Category: High School

High School Novice Q&A Rowing Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I’m a novice rower for my high school crew team (I’m in 9th). I weigh around 150 and am 5’4, should I lose weight? I know height is a huge part of rowing and I don’t have that yet (or ever maybe who knows) but I’ve always been curvy so I don’t know if losing weight is going to be easy. I’m also asking because there are only five girls on our novice team (including our one coxswain) so I want to do the best for my boat.

I wouldn’t focus so much on losing weight as I would gaining strength. For some reason there’s this misconception that losing weight will make one stronger/make one’s boat faster, when in reality, the only thing that will make you stronger/make your boat go faster is YOU building muscle mass, which translates into increased power output. (Obviously you want to be lean and not have a ton of excess weight that you can’t move but at the junior level this isn’t nearly as big of a focus as it is at the collegiate level.)

I would put my efforts into doing a decent amount of weight lifting, core, erging, and cross training (running, swimming, and biking) over the winter. This will help you build muscle, which like I said, will make you stronger in the end. You might lose a few pounds too. It’s more likely though that you will lose FAT but actually GAIN weight, since muscle is denser than fat. This is GOOD, so don’t freak out if you do the workouts and actually find the number increasing slightly.

Coxing High School Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

Hi, I’m 14 and I’m from England. I’m a cox (obviously) and I often cox the years above, and today we had a head-race, and its pretty likely at we’re going to get disqualified, and I feel terrible. It will all be my fault and all the coaches will hate me as will the crew and I’m just terrified and I’ve been crying for the last hour and I don’t know what to do…

Why do you think you’re going to get DQ’ed? What happened?

They’re not going to hate you. If they hate you over something like getting DQ’ed from a race, you need to join a different team. They might be annoyed but that’s it. Talk to your coaches and rowers and explain what happened. Explain why you did what you did. If you had a reason for doing something, even if it got you DQ’ed, that’s a lot better than NOT having a reason … like, you hit a bridge pier because you got squeezed out of your line by passing crews and misjudged the distance between your oars and the pier vs. you hit a bridge pier just because you weren’t paying attention.

Don’t be scared and definitely don’t cry. If you’re allowed, go down to regatta headquarters and see if there’s an official you can talk to who can explain why you were or might be DQ’ed or what you did wrong. Get as much information as you can and then study it. Figure out what you could have done differently compared to what you did, that way you know in the future what to do if a similar situation arises. The race has happened, and whether is was good or bad, the only thing you can do now is learn from it.

Basically as part of the course there’s an ait (I don’t know if you have that in America but its like an island) and you have to go to the right of it and you cant overtake in it. For quite a while we had been gaining on this crew, and by the time we got to the ait we were pretty much level with them. My cox box was broken so I was shouting and passing on messages through bow (it was a four) and they were doing some sort of motivational shouting like ‘push cmon!’ so we were starting to pull ahead and this Marshall was like ‘your not allowed to overtake, move towards the bank!’ so I did, but I think according to the rules We can still get disqualified.

That sucks that your cox box was broken. Was it broken before you went out or did it happen once you were on the water? When something like that happens, you have to adjust your whole strategy. Were you in a bowloader? It’s fine to use your bowman to pass on things like power 10s, etc. but other than that no one should be talking. Even though it’s hard for them to hear you, they have to be quiet and not try and cox themselves. More than anything else, it’s a safety issue.

The situation you were in is actually pretty common. You pull up to a crew and right when you want to pass them, you hit the “no pass zone”. If that happens, the only thing you can do is tell your crew to back off. They’re going to think you’re insane but you have to explain to them that you’re entering a no pass zone and you caught the crew in front of you too quickly. They need to power down so that you stay either RIGHT behind them or RIGHT beside them. You have to have PERFECT steering to maintain that distance between your two boats. As SOON as you exit that no pass zone, you GO. Power back up to 110% and take a 20 to walk away.

