Category: Rowing

Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

What kind of rowing program do you recommend for someone between senior year and college?

Assuming you rowed in high school and will be rowing in college (vs. not having rowed before and planning to walk on as a freshman)…

Become a member at a local rowing club

If you live in a city like Boston or Philadelphia where there are private rowing clubs all over the place, I’d recommend joining one. This will give you the opportunity to have a consistent place to row out of when you’re home from school and a team to be affiliated with if you race anywhere over the summer. Do some research and see if there are clubs near you and find out what it takes to become a member.

Attend summer camps

Your age will determine your eligibility for a lot of camps since most limit it to high schoolers ages 14-18 and you’re at that tricky age between “junior” and “collegiate”. If you find a camp you’re interested in though email the coaches and see if there’s space for you to attend (or ask if you can be a counselor or something, that way you get paid and can row on your own time while the kids are practicing).

Learn to scull

If you don’t have the opportunity to go to summer camps but have access to singles or doubles, learn to scull. It will be an invaluable resource to you down the line. Not only does it help your sweep technique, it also makes you more rowable, meaning if there’s an excess of people at practice one day and you’re picked to sit out you can ask to take out a single. Your coaches will be happy that you’re not wasting the time and that you’re committed to rowing, even if it’s not an ideal situation.

Learn to row the other side

If you’re a port, learn to row starboard and vice versa. Same with sculling, it makes you invaluable to the team. If you go to camps and can say “I row both sides” you are making it SUPER easy for the coach to put you in a boat since he won’t have to cater to someone who can only row one side. You can now row in all eight seats instead of just four.

Coach

Does your high school have summer rowing programs? Ask to join the staff. If they don’t have one, start one. Teach kids how to row. Not only would that look great on a resume, but it makes you a better rower. It forces you to really go back to the stripped down basics and think about the stroke in a very primitive way. As you get more experienced as a rower, you start to naturally over think things. Forcing yourself to go back to the basics will make you think about the simple stuff a little more when you get back on the water. Getting that coaching experience is also great to have under your belt because that sets you up perfectly for coaching jobs in the future while you’re on summer break.

Any one of those would be good but if none are an option for you, just try to get a few workouts in each week so you don’t show up to campus totally out of shape. If your coach doesn’t send you a summer workout plan, email them and ask what they suggest you do (usually some combination of steady state, lifting, and cross-training).

Novice Q&A Rowing Technique

Question of the Day

I have practice tomorrow and I really have trouble squaring up on time. I always tell myself to gradually start squaring up at half slide but I’m always behind everybody else. I also try to follow the person in front of me but I’m always a millisecond behind everybody else. I’m a girl and this is my first season of rowing! I’m so embarrassed so please help me!!

I’d ask your coach when he/she wants you to start squaring up and when you should be squared by. This will give you a time frame to work with and eliminates the whole “when should I start squaring/when should I be squared by” problem that a lot of novices encounter. It’s going to take a lot of concentration before you start squaring up naturally at the right spot without having to think about it (but once you do it becomes second nature). As soon as you get on the water, make that your priority for the day. When you’re sitting at the finish, remind yourself “finish, release, arms away, bodies over, start to square, fully square, catch” on every stroke. If you have to say it to yourself or in your head every time you take a stroke, do it.

If you’re starting at half slide, that is probably what’s throwing you off. When I teach novices to square, I generally have them start squaring when they get to bodies over so that by half slide they’re fully squared and ready for the catch. It’s possible that you’re behind because you’re starting at half slide, while everyone else is starting somewhere between arms & bodies and half slide. They’re starting a millisecond ahead of you, which is why you feel a millisecond behind. Ask for clarification from your coach as to where they want to see you start squaring up and then focus really hard on doing it every stroke.

College Coxing Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Hi! So I’m a senior in my first year of club rowing. I’m really athletic and strong from swimming and cross country but I’m 5’2 and like 115. Do you think I have a future in college rowing or should I be a coxswain? Thanks.

It depends on what schools you’re looking at. If you’re looking at Division 1 programs you’ll almost certainly be a coxswain. Unless you pull a phenomenal erg score for your size, they won’t look at you as a rower. I knew a rower in college who also swam and ran track but was 5’3” and about 115 so she had to really prove that she could hang with the rowers who were 5’10”, 5’11” and weighed 40-60lbs more than her. She was a good rower and had good erg scores for her size but rowed mostly in the lower boats just because she was so small.

