do you have any advice for a novice coxswain who just crashed for the first time? It really shook me up and I know I won’t be able to get back in the boat for a few days (due to our walk-on coxswain rotation) but I want to get over it.
FIVE YEARS AGO
VOTW: Gold Fever
QOTD: What should be the difference between 5k and 2k splits?
QOTD: So I know you mostly get questions from coxswains but do ya think you could riddle me this? I’m a high school rower (started last winter) so technically I’m still a novice but since the beginning of summer I’ve been rowing varsity. I absolutely love the sport but I sometimes feel a bit intimidated by the fact that I’m constantly racing girls older than me! I’m only 15 and most of the girls I race & row with are getting ready to head off to college! Any advice on how to face the competition?
It hurts a lot but they quickly find out that no matter how much it hurts you can keep doing it. We hope that'll carry over into their racing, that they realize when they're racing really hard that the body's gonna say "no, I don't want to do this" but they find out that they can make the body keep doing it, they can keep making the boats go fast. The people who learn this best are the ones who win races.Harry Parker Harvard University
I’m starting to think we should start warning coxswains about the docks at CBC rather than the bridge piers at Eliot. Saw a lot of near misses yesterday, which was both hilarious and concerning. Hope everyone had a good weekend of racing and enjoyed that weather – we’re probably in for hurricanes and snow for the next five years to make up for it.
Busy, busy weekend ahead. I’ll be around the course a bit on Saturday and most of the day on Sunday so if you see me definitely feel free to say hi! In the mean time, if you want/need to do some last minute prep, make sure you check out the “Head of the Charles” tag, specifically the posts on the bridges, turns, Weeks, landmarks, calling your race, and of course, yesterday’s post on what to race in if you’re not sure what to wear/pack. Good luck to everybody racing and uh, stay away from those bridge piers.
I get this question a lot in the lead up to this weekend, especially from novice coxswains, masters coxswains, and everyone who isn’t from Boston/the Northeast. It’s not usually warm enough to wear just a long sleeve and trou or tights at HOCR but thanks to global warming, who knows – depending on when you race, this year it might be. I think I’ve worn a varying amount of layers each time I’ve raced (this year will be my sixth) but this might be my lightest year yet.
Related: Head of the Charles
Now obviously if you’re racing with your school club or team then you’ll have “official” gear to wear but if, like me, you can basically show up and race in whatever you want (#mastersDGAF), hopefully this will give you an idea of what to bring.
This year was particularly annoying because I’ve never had to actually pack for HOCR before, which is the downside to living 220 miles away from the river now instead of 6. The urge to overpack was strong. Above is what I settled on though – low 60s at race time, mid 70s during the day. This will obviously fluctuate a lot each year depending on the weather (maybe I’ll make this a recurring series…) so consider this only applicable for weirdly-out-of-season warm-ish temperatures like the ones we’ll be treated to this weekend.
Image via // WBUR
Ever wondered how the HOCR course gets put in place? This video provides a pretty fascinating look at how the buoys and installation process have evolved over the last 53 years.
ONE YEAR AGO
VOTW: HOCR River Operations
TWO YEARS AGO
THREE YEARS AGO
QOTD: Hey, I was wondering if you could explain the difference between seat racing and matrixes? Thanks!
Coxswain recordings, pt. 25 Two HOCR recordings from the women’s champ 8+ event
VOTW: The first 50 years of HOCR
QOTD: How do you beach launch? It’s going to be my first regatta and I haven’t beach launched yet. My coach isn’t showing any signs of teaching me. Is it similar to regular launching off the dock? Thanks!
FOUR YEARS AGO
QOTD: Hi, I’m debating talking to my coach about why I am not in the first boat. I am not trying to be cocky I just want to know what’s preventing me from being in the top boat. I’ve consistently been within top 5 for both raw scores, and weight adjusted on the ergs. My coaches tell me I have a great attitude and I’m assuming my technique is fine because he has never said otherwise, plus I stroke 2V. When we do pieces at most 1V is a seat ahead of us. Do you think asking could come off as egotistical?
Coxswain recordings, pt. 13 Purdue-Notre Dame duel and Purdue V8+ at SIRAs
QOTD: Hi, I never know what it means when someone asks me what the boat “feels” like. Like the rush for example. I’m not sure what that feels like vs. a boat with no rush. Just in general, I’m not sure how to gauge whether a piece felt good or bad. I feel like the only things I can see are blade height, square up timing, catch timing, and if bodies are moving together, and I can tell if the boat was really moving and if there was power. But what else should I be aware of?