It doesn’t sound like you did anything that explicitly broke the rules. The marshal was just doing his job, so don’t take it too personally if he yelled at you when he told you to move. He’s gotta make sure you hear him, which is why he probably yelled. At most, I would think you might get a penalty, but I don’t see any reason why you’d be disqualified. If you just sat even with them, I don’t think that’s a violation of the rules because technically you didn’t pass them. I would talk with your coaches and see what they say, but it sounds like you did what you were told to do by the marshals, so you should be fine.

We didn’t get disqualified, we won our category!


High School Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

I row with my school (secondary school in England – so high school) and we share a boathouse/coaches with a boys school. One of my coaches is really jokey, he constantly teases us about the boys we know, he pokes fun at us, he has nicknames for us, and although I like that I never feel that I can ask him anything, if I’m unsure over something I don’t feel like I can ask anything. How can I get better at communicating with him? There is also another coach who is relatively new coaching our squad. I’ll do something right for 3/4 of a session, and then for one second I’ll mess up, and i’ll be aware that I did it wrong, but he’s straight on to me telling me how wrong it is. I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting but it really annoys me that he treats me as a complete idiot who doesn’t seem to know how to do anything, how can I change/resolve this? Thank you.

Hmm. It seems you like you have a good relationship with him … why do you feel like you can’t talk with him? Is it because he’s TOO friendly (I don’t mean that in a bad way…) and just doesn’t give off the impression that he can be serious? If you don’t feel like you can talk to him, is there at least another coach you’re able to talk to? It’s OK to have different coaches for different things … if he’s the coach that makes you laugh on a shitty day but there’s another coach that you go to when you have something serious to talk about, there’s nothing wrong with that. Different people are meant for different things and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t have the option of going to another coach, I’d ask him if you can talk privately either before or after practice one day and then go from there. Maybe he’s easier to talk to when there aren’t a ton of other people around. I would first think about WHY you don’t feel like you can ask him anything and then go from there.

As for the second part of your question, when your coach points out that you did something wrong, is he an ass about it or is he constructive about it? Regardless of how he does it, if it bothers you, again, I’d ask to talk to him for a minute before or after practice and explain that most of the time you realize you’ve done something wrong and aim to fix it on the next stroke but it feels like he jumps on you right away for it which throws you off. Explain that you appreciate the attention to detail but it’s more helpful to you if he points something out if he notices it as a continual problem vs. a one time thing (i.e. you’re timing is consistently off vs. off for one stroke).

Make sure he’s aware of why it bothers you but also get his side of things – why does he coach you the way he does? Has he somehow gotten the impression that you DON’T listen to him or DON’T follow his instructions? I’ve had coaches and teachers do this to me before and it really annoys the shit out of me so I completely understand where you’re coming from. Does he do this with other rowers too or just you? If he does it with other people it could just be that that is his style/personality and it might be something that you have to get used to but if it’s directed only towards you, that might warrant a conversation. Either way, talking to him about it couldn’t hurt.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 2

College Coxing High School Racing Recordings

Coxswain recordings, pt. 2

St. Ignatius (USA) vs. Shrewsbury (GBR) 2006 Henley Royal Regatta

Something I like that this coxswain does is tell them when they lost a seat and WHY. The subtle shock in his voice when he says “they’re challenging US?!” is great because that kind of tonal change in his voice gets the rowers thinking about it and ready to make a move to stop the challenge.

He also doesn’t lie at ANY point during this race – when they start moving, he lets his crew know that Shrewsbury is walking on them and it is not acceptable. Once he tells them to push the rate up they start making their move and he tells them every time they take a seat while continuing to ask for more on every stroke – “7 seats, gimme 8!”

Something I wouldn’t do that he did was count out the timing like he did at the start of the race – not just because it’s pretty amateur but also because at this rate, it’s not going to make much, if any, of a difference. There are way more effective ways of doing that than saying “2-3-4 cha”.

Other calls I liked:

“Let them burn their wheels…”

“Show them the thunder…”

“Load up on the catch, drive the legs, send it back…”

Bucknell Men’s Freshman 8+ vs. Holy Cross

At the start of the recording you’ll hear him say “My hand is up. I have my point. My hand is down.”, which is something you should get in the habit of doing as you’re getting your point before the start of each race.

