Category: Teammates & Coaches

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Ok, so we got a new coxswain. I’m in jr varsity (I’m a rower) and she moved here 2weeks ago. She just isn’t very good. Maybe she is nervous or isn’t used to this course but I have lightly hinted that maybe she start taking notes or go on the launch to maybe watch etc. but she hasn’t and she is super sweet but it’s really hard to have to cox a boat nears her. It’s like she is a novice. I don’t know how to politely tell her or the coaches without starting drama.

Hmm. What do the other coxswains think? Have you tried talking to the coxswain of your boat? I guarantee that if you, a rower, has noticed she’s not very good, the coxswains have DEFINITELY noticed it. I think that as long as you’re polite about it and not gossipy or rude, no one will look at it as starting drama. I would talk to the coxswains first and see what they say and suggest to them that they talk to her and fill her in before going to your coach. If you end up in a boat she’s in and her coxing effects your practice, then I might talk to your coach and explain what you’re thinking. No coach wants their practices to be a waste of time and if the coxswain is causing valuable time to be wasted, he/she will probably want to talk to her.

I’d try talking to her yourself too, maybe get to know her and see what her background in rowing is. How long has she coxed for, why’d she get into rowing, what was her old team like, etc. Take that information and use that to help convince her that maybe taking a step back and seeing how you guys do things would be helpful to her. She should want to get better and adapt to her new team’s way of doing things, so hopefully she’ll be receptive to your, your coach’s, and the other coxswain’s suggestions.

Coxing Novice Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

How do I get my boat to respect me?? I’m a novice coxswain on the B boat. I do all the workouts and I asked a few people for advice in what they want to hear etc but some still don’t respect me! I’m nice but firm when needed to be. I was a rower for 3 months in a a single and 2 months in an 8 and 4. I was good, they wanted me to go to varsity singles this year so I kinda get rowing better than most coxswains so I do what I wanted my coxswain to do but still no respect from half my boat!!

Hmm. I guess my question here is why your boat doesn’t respect you…

How old are you/the rowers?

Do you know them well (are you friends outside of crew or did you just recently meet them)?

Do the rowers actually CARE about crew/do they know that YOU care?

Have you done something, knowingly or unknowingly, that might have pissed them off or given them the wrong impression about you?

When you’re on the water, do you know what you’re doing or are you constantly starting and stopping (to fix steering, have someone explain the workout, etc.)?

What is different about the people who DO respect you vs. the people who don’t?

Gaining the respect of your crew can be hard. It’s more about trust than anything else. The rowers who want to be there recognize that and will usually make an effort to get to know their coxswain if they don’t already know them. Doing the workouts with them is a good start and the fact that you have rowed before will be really helpful to you.

If you’re still having problems with those few people, I’d make a concerted effort to get to know them. Talk to them when you’re not on the water, offer to give them a ride home, etc. Maybe if they get to know you, they’ll stop being assholes. If something unpleasant happens on the water, leave it on the water. Don’t bring drama into the boat in the first place but leave whatever drama happened on the water out on the water. Be the mature one and shut that down immediately.

Before you start winter training (or if you’ve already started, after you get back from Christmas break), sit down with your boat and have a “goal setting session”. Take it upon yourself to do this. Ask them what their goals are for the winter and what their goals are for the spring. Write them down and revisit them throughout the winter, at the beginning of spring, and at the end of the spring season. Remind them what your goals are and that in order to accomplish them, you have to work as a team, which requires mutual respect amongst everyone in the boat.

If none of these things work, I’d take them aside individually and figure out what the problem is. Tell them that you’ve noticed that things are weird between you guys and you don’t want it to effect the boat while you’re training over the winter and especially once the spring season starts. Ask if there’s something specific that you’ve done to offend them or give them the wrong impression. If they’re being an ass just to be an ass though, that’s a problem you should talk to your team captains/coach about. Hopefully they recognize your efforts in working out with them, as well as your rowing knowledge, and can give you a little more firsthand insight than I can.

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.

Holiday gifts for coaches

Teammates & Coaches

Holiday gifts for coaches

Whether it’s for your coach or for the coach in your family, you know they deserve something totally awesome. One thing that athletes often forget is how much time their coaches put into helping them become the best they can be. They sacrifice their time, time with their families, and many other things to spend countless hours working with us. Make sure this Christmas you take some time, get together with your teammates, and figure out a fun way to say “thank you” for all the work they put into the past season/year. The tricky part is figuring out what to get for the coach that seemingly has everything.

One of my favorite rowing traditions is seeing teams get one of their blades, sign it, and present it to their coach. Not only is it a really creative gift, but it’s also unique to your team. If you have some old oars lying around, you can use one of those or you can get a custom miniature one made.

Don’t be turned off by gift cards, they’re a great gift if you’re stuck on what to get. Do you know your coach’s favorite restaurant? Get them a gift card so they can go and have a nice dinner. Are they constantly talking about how they need to get some new cold weather gear? How about a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods? The options here are endless. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc. is always an easy go-to though.

For more gift ideas, check out the “rowing gifts” tag.

