Author: readyallrow

College Q&A Recruiting Rowing

Question of the Day

I’m currently a junior in high school. I’m 5’6 and 140 pounds. Recently I have started getting more serious about rowing & want to row in college. As a junior I know that this time is critical for college recruiting but I feel that I don’t have much to offer to colleges. I only row spring season so I don’t have as much experience on the water and none sculling. Last year as a sophomore I pulled an 8:35 2k and was in the lowest varsity boat. This year I’ve gotten my 2k down to a 7:54 and we still have a few months until the season. What would be a good 2k for the start of junior year and to be considered for colleges? I know that I can drop 4 seconds easily since my last 2k as I was just concerned with breaking 8 so it was more of a mental barrier. Is it feasible for me to drop to a 7:40 2k by February if I continue to work out? I’m afraid that I won’t be able to because I’ve already dropped so much time and I really don’t know my physical max yet because I have always PRed each time I have done a 2k but felt like I could have given more if I hadn’t got into my head. Also could I become a recruitable athlete even with my limited experience and pretty slow times? Could I try for lightweight programs even though I hover around a 139-141 right now?

I think the number of people that have sculling or small boats experience going into college is relatively small so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. It definitely helps your technique but I think the majority of rowers I know didn’t start sculling until the summer after their freshman year of college. Only a handful actually sculled in high school and that was only because their teams had the equipment available (whereas as most don’t). Same goes for only rowing in the spring – I know a ton of rowers that only did the spring season, either because it was all their school offered, they played a fall sport, or their school required them to do a different sport each semester. Coaches factor that stuff in too when looking at your times – somebody that only rows 4-5 months out of the year typically isn’t gonna be held to the same standard as those who are rowing year-round. Check out the post linked below for more on that.

Related: College recruiting: Technique and erg scores

I’m not as familiar with women’s times as I am with men’s but from what I’ve heard over the last couple of years, to stand out to top programs (i.e. grand final and top half of the petite finals at NCAAs) you should be in the 7:20 – 7:30ish range. If you’re a little slower (i.e. 7:30 – 7:40ish) but have really solid grades, that can make up for being a little off the pace they usually recruit at. If you’re sub-7:20, well, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting looks from the schools you’re interested in.

If you’re at 7:54 right now and have been regularly training on your own (steady state, lifting, cross-training, etc.) then PR’ing on your next test should definitely be a possibility. 7:40 seems like an aggressive drop unless it’s been a while since your last 2k, in which case … maybe? I’d probably set my goal at something more feasible though, like 7:50 and if you go sub-7:50 then great but if not, at least you still hit this goal. If getting into your head during pieces is something you struggle with then smaller goals like this will definitely benefit you more (mentally) than striving for something huge like a 14 second drop.

You could actually probably go lightweight or openweight but if your natural weight is 10ish pounds over the lightweight minimum I’d probably have a serious conversation with your doctor first before you tried losing weight. You’ll be lifting a lot (more than you probably are now) in college too so you’ve gotta anticipate putting muscle on from that so that’s another thing you’ve gotta consider if you’re thinking about going lightweight. Personally I’d probably go the route of just staying at 140ish+, partially because there’s not as many lightweight programs and you’ll likely have more opportunities as an openweight. Do that, get a solid amount of steady state meters in each week throughout the winter, train smart, lift, etc. and you’ll have no problem dropping down into the 7:40s.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 45

Coxing Racing Recordings

Coxswain recordings, pt. 45

JNT High Performance Team U19 8+ Time trials

I think I’ve posted a couple of Dustin’s recordings (this one in particular is great for this time of year) but I really recommend checking out his YouTube channel and giving some of the stuff he’s got posted a listen. He’s one of the few coxswains who I wholeheartedly endorse as embodying everything it means to be a good coxswain.

Related: Tips for coxing a time trial

Time trials seem like they’ve started becoming more of a thing over the last year or two so this is another example of how to call one if you’re unsure of what your strategy, tone, etc. should be. They definitely require a bit of a different approach since they’re not quite a 2k and not a quite a head race but this recording is a good example of how it’s done.

