Coxing High School Racing Recordings

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 29

Capital Crew 2014 San Diego Crew Classic Men’s Junior 8+ Grand Final

One thing that I think every coxswain can always work on is being calm when they’re down on other crews. He does a really good job of just telling the crew where they are without freaking out about it. This is one of the things I really like about the George Washington recordings too – he doesn’t let the place they’re sitting in phase him or have any kind of effect on the delivery of his calls. Keith, the coxswain in this recording, is the same way. Having a coxswain like that is a huge advantage for a crew because if the coxswain is calm, the crew is calm and when the crew is calm they can be downright dangerous.

Right off the bat, I really like how he calls the first few strokes of the start. It’s very rhythmic which is great because it helps the crew establish the boat’s rhythm almost immediately vs. the start just being an all out clusterfuck and the  crew not getting into any kind of sustainable rhythm until 20-30 strokes in. You shouldn’t be saying anything about the other crews during your high strokes though (like he does about 20 seconds in). Focus on your own boat and tell them where the other boats are once you’ve finished your entire starting sequence (start and settle to base pace). Telling them anything before that means nothing because it’s all moving so quick that who’s up and who’s down can literally change every other stroke. Give it at least 200m before you say anything.

At 1:18 he makes tells them that they’re “sitting in 6th place right now…”, which … not that sitting in sixth in the grand final is bad or anything but it’s always good to try and spin it positively so the rowers don’t get discouraged or frantic or whatever. If you’ve got contact on all the boats a call like “sitting in sixth, we’re in this…” is always a reliable go-to. Similarly, one like this also works well: “Sitting in sixth right now, [position on crews X, Y, and Z], we got plenty of water to work with, plenty of time to walk into these guys. Let’s relax and focus on getting our catches in one stroke at a time…”

I’m a huge proponent of calls where you’re calling out a specific rower and saying “you lead this”, which is what he does at 2:20 when they take a five and he tells one of the rowers to lead the send in the boat. If your 3-seat has been working on being direct to the water during practice and you call a five for sharp catches, tell your 3-seat to lead that five. Make the connection between who’s been working on what during practice and incorporate that into your calls. Same goes for power – if your middle four has some nasty ergs, call on them to lead the charge and use their 6:10s or 5:50s or whatever to move the boat.

Overall this is a really good piece. I like how he uses his voice, mainly by smoothly changing his volume and/or tone to fit the situation, and how he uses the rowers and almost gets them to work off of each other by saying “you lead this”, “X, pass it up to Y”, etc. He also does a really good job of keeping the crew informed of their position on the course and against the other crews. I can’t say this enough guys, do not underestimate the importance of your crew knowing their location at any given point during the race. It’s like free motivation, so you might as well take it and use it.

Other calls I liked:

“Gimme give together … smile … and light ’em up…”

“Get hungry boys…”

Oregon Rowing Unlimited 2003 San Diego Crew Classic Men’s Varsity 8+ Grand Final

He does a good job at the beginning here of instructing the crew (mainly “Ben”) in a clear, calm voice. At the start when you’re getting your point you want to make sure that your instructions are concise and easy to hear/understand. Save the “uh’s” and “um’s” for later. Don’t get antsy if you have to keep making small adjustments either – you don’t want to inject that kind of nervous energy into the boat before the race even starts.

Overall their starting sequence between 1:38 and 2:27 is pretty solid. You could argue that he’s counting a little too much but I’ll give him a pass because his tone and clarity is spot on.

At 2:39 they’re about sixty seconds into the race and probably have about 1700m of race course left so “get ready for our move to keep us in contention…” isn’t really a call you need to be making that early in the piece. Being three seats down is still in contention because, as I said, you’ve probably got three-quarters of the course left to work with. Don’t get freaked out if you’re dead even or ahead after your start. If you really feel the need to tell your crew your three seats down on everyone, at least say something like “3 seats down, that’s alright, we’ve got plenty of time to reel them in…”. Keep it positive and then go right into coxing them. You’re right in the pack so you’ve got plenty of things happening around you that you can use to your advantage and to help get your crew going. Focus on that and less on the fact that you’re down a few seats.

Related: It’s OK to not be in first place

Of all the things you can could or should take a ten for, timing is absolutely not and never will be one of them. He calls for this at 2:50 but all he does is count the strokes. In general, if you’re not going to add anything to the burst you’re calling, just make it a silent one or better yet, don’t call it. If the timing’s off, make an active call to correct it and do it on this one.

3:57 when he says “you’re in a battle for third place right now” was a missed opportunity. If you’re gonna say that to your crew, follow it up with a move. Saying “you’re in a battle” and then not going after those other crews with a ten or twenty is like a pretty good example of “stopping short” in crew. If you’re gonna say that, go all the way with it. Also, “you’re” not in a battle, “we’re” in a battle. Stop separating yourself from the rest of the boat.

One of the things that he does well is build the intensity with his voice throughout the race. In the beginning he starts out fairly chill (maybe even a little boring) but by the time they get to 1000m and are even-ish with the lead crews, you can tell he’s really getting into it. You don’t have to always been at 100% during a race and frankly, you shouldn’t be because that doesn’t leave you anywhere to go when you actually need to ramp up the energy and intensity. It’s better to start high, back off a bit, and then slowly build towards the end, that way your calls are actually punctuated by something rather than being one-note the whole race.

By this point (6:35) I think they’ve take four or five bursts for timing. STAHPPP. There’s no excuse for that unless you’re a novice crew. If your crew’s timing is off you better be able to say “catches together now … catch chaaa, catch chaaa” and have them immediately respond to it. It’s like a snap-of-the-fingers kinda thing, it should be an automatic reaction. It really shouldn’t take more than two or three strokes max to get it back.

Another thing he does well is tell them where they are on the other crews. He consistently says “2 seats down, 1/4 seat up, 1 seat up, 2 seats up, etc.” which is exactly what you should be doing when the race is close like this. Don’t assume that just because you’re beside a crew the rowers know where you’re at.

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

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