If you go to a Division 3 school, then you could probably row. D3 is competitive, don’t get me wrong, but their requirements are less stringent than the hardcore D1 programs. Same goes for club teams.

If you’re interested in rowing/coxing in college, I would email the coaches of the schools you’re looking at. Tell them that you’re interested in being a part of the team but are unsure of whether you should row or be a coxswain. If you’re leaning towards wanting to row, make your case. Send erg scores (2k, 6k, etc.) along with something like your weight-adjusted times (your coach can help you with this) so they can see what your power to weight ratio is like. Ask them what they need – are they in desperate need of a coxswain or do they need rowers? If they have a lightweight program, inquire about that too. (Not all schools do though.)

Another option is to email men’s team coaches and see about coxing for them. Since guys are naturally bigger than girls, I’ve found that men’s coaches are pretty willing to snatch up female coxswains when they can simply because we’re smaller and lighter.

College Novice Q&A Rowing Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hi! I go to a D1 school and our rowing program is supposed to be really good and any woman can walk on. If you can stay with it, you’re on the roster. I spent this past summer learning to row, and stroked my first regatta (novice masters women’s 8) early September with my local boathouse. I’m upset right now though. My skill and athleticism level is at the bottom of the recruits and the walk-ons. And I’m having trouble making friends with either group. How do I assimilate and what do I do?

Why do you think you’re having trouble? Is it because there’s an age difference between you and them or is it something else? My advice would be to just strike up a conversation and see how it goes. Talk about practice – how’d their boat do today, what drills did they do, how’d it go, etc. Ask about classes – are they taking anything interesting, what are their professors like, etc. Talk about why they decided to do crew. What’s motivating them to stick with it? Discuss your annoying roommates or the weird people that live in your dorm. This is a great ice breaker because you’ll end up having some kind of weird pissing contest to see who has the roommate or hall-mates with the most annoying habits, weirdest quirks, etc. It’s a good way to get everyone talking because even if you’ve only been on campus for a week, you’ll already have at least one story to share.

Is your skill level and athleticism REALLY below the recruits and walk-ons or do you just perceive it that way? What are you basing that off of? The recruits are going to be better than the walk-ons because they’ve been rowing for 3-4 years already – they were recruited for a reason. If you just learned to row this summer, you’ve only been rowing for … what … 4 months, max? It’s like comparing a major leaguer with a minor leaguer. The major league player has years of experience whereas the minor leaguer has a few years of high school, maybe college experience. The two are incomparable because their experiences are different. The minor leaguer is still learning, similar to you and the other walk-ons.

I know when I first started in college, the walk-ons were all terrible. I can’t believe that your skill level is lower than theirs if you spent all summer learning to row and have already stroked an 8+. Has your coach given you some kind of indication that you’re not up to par? If he/she has, I would talk to them and get some clarification. Tell them what’s bothering you and ask for advice. If they’re a good coach, you should feel comfortable talking to them and they should in turn be able to help you out with any questions you have.

As far as your athleticism, that’s something you can work on on your own without everyone else around. Go to the gym, hit the ergs, hit the bikes, lift weights, go swimming, etc. and work on your strength and endurance. It’s a fantastic way to get out your aggression and frustrations, trust me. If you don’t want to do something by yourself, see if your rec center offers group Pilates classes and then ask some of the other girls on the team if they’d like to go with you. Pilates is awesome for building a strong core, which is something you need in order to be a successful rower. Afterwards, go grab a coffee and just sit and chat. Two birds, one stone.

I’m sure you’re doing better than you think you are. Give yourself credit – most people wouldn’t do what you did over the summer. That shows commitment and an honest desire to be a part of the team. Talk to your coaches or some of the older varsity members and ask for some advice. They’ve ALL been in the position you’re in right now and might be able to share some of their experiences.

College Coxing Novice Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Hi! For the past month I have been in walk-on tryouts for the Syracuse Women’s Rowing team. I found out yesterday that she is keeping me as one of the walk-on coxswains, which I am so excited and happy about! I know that coxswains are supposed to be very confident and I am while I am on the water, but I truly don’t really know what I am doing. I have been watching hours of recordings to help but coxing a novice crew is difficult when nobody in the boat has every rowed before and I am not sure what kind of calls I should make, we have only just started getting on the water all together about 4-5 times. I’m not really sure what to say during drills beside the drill. Do I make calls as if they are racing? I am in love with rowing, it is a great sport, I just get frustrated when I feel like I’m not a good coxswain because I don’t feel anybody guiding me or training me like they do the rowers.