One thing that I cannot stress enough – and I hear this from rowers all. the. time. – is you have to make sure you tell them when they’re on like he does here at 1:48ish. You can’t get so caught up in the build that you forget to tell the crew when they’ve crossed the line. How he executes that entire starting sequence is pretty solid too, both with his calls and tone.

At 2:44, this is a good way to call a quick 5 (or anything really with regards to what the burst is for) – “in two we go for five, we place the blades quicker, we engage the legs … on this one“. That’s another thing to pay attention to throughout this piece – how he calls their moves.

Similar to calling when you cross the line at the start, the importance of nailing the number of strokes left to the line at the end cannot be overstated. This is so easy to practice too, you don’t have to be racing or doing pieces to do it, just pick something that’s in front of you (like a boat docked along the shore, a bridge, whatever…) and run through the calls in your head like you would as you’re coming to the line. This was one of the things that helped me get better at judging distances too, not necessarily in the “50 meters to the line” sense but just in judging how many strokes it takes to get to X landmark. The better you are at judging the distance by eye the easier it’ll be for you to say with confidence “seven strokes to the line” and have it actually be seven strokes to the line.

Wellesley College WV8+ 2016 National Invitational Rowing Championships

This is another coxswain who I’ve posted a couple recordings of – you can check the others out here and here.

A question that came up a lot throughout the fall was how to call out your rowers during a race and I think Ale does a great job of showing how to do that here. You can hear her call out Amelia at 1:05 and 1:32, Sahar at 1:47, Molly at 2:13 and 3:13, and Katie at 3:01 and 5:18 … everything she says is super simple, very direct, and not anything that takes away from the overall point of whatever technical or strategic thing she’s trying to get the entire boat to accomplish, which is something you should be keeping in mind whenever you make individual calls like this.

Other calls I liked:

“Pry into their 6-seat…”

“In two, we sharpen our knives…”

“There are no questions, we stride with our confidence…”

“In two, we trust our training…”

“We suspend, we move … we suspend, we move…”

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

Just wanted to say that your blog has been so useful to my rowing and I’d like to thank you for it. Firstly I’ve been rowing for about a year and am a J15 in the UK system. I like rowing and enjoy the challenge but am starting to find it a bit repetitive. I also find myself in a race situation knowing what I needs to change in a boat in order to make it faster but not being able to physically execute it myself. My erg times and splits also aren’t great and I’m starting to get disheartened by this.

I’m 5ft4 and weigh about the right amount to cox but am worried I’ve left it too late to switch. I’ve been trying coxing over the Christmas training period and am really enjoying it. The rowers in the boats I’ve coxed have said that I’m really good and that my technical calls and motivation are both great which is nice to hear. However there are already 3 coxes in my squad and although my coach said she wanted another, there is another person who also wants to cox. I would also feel really bad if I ended up coxing more than the 3 existing coxes as I feel like they would have put more work in and deserve it more.

In general thank you for reading my extremely long question and in essence what I’m asking is: is it too late to switch to coxing and if not then how is the best way for me to go about doing it.

You’re pretty young and you’ve only been rowing for a year – it’s definitely not too late to switch. You’ve also gotta get over feeling bad about potentially coxing more than the other three coxswains … who cares? Whoever puts the time and effort into developing into a good, competent coxswain should be the one(s) in the boat, not whoever’s been there the longest. Seniority doesn’t equate to putting the time in. Not to say they haven’t, just pointing out the fallacy there.

If your coach has already said that she wants to add another coxswain to the squad then go up to her and say “hey, I’m interested in switching from rowing to coxing, what do I need to do to make that happen?”. If she asks why then lay out your reasons but keep it positive and talk about what you’ll bring to the role (i.e. feeling like you know what needs to be changed in the boat, getting positive feedback from the times you’ve been in the boat lately, etc.) rather than saying something like “my erg times and splits aren’t great”. (That’s not a legitimate reason to switch to coxing – you can get stronger and more aerobically fit and improve both of those things if you really wanted to.)

Erg Playlists

Music to erg, pt. 161

Thinking ahead to our Oakland trip and the small amount of free time I anticipate having – what questions do you guys have about training trips? I’ve gotten a handful of questions about them over the years (what’s a typical day like, what to pack, what should you do during the down time, etc.) but I’m thinking I might try to film a quick Q&A while we’re out there to answer any questions that come up between now and then. Feel free to leave a comment or email me if you have one!