When he calls the sneak attack at 3:07, there wasn’t really anything “sneaky” or subtle about it because he was yelling out the numbers like he was with every other ten they took. If you’re gonna take a move like that, it’s gotta be a pre-planned thing that you’ve discussed and practiced ahead of time so that all you have to do is say a phrase or a word and the crew knows that the next ten strokes is that move. Your tone and calls should remain normal and not give away that you’re taking a surprise move.

Other calls I liked:

“We do not sit…”

Radnor Lightweight 8+ Mid-Atlantic Regionals 2012

First thing I have to say about this video isn’t even about the coxing … it’s about the stroke. Seven strokes into the starting sequence and he’s already looking out of the boat and he does it throughout the entire race. This coxswain does a decent job of telling the crew where they are in relation to the other crews so there really shouldn’t be any reason for the stroke to be looking out of the boat like that.

One call he made that I liked goes back to the stroke looking out of the boat – he said “heads forward, I got your back”. When I see rowers looking out of the boat I automatically assume that there must be a some reason why they don’t trust their coxswain, otherwise why aren’t they listening to him when he tells them where they are? Establishing trust between yourself and your crew is critical in times like this. The only other thing I would have done is said the stroke’s name so that he gets that he’s talking to him.

He took several tens but there was one spot where I think a move could have helped them … he says “Morristown is fading” and then goes back into his regular calls. Don’t do that! If you can see a crew is fading, make a move and capitalize on it. Another thing that he said a lot was “top 3”, he wanted to be in the “top 3”. Instead of being saying that, I would have added an extra punch of motivation by saying “We’re sitting in 4th by five seats, let’s go for 3rd. In two we take a ten to even up the bowballs, ready to go, on this one.” I think specifics like that are important when you’re sitting just off the podium.

Something he does a lot that I would really caution you to avoid doing is saying “I want…” or “get me…”. Separating yourself from the crew like that just makes it seem like you’re a slave driver or something who’s just there to tell them what to do. You have just as much responsibility for getting your bow ball ahead as they do so whatever calls you make should be “let’s do X” or ” we want Y”. Calls like “I want a medal” are bullshit because you’re making it all about you and that’s not the case.

One quick note about the rowing – if you watch the stroke, you can see him losing his neck and hunching his shoulders at the catch and on the first part of the drive. If you see that, make sure you point it out and remind them to stay horizontal, engage the lats, unweight the hands, etc. so they’re not wasting energy by engaging the wrong muscles.

Other calls I liked:

“We’re clicking on all cylinders…”

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

High School Novice Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

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?

That’s great that you’re rowing varsity if you’ve only been rowing for less than a year. If anything, the girls that you’re racing should be intimidated by you since you’re most likely 2-3 years younger than them. You’ve clearly done the work and proven to your coaches that you can handle the responsibility of being a varsity rower so own it.

Be a leader in your boat. Don’t assume that just because you’re younger than everyone else that that is the persona you need to take on. Speak up, offer your opinion (when the time is appropriate), get everyone started on stretches if your coaches/coxswains aren’t around, and be coachable. Always offer to take oars down, wash the boat, etc. ACT like the varsity teammate you are instead of trying to hide in the background because you’re intimidated by the other girls. Whether or not they let it on, the girls that are graduating are going to worry just a little bit about what the state of the team will be when they leave. If you start proving yourself as a strong leader and good teammate now, not only will you gain so much respect from them, the other rowers on the team, and your coaches, but you will offer them reassurance that the team will THRIVE in your hands. This will result in them embracing you as a teammate rather than just acknowledging your existence in the boat.

