College Coxing Racing Recordings

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 19

Drexel University 2014 Kerr Cup Men’s Varsity 8+

The biggest thing that I noticed in this recording was that he used a lot of basic calls but never actually said anything to the rowers (except on like, two occasions) or made a call about their position on other crews. It was mostly a good example of how some coxswains go out with this “tunnel vision” mindset where they execute the race plan and kinda ignore/forget about everything that’s happening within their own gunnels or in the lanes around them. He also did a lot of counting and counting down to things that didn’t really need countdowns. I like the “in 2 … in 1…” countdown but is that really necessary just to note the 500m mark? It wasn’t a bad piece overall though – how he said his calls almost made up for the fact that he was saying a lot without saying much at all. The best part of the race by far though was that turn through Strawberry Mansion. If you’re a Philly coxswain, definitely take note of that execution.

Related: Navigating the Schuylkill

At 1:11 when he says “back it in”, make sure you’re not making catch-specific calls like that midway through the drive of that stroke. You don’t have to say each stroke number when you’re counting out a five or a ten so if you call your strokes at the catch (like you’re supposed to) but have a catch-specific call to make, just replace that number with your call. You could also say “back it in, one … back it in, two“, etc. and say the number of the stroke you’re on at the finish. Point being though, don’t make catch-specific calls at any point other than the catch, otherwise the effectiveness of that call is lost. Same applies to finish-specific calls.

Other calls I liked:

“At the wire, you’re bringin’ the fire…”

George Washington University vs. Holy Cross 2014 GW Invite MV8+

At the start you hear Connor say “when they say our name, bury ’em…” with regards to getting the blades fully buried before the start. Watching crews lock on and lock in right at that moment is pretty cool. The point of doing this, regardless of whether you do it when you hear your name or when they call attention, is that it helps ensure everyone’s blades are in the water and in the best position to allow them to take a powerful first stroke. It’s something worth practicing though because sometimes people get a little too aggressive with it and jerk their hands up, which throws the boat off, causes them to dig too deep at the start, etc. This is also why I like that “sharp and shallow” call he makes because it’s a good reminder to keep the catches on point without lifting the hands too much.

Listen to the slide speed during the starting 20 between 0:40 and 1:10, then listen to it right at they transition into their settle at 1:11. You can actually hear the slides lengthen out. Between that and the sharpness of the catches throughout the piece, this race is so satisfying to listen to. A few strokes later at 1:39 he says “about half a seat down, no worries…” in the most chill tone, which is exactly how you should tell your crew you’re down, particularly at the beginning of the race.

I’m a huge fan of how he makes that “long, rhythm…” call at 1:45. Rhythm in rowing means that the crew is relaxed, they’ve got good swing, they’re getting good run, and they’ve just got a smooth, consistent flow going. One of the best ways to tell if your crew has a solid rhythm is to feel the boat and then look at the stroke rate. Does it feel like you’re rowing at the rate your cox box displays? If it feels like you’re rowing lower than the displayed rate, that’s usually a good sign that your crew’s got a good rhythm.

Another thing you can do to gauge your crew’s rhythm is to watch the shoreline. (This is best done during practice.) If the crew is moving well together and not rushing then you should notice that on the recovery you stay in relatively the same place in relation to something on shore. You only surge forward on the drive. If you ever get a chance to ride in the launch, pick a rower and watch for this. If you’re feeling like the boat is being rushed or like there’s no consistency in motion between the rowers, a call like “long, rhythm…” (spoken in the same way Connor said it) is a simple and to the point call to make. It’d also be a good call to make coming out of the start and into your settle as a way to help establish the rhythm following the frenzy of your high strokes. In order for a call like this to actually get the message across, it’s important that during practice or off the water you communicate with them what rhythm actually is so that they know the “deeper meaning” behind the call you just made. Practice is the time to do the explaining and clue them in to what your calls mean, that way during races you can be short and to the point in order to keep them engaged and sharp.

At 2:36, I like how he jumped on the opportunity to move and made that “now we walk” call. Whenever you’re down on another crew, if you take a five or ten for something you should always be watching to see if that burst resulted in you walking on the other crew, even if that wasn’t your original intention. If you do gain on them, capitalize on that and immediately say “even”, “gained a seat”, etc. followed by something like what he said here: “now we walk”. These opportunities are rare and fleeting over the course of a 5-7 minute race so when they come up, don’t miss out on them.

“They came out too hard, now we punish them” – this is another opportunity that you can capitalize on if you’re paying attention. If you notice a crew go out hard and fast, you’ve gotta make a judgement call: do you push your crew to keep up and risk burning them out too early or do you wait for the other crew to crash and burn so you can (hopefully) walk through them with a strong finishing 500? If you wait and see the other crew starting to fall off pace, jump on it immediately. They made a mistake, now’s your chance to burn them. Bonus points if you lock eyes with someone in the other boat when you tell your crew they came out too hard – trust me, it’s a whole new level of (twisted) joy you have to experience to understand.

Another call that I thought was smart/good was the “internal now” call. If you’ve been making several calls in a row about other crews, following them up with something “internal” helps bring the focus back to you guys. He makes a similar one a little bit later where he says “focus on me, not on them”, which is particularly useful if/when you see rowers looking out of the boat. (That should be a cue though that if they’re looking out of the boat they’re probably trying to see where the other crews are so you should give them a position update if you haven’t done so in awhile.) Also with regards to internal calls, with the “one bad stroke, get it back” call, regardless of why it was a bad stroke, move on. Make this call to keep the rower(s) present and focused on the strokes ahead, not the ones (s)he’s already taken.

Last thing – at 3:28 he says “we gotta keep moving”, which I think is one of those calls that sometimes we know we need to make but aren’t sure if we can or should make because it’s demanding and coxswains don’t always feel comforting demanding their rowers do something. Your job though is to execute the race plan and strategize in real time what the crew has to do to finish ahead. If you find you’re just sitting on a crew (not giving anything up but not taking anything either), get aggressive and make a call to recommit, get the catches in, and drive the legs. Don’t let the crew settle for anything because you never know when the other ones are going to make a move and surge ahead.

Other calls I liked:

“Sharp and shallow…”

“Ready … steady … now!”

“They’re fucking toast!”

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