Image via // @dianetheadventurer
An Irresistible Pull

College Novice Rowing Teammates & Coaches Training & Nutrition

An Irresistible Pull

I found this a few months ago and thought it was a great story, as well as good motivation. There’s definitely a lot parallels to be drawn between it and most of our own rowing careers.

During freshman week, he saw his first racing shell.  The crew captain was recruiting and stepped forward to introduce him to it.  The magnificent lines of the shell seemed perfectly sculpted.  How could a boat be so beautiful and narrow, the freshmen thought.  The captain said it was 64 feet long and held eight men.  The freshman noticed the captain’s weathered face and his developed quadriceps.  When they shook hands, the freshman felt the captain’s calluses.  Come row, the captain said.

The freshman went to the boathouse and tried it.  His first float onto the river filled his with pleasure.  He assessed the world from his sliding seat.  The river was wide and gray.  His coach told him that soon he would learn every turn of it.  He liked the idea of being a river man but knew little of what it meant.

He began long rows, experiencing the yoke of the river.  When he pulled hard, his car dove too deep into the currents.  He concentrated on rhythm.  The coxswain banged the stroke count on the gunnels.  Slowly, he learned to pull with power.  Afternoon practices ended in early darkness.  Half the freshmen quit, in doubt.  The captain said everyone must pull harder.

At Christmas, he shook his father’s hand and his father commented on his blisters.  He tried to talk about rowing but his tongue grew swollen and dull.

In April, the skim ice buckled the shoreline.  His boat was launched in light snow.  The varsity shaved their heads and wore T-shirts.  At spring break, he stayed for double practice.  His legs were always tired.  In sleep, he dreamed uneasily about water, of the river scrolling by.

His family came to the first race.  They stood a mile and a quarter from the start.  Because of a bend in the river, they only saw the last 20 strokes.  In victory, they thought it looked easy.  Two men vomited.  The freshman’s sister said she would never come again.  He threw the coxswain into the river, and the shirt that he wagered he collected from the opposition.  It was washed in collegiate sweat.  It was the finest trophy he had ever seen, and he wore it for a week.

Sophomore year, only six of his boat returned.  He was still green, and the competition was greater.  He, too, thought of quitting. He still resisted the river and blamed her when it hurt.  He imagined that his face looked troubled.  He wondered how much more he could give.  He saw the upperclassmen pull hard, sometimes even with pleasure.  He didn’t know what he was learning, but he suspected the lesson was patience.

In the junior year he rowed on the varsity.  They wagered and won many shirts.  He accepted the equation of practice to victory.  He grew mature about pain and work.  He saw the river as a strict teacher, helping him grow stronger.  His technique was exemplary.  But he did not row to win.  He rowed for a motion called swing.  In swing, he found a clearing to rise above grueling circumstances.  He suspected it was transcendental, where life became more than it seemed.  He suspected that if he got to know this clearing, he could find it again, away from the river.

He started his last year aware of an ending.  He went to the gym during freshman week and stood by a new shell with his quadriceps bulging.  His lobster hands engulfed the hands of recruits.  He was tanned and ready.  He was cordial but did not try to tell them why he rowed.  Instead, he explained the boat and the river.

In his fourth fall, he was bored.  He became intrigued with the perfect stroke.  His roommate studied physics, so they spent a week diagramming torque.  They discussed an oar’s effect on ultimate boat speed.  They placed values on leg drive and arm strength, and he graphed the motion on paper.  He was tested for body fat and had almost none.  He was training harder than ever because he could not do less.  The river was ever-changing, but he trusted her mass.  He saw a picture of the Harvard crew in Sports Illustrated, and wondered about the Olympics.  Then he looked at the seven-man and wanted his shirt.

His boat was chosen to win the league.  They won races but the swing was elusive.  He sensed that there was a struggle in the bow seats, but nothing was said.  His coach studies the ancient Greeks.  The motto of the boathouse was When dying, die in virtue.  But first, they were taught to endure.  Then they could die.  Of the two, enduring seemed more difficult.

Before his last race, the river was brown and foaming.  In a practice start the bowman crabbed his oar, throwing the boat to port.  He heard the strike to the bowman’s ribs.

They drifted in the current, waiting.  They had bet shirts, winners take all.  The opponents rowed by to impress them.  He stared at the seven-man, measuring the size of his shirt, a tall basketball washout from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

A race is six minutes.  Thus, a season is thirty-six minutes.  But he had practiced two hours a day, from September to June.  When icicles dripped from the oar locks, they went to Florida to row double sessions.  In addition, he ran stadium steps, lifted weights, and practiced in the tanks.  It seemed a dismal, inequitable equation.

Before the start, his stomach hurt.  He eased up the slide, legs sprung.  He heard the ripping of the water.  Waiting was harder than pulling, harder to contain.  His heart, which had strained to starting commands for four seasons, pounded for the gun.  When the pistol cracked he lashed out in relief.

At 500 meters the race was even and he longed for swing.  The starting sprint was over, but the coxswain had kept the cadence too high.  The boat struggled, not yet fluid.  He knew fatigue came in stages, but there was already too much in his legs.  Steadily, he shadowed the stroke before him.  His ears filled with static.  He wondered if the bowman was pulling.