Congrats on making the team!! I agree with you that coxing a novice crew where no one has rowed before is extremely tough. I 100000% understand what you’re feeling.

When you feel yourself getting frustrated and can tell the crew isn’t responding to what your saying, take a few minutes and try some of the following things.

Ask them what’s going on

Is there something specific that they aren’t understanding and if so, what? If that’s not it, what is it? Talk to them and find things out from their perspective.

Tell them you’re frustrated

This seems counter intuitive, but explain that you’re frustrated because you can see they don’t understand or aren’t picking it up and you’re unsure of what to do to help them. If you project the idea that you GENUINELY want to help them, they’re much more likely to offer feedback and tell you what’s going on. If you just get frustrated and pissed because they’re not doing what you want them to do, they’re not going to make your job any easier because you’re giving the impression of being dictator-ish and that you don’t ACTUALLY care whether or not they do it right, so long as they do what you say.

Slow it down

Speed (and pressure) is of no consequence when you’re first learning the stroke. To me it’s a very simple motion because I’ve been doing this for so long but to most people who are new to rowing it’s very unnatural. You have to take it slowly and let them think about every. single. little. thing. Talk to whoever your coach is and ask if you can break it down a little more or slow it down so that they can focus on what you’re doing but at a slower pace. This might help them process what you’re saying a little easier.

Take a deep breath and don’t let ’em see you sweat

There have been plenty of times where I am just consistently saying “what the fuuuckkk” in my head but I try as hard as possible to not let that anger or frustration show in my face or body language. Maintain the idea that you are calm and collected. This will calm your crew down and calm their nerves. Be quiet for a few strokes and then say something like “OK guys, lets take the next few strokes, sit up a little taller, relax the shoulders, take a deep breath, and just row. We’re getting frustrated so let’s take some time to calm down and get back in the zone.”

Remind them of what they’re doing well

There are going to be times where you will have to dig REALLY deep to find something positive but you have to find SOMETHING. Once you’ve given them some positive feedback, provide some constructive criticism and talk a little about what needs improved on. “So, we’ve been working on our catch timing and those last five strokes looked ON. Everyone is thinking a little bit more about moving up the slide together and I can see it. Let’s keep doing that. On these next five strokes, let’s think a bit more about our handle heights. Catches looked better but our set suffered a little.”

What drills have you been doing? Do you write them down? My first suggestion would be to write EVERYTHING down in your notebook on the bus back to campus. Ignore the chatter and noise and reflect on your practice. Other suggestions for drill work:

Talk to your coach either at the beginning of the week or before practice. Ask them what drills they plan on working on that week or that practice. How is it executed and what is its purpose? What part of the stroke does it focus on? What should you be looking for and how should you correct what you see?

Drills are a bit of a grey area because on one hand, you need to talk in order to execute the drill but on the other, you need to be quiet in order to give the rowers the opportunity to figure out what they’re doing. Know when to talk and when to be quiet. This can be tricky to learn as a novice so talk to your coach. Ask what they want you to say and when you should just let them talk.

Don’t try and over talk your coach unless you’re calling a transition or something, but at the same time, don’t let them over talk you. If you find that you’re trying to tell the rowers what you’re seeing and your coach cuts you off and talks over you, that can not only piss you off but it can frustrate and confuse the rowers. Chances are they don’t realize they’re doing it. I had this problem recently and when I told my coach he apologized. Approach the subject gently and just say something like “I’ve noticed when we’re doing drills I’ll go to point something out to the rowers or make a transition within the drill and you’ll start coaching them on something different. How should I deal with that as a coxswain – should I hold off on the transition until you’re done coaching or just go through with it? How should I go about pointing out what I see while still having them think about what you just said?” Make them understand that you aren’t trying to overstep your boundaries but you recognize the fact that you have a different point of view in the boat than they do.