QOTD: In your opinion, what is the worst mistake a coxswain could ever make?
QOTD: How did you know when you were ready to go back to rowing? I am in a similar situation; I was burned out and took a few months off. During my time off I realized I wasn’t coxing for the right reasons and I think I’ve discovered what the right reasons are. Now I miss it like crazy but I’m worried about going back too soon.
FIVE YEARS AGO
Coxswain recordings, pt. 1 Pete Cipollone’s 1997 HOCR race and Upper Thames 2011 Head of the River
QOTD: My rowers told me after practice today that I should focus on the tone of my voice and not be so “intense” during our practices. I don’t really know how to fix that actually. Like I don’t think I am so “intense” but rather just firm and trying to be concise with the command I give out. They said that they really like how I cox during a race piece because my intensity level fits the circumstances. But they also said that if I cox in a similar tone to race pieces, they can’t take me seriously during the races. But my problem when I first started coxing was not being firm enough and getting complaints about how I should be more direct on my commands. Now when I am, my rowers say this. I don’t really know what is the happy medium. Like I listen to coxing recordings and I feel like I am doing fairly similar tones.
QOTD: Do you recommend carrying a small pocket notebook or having a regular size notebook for notes? I currently have a pocket notebook during erg pieces to jot down splits and times. How do you organize all your thoughts and coxswain information?
When coxswains think about Head of the Charles their first thought is about how they’re going to steer and navigate their way through the three-mile long course. A distant second is their race plan and maybe an even further distant third is how they’re actually going to call the race. The framework that a race plan provides can take a lot of weight off your shoulders but beyond knowing what to execute you’ve also got to know how you’re going to do it.
Related: Head of the Charles
When I think about how I’m going to execute my race plan at HOCR, I first break the race up into three sections and then think about what I want my baseline tone of voice to be throughout each of those sections. When I say “baseline” tone, what I mean is that it’s what I plan to fall back to in between the normal bursts I already have built into my race plan. With an understanding of what tone is in the context of coxing (how you use your voice to emphasize what you’re asking the crew to do), I approach each section with an idea of what I want the crew to be thinking/feeling and how I can use my voice to keep them on track. Here’s how I lay it out.
Section 1: BU through Riverside
BU Bridge is notorious for funneling any amount of westerly winds right through the arches and into the backs of the crews who have just come down off their high strokes and are starting to settle into their rhythm. My teammates are all seasoned pros so I know a little wind isn’t going to throw them off but I still want to emphasize staying relaxed in the shoulders and long through the back end in order to establish our rhythm early in the race. I want their relaxation and focus to mirror mine so my goal with tone throughout this section is to keep it calm and conversational but with just enough fire in my voice to keep them on their toes. On a scale of 1-10, I want to be around 6 – 6.5.
Section 2: Powerhouse through Newell
This mile-long stretch of the course is the make-or-break zone. If you can make it through here unscathed and with the crew’s focus still inside your boat, the next section is going to be a breeze (Eliot Bridge be damned). My goal for this section is simple: we’re not chasing other crews down, we’re just gonna push the pace and see who can hang with us. Keeping the rowers engaged and their focus internal is key here, especially given the number of distractions that present themselves through this stretch, which means the underlying tone of my calls is going to have a little more fire and “push” than the first section. On a scale of 1-10, I’m shooting for a 7 – 7.5.
Section 3: Top of the Eliot turn through the finish line
Through here our goal is to maintain our speed while fighting fatigue as we drive for the line. This is where I’m using my tone and calls to keep each individual connected to the crew and not let the frenzied atmosphere around us draw them outside of the boat. You have to fight the energy a little bit and not get spastic otherwise you’ll lose the crew’s attention at one of the most pivotal points in the race. The intensity is higher here, around an 8.5, but the ultimate backbone of this part of the race is composure. You can’t be effective at a higher intensity if you lack composure so you have to keep your tone crisp and clear as the fire builds behind your calls.
This race is an equal combination of fun and stress which makes it really easy to get overwhelmed once you’re in the thick of it. If you start sensing your tone going from composed to frantic, breathe. You have about three seconds, give or take, to collect yourself and get back in the right headspace. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time but you’d be surprised at how quickly you can turn it around if you just shake out your shoulders, take a deep breath, and tell yourself to “refocus”.
You’re the leader on race day and no race is more of a performance piece for coxswains than Head of the Charles. Do yourself a favor and take the time beforehand to lay out your plan so that you go into it knowing exactly what you want to accomplish and how you want to sound while doing it.