At a thousand meters the coxswain wanted more.  At each catch the boat jumped, and he felt awake, lightened.  They responded-all eight-with legs and backs in symphonic motion.  The coxswain rapped the gunnels, sounding the beat with his hands.  He wanted more lead-another deck length-but the rowers only wanted rhythm, to hold the cadence, to extend their pleasure.

At the 1500-meter mark, there was a wake.  The boat twisted to port; and in a moment, they felt the swing depart.

With new pain, he searched the shoreline for clues.  How much farther?  How much longer?  How much more?  The stroke gasped to raise the beat by two; but slipping, it only went one.  His legs were gone, his back burned, his throat was numb.

With 20 strokes to go, he heard another coxswain yell that they were dying.  He thanked him, needing anger to penetrate his numbness.  He began counting but thought that 20 was too far.  He told himself to quit at ten-quit the race, quit rowing.  He was in deep suffering.  He once dreamed of falling off bridges in locked cars.  He was now back in the river, on the bottom; the inexorable swim to the surface was far.

On the eighth stroke, he heard his raspy coxswain, hoarse from a season’s yelling, calling his men to their oars.  The voice without panic.  It reminded him of his connection with the others.  He renegotiated with his legs, which hurt the most.  He asked his heart for tolerance, his back to bend.

He counted each stroke to the finish.  He felt his own last surge, making the oar shaft bend.

They drifted to regain their breathing.  Their coach yelled that they had won by a foot.  They wondered when, in their years on the river, they had learned to go that much faster.

At the dock, a small crowd was cheering.  After throwing in the coxswain, then the coach, the oarsmen quickly jumped in.  Himself, he floated in the brisk current, looking at his family on the bank.  The water was cold beneath the surface, but he barely felt it.  He was certain that this race was his last, then he thought better of it.

Image via // @benrodfordphoto

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Ok but seriously I probably hear 0.2% of anything my coach says ever while my crew is out on water. I believe this is a recurring issue with coxswains… I think my primary conversations with her consists of “WHAT!? WHAT!? WHAT!? WHAT!? …oh… WAIT, WHAT!?

Ugh, I feel your pain. It’s the worst when they use those stupid cone things instead of an actual electronic megaphone … and even when they use those it can still be impossible to hear them if it’s windy or they’re just talking normally, thinking that the megaphone will do all the work (spoiler: it doesn’t work like that).

It absolutely is a recurring issue. I feel like coaches assume their coxswains are just not paying attention instead of considering the fact that they just cannot hear them. It’s a fairly serious safety issue too because if you can’t hear your coach and they’re trying to tell you there’s a log or a single or something else in front of you that you’re about to hit and you don’t hear them … that’s dangerous.

I’d talk to your coach before or after practice and say that you feel bad because it seems like you’re constantly asking her to repeat herself because you can’t hear what she’s saying. Explain that it’s frustrating for you because you can’t hear or understand the instructions but also for the rowers because you two playing a twisted game of telephone is taking away from practice.

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

I started rowing about a year and a half ago, but I’m 4’11 so my coach had me cox 4-5 months after I had started rowing and instantly fell in love. I’m a varsity coxswain, but I always have trouble finding my voice during races. I’m not terribly confident because some of the girls in my boat criticize me, but it’s never constructive it’s really rude, but I stumble over my words and end up repeating myself. Do you have any tips on how I could improve my calls?

How many is “some”? Is it one, two, five … ? Regardless of how many people it is, you should talk to your coach and tell him/her what’s going on. Explain that constructive criticism is fine but that isn’t what you’re getting.

Something I’ve found is that when rowers start being rude like that, they don’t trust their coxswain for whatever reason, legitimate or not. If you haven’t yet, try talking to them before you talk with your coach. Tell them that their criticism isn’t helping because it comes off as being hostile and ask if you’ve done something in particular to make them not trust you as their coxswain. It might be awkward at first but as the leader of the boat it’s your responsibility to be assertive and figure out what the deal is. They also need to keep their feedback to themselves until you get OFF the water. Until then it just ends up being a distraction. You’ve got to work on not being nervous and not letting those few rowers get to you. Listen to what they say, eliminate the bitchiness, and see if you can see what they’re trying to convey. If they’re just being rude, ignore them.

As you become more confident in your abilities, your calls will come to you. When you make a call, be aggressive, assertive, concise, and direct. Don’t waver or let your voice give away that you don’t totally trust what you’re saying.

Something I always recommend to coxswains who are looking to improve their calls is to listen to the recordings of other coxswains. It can be helpful to hear what other people say so that you can then borrow, adapt, and modify their calls to fit your crew. Hearing the different tones of voice that other coxswains use can also help you find the most effective way to say things to your crew. Here is a list of coxswain recordings I’ve found online that should help with this.

Talk to your rowers, talk to your coach, work on your confidence, and you will be FINE. Don’t let your rowers walk all over you. Chances are that you haven’t done anything wrong, those few rowers have just sensed “weakness” and pounced on it. That’s just some people’s personality. When you’re in the boat though, you’re in charge and you should be the only one talking.

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.