My suggestion for this would be to not only approach your coach about this, but when you’re on the water, for now, wait until you’ve stopped or taken a break and THEN point out what you see. With novices, it’s easy to overwhelm them with too much information. Once you’ve stopped, wait for your coach to come over and say “So, I noticed our catches were a little mistimed and we were leaning to port for most of the drill. Once you pointed out that they needed to think more about their body swing, it started to feel better though.” If you tell them what you saw and what you noticed, not only does that show them that you are REALLY paying attention, but it also lets the rowers hear what they did well and what needs worked on. You could also inadvertently point out something that your coach didn’t notice. Maybe she couldn’t tell that the boat was offset because she was so focused on the bodies. With this new information, she can give you things to look for and things for the rowers to think when you start rowing again. Listen to what she tells the rowers to work on and make sure you repeat it during the drill. Anything the coaches say is fair game to be used as a call.

Drills can get really boring for coxswains, especially if you’re doing something like pause drills where all you’re doing is saying “row … row … row …” for 5+ minutes. Keep your voice sharp and don’t let the rowers or your coach get the impression that you’re bored or just going through the motions. If you start to let your voice slip off, the rowers will let their technique slip. Keep your calls crisp and concise, your voice sharp, and your body aggressive. There’s a difference between tense and aggressive – know the difference. Don’t just sit in the boat like you’re lounging on your couch playing xbox.

You’re not a bad coxswain – you’re still learning! Don’t let a shitty practice crush your confidence. Recognize when you’ve made improvements and use that as motivation for tomorrow’s practice. Maybe you steered a straighter line going down the lake today than you did yesterday. Maybe your turns on the river are smoother than they were last week. Maybe you FINALLY understood what the point of that drill was and your calls were more confident because of that. Know when you’ve done a good job but also recognize when/where you can make adjustments too. Also, get a notebook and a recorder and use both regularly. Ask for feedback from the rowers too so you can figure out what’s working, what isn’t, what can you do better, etc.

It’s unlikely that anybody is going to coach you. It’s not fair but that’s the way it is. They’re going to put you in the boat and assume you’ll pick it up as you go. Don’t let this piss you off, even though it inevitably will. Find other resources. Talk to the varsity coxswains, listen to recordings from other coxswains, etc. 97% of what you learn, you will have to learn on your own. Accept and embrace that.

Be confident. They chose you for a reason. You gave them a reason to believe that you’re the best person for the job. They trust you with the safety of eight other women. Don’t let that scare you – let it motivate you. If you ever get to the point where stepping in the boat does nothing for you, take a step back and reevaluate. Don’t ever let it feel like a job.

Coxing Rowing

Welcome to “Ready all, row…”

The title of the blog comes from the command that coxswains make before the rowers begin rowing. It signifies that everyone knows what’s going on and they’re ready to row. For coxswains, it signifies an understanding of the instructions given by the coach. Through the posts on this blog, I hope to provide assistance and clarity so that when you make the call, you truly are ready to row.

Something that has always bothered me about this sport is the limited amount of coaching we receive as coxswains. To anyone that asks, I tell them that coxing is both easier and harder than people think it is. It’s at the beginning of one’s career as a coxswain that it’s the hardest. We’re expected to steer a $35,000, 63ft long boat with two strings attached to rudder the size of a credit card while simultaneously listening to the coach, explaining to the rowers what we’re doing, executing the drills and pieces perfectly, getting everyone from point A to point B without hitting anyone or anything. Coaches assume that because we’re tiny tyrants, we can handle any situation and be fine, so they tell us “steer straight and don’t hit anything” and think that that is all we need to know. As any coxswain will tell you, it’s not!

Once I started coaching and working with novice coxswains, I was constantly telling them that just like the rowers work every day to improve, they too must do the same. Read articles, watch videos, listen to recordings, etc. The only problem with that is how and where do you find it all? That was one of my main motivations for starting this blog. If you try and find information on coxing online, you’ll be disappointed. You might find a manual or two from a crew in the another country or some outdated articles from a website that hasn’t been updated in six years, but nothing that will REALLY help you learn the ins and outs of coxing. That’s what I hope to provide here.

If you have questions, please send me an email at rowingandcoxing@gmail.com. Coxing is something I am extremely passionate about and sharing the knowledge I’ve gained as a coxswain is something I feel a strong obligation to do. If I can help just one coxswain have a better understanding of something or a rower have a better practice, I’ll consider this blog a success.