Coxing How To Q&A

Question of the Day

I’ve been reading your blog for nearly a year now and I attribute pretty much all of my “success” to you. I have a few things to ask. Firstly, this is my first varsity year (I’m a freshman) but I was in the V4 in the fall due to all the coxswains except for one sophomore graduating last year. Reading this blog definitely let my coxing grow by leaps and bounds. Recently my coach has told me that he’d like for the coxswains to work on positive reinforcement and that being critical of the rowers was more his job. We should keep technical calls to a minimum and only “say things pertinent to boat speed”. I’m a person who uses a *lot* of tech calls. The thing is, we have another coxswain who uses very few tech calls and I know a significant portion of the rowers dislike the way she coxes, some more strongly than others. I have rowed in her boat before and agree with them a lot so I have tried to tailor my coxing to be as different from hers (almost) as possible. She often comes off as patronizing, so I was wondering how I might provide positive reinforcement without sounding patronizing or dumb, especially when some of my rowers really just want me to be critical all the time.

This is a good question. I think your coach makes a valid point in that being critical of the rowers – though I’m not 100% settled on if that’s the right or best word – is more in line with his role than it is ours. We’ve definitely got a part to play in that but it can be tough to know how much, especially if it’s never explicitly laid out.

I’m curious why your coach wants you to keep technical calls to a minimum since those make up like, the bulk our calls. That’s definitely something I would talk to him about and get clarification on so that there’s no confusion or ambiguity on your part about what he’s looking for. Alternatively though, it’s possible you might be hearing the extremes of what he’s saying and not what he’s actually trying to get you to do. My interpretation as a coxswain (and also how I’d try to communicate it as a coach) is that his job is to outright say “you’re doing this incorrectly” and then follow it up with how it should be done. Your job is to reinforce the latter part of that with positive reinforcement by making calls like “Let’s draw in level – elbows up – and hold the finishes here. Yea, that’s it, we’re pushing the puddles back an extra half a seat now…” (vs. “you’re washing out, we need to get more run”).

It’s not that you should keep the technical calls to a minimum necessarily, it’s that whatever ones you are making should a) largely be in line with whatever his technical focus is for the day and b) less about telling the rowers what not to do (which can come off as condescending, patronizing, etc.) and more on communicating what they should do and how it’s impacting the boat speed. There is a balance when it comes to your technical calls – if it’s all you make then you’re just gonna get drowned out because it’s a lot to process and not always that engaging – but you can’t really positively reinforce anything if you’re not making the initial calls to correct the issue in the first place.

Don’t overthink what qualifies as “positive reinforcement” either. A simple “yea, that’s it…”, “there it is…”, “Sam, good change from yesterday, catches are looking a lot smoother…” etc. is all you need. You’re only going to come off as dumb if you start sounding like a cheerleader or patronizing if you start saying everything with an air of “I don’t know what’s so hard about doing XYZ, I could do it…”. When it comes to actually taking a stroke, there’s literally no logical reason why any coxswain should feel superior about their ability to do it compared to a rower. I’m not saying we can’t all be good rowers in our own right – I know plenty of coxswains who are – but rowing’s not our thing. We’d get pissed (and most of us do) if rowers acted like that about steering or whatever other coxswain-specific thing so … just something to keep in mind.

Related: Hi! Recently I’ve taken a bigger role on my team as a coxswain and have made some definite improvements with my confidence. But, I’m still struggling with how to handle frustration. When a boat feels really good and my rowers are being super responsive I feel as though I make really good calls, but when my rowers aren’t being as responsive to me or they’re tired, I feel like I never know how to motivate them without sounding mean. The other day a rower told me to work on saying more positive calls instead of negative calls, but I’m having trouble thinking of what would be considered a negative call. What do you think I should do to improve on this?

Check out the post linked above – I think it touches on roughly the same stuff you’re asking here and goes into a lot of detail about positive calls vs. negative calls, which kinda parallels what you’re asking about how to balance positive reinforcement with calling out the rowers when it’s necessary.