When you’re racing, don’t worry about those other crews. If you’ve done everything you need to do to prepare, you’re going to be looking at their backs going down the course, not the other way around. You never know, there might be novice rowers in those varsity boats too. Hold your head high, keep your chin up, and maintain that look of determination in your eyes. If you do that, they will be just as intimidated by you as you are of them right now. It’s all about attitude. What have you observed about the girls on your team and the teams you race? What does their body language convey, both on and off the water? What’s their rowing like? Emulate that!! When you’re on the water, FOCUS. Concentrate on working to perfect everything you do during practice each day. Be able to pick out two to three things that got better by the end of practice. Push yourself. Don’t settle for anything. Always strive for MORE. The only thing you should be intimidated by is the expectations you have set for yourself. If you’re not intimidated by your goals and expectations, you haven’t set the bar high enough.

High School Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

Hi I’m a sophomore in high school and this is my second season rowing (I’ve rowed all fall and part of summer but also rowed last fall but couldn’t row in the  last spring due to an illness). I’ve fallen completely in love with rowing and my ultimate goal is to race at the Head of the Charles my senior year. My team is quite large with four varsity girls 8s and I’m on the novice team right now. Next year and my senior year I’ll be on the varsity team. My team only sends the top varsity girls 8 to the HOCR and even though it is so far away, do you think it is possible for me to meet that category even though I will have only had three years of rowing experience? Does my not rowing most of freshman year put me at a dramatic disadvantage, even though I plan to row every season until then (most people on my team don’t do summer)? Thanks!!

Given the fact that you’ve already rowed for two fall seasons plus the summer and have two fall seasons ahead of you, I think you have plenty of time to work towards making the top 8+. Missing that one season is not going to hurt you – did you know most Olympians didn’t start rowing until college? That’s FOUR YEARS of experience they missed out on and look how many of them are carrying around medals right now. If you put in the effort, which it sounds like you’re willing to do, that one season off is not even going to be noticeable.

Your dedication is evident so that makes you look pretty favorable to your coach because he/she knows that you’re willing to do the work without them telling you to. What is the “top 8+” based on? Erg scores? Seat racing? If you don’t know, I would find out. My guess is that erg scores will play a role, as will seat racing.

Here’s a few other suggestions…

Spend as much time on the water as you can during the fall, spring, and summer. Optional workouts? Go. I guarantee your competition (the other girls on your team and the crews you’ll be racing against) aren’t wasting any opportunities, so neither should you.

Work on your 5k/6k erg times. What are the times/splits that the girls in the top 8+ this year have? That should give you a good idea of what your coach is looking for. Don’t try and take 45 seconds off your time right off the bat either – the longer you do something, the less time that’s going to come off so you won’t be able to drop a ton of seconds like you did when you first started erging. Don’t be discouraged by that, just keep in mind the splits your coach is looking for and work towards them.

Set goals for yourself – short term goals (for the week), medium goals (for the month), and long term goals (for the season). Write them down and put them somewhere where you’ll see them frequently so you can remind yourself of what you’ve gotta do.

Get in the gym if you can, at least 2-3x per week. The only way you’re going to be stronger on the erg and more importantly, on the water, is if you build up your muscles. Legs, back, and arms all contribute to overall power, but having a strong core really helps your technique and to prevent injuries so don’t forget to work that too. Make sure you know how to properly perform any exercises you do before you do them in order to avoid injury, as well as knowing how much weight you can handle. In the fall you should focus more on endurance, meaning low weights, high reps.

Make sure you give yourself rest days so that your body can recover. You’re tearing muscles when you exercise and they need those off days in order to repair, adapt, and get stronger.

Cross train. Swim, bike, or run for at least 30 minutes 1-2x a week. This helps improve your cardio and prevents your body from getting bored.

On top of all that, talk to your coach after practice and spend some time asking him what he thinks you need to do over the next two seasons to eventually make it in that top 8+. Ask him where he thinks you can make some improvements and then ACTIVELY work to make those changes happen. Being coachable will work wonders for getting you what you want. Don’t get complacent either. It’s easy to forget about your goals when they’re something that’s far in the future. Take breaks every now and then and give yourself time to relax, but when it’s time to train, focus and do the work.