MIT 2015 IRA Men’s Varsity 4+ Repechage
I haven’t posted any of our recordings on here (they’re all on YouTube if you wanna listen to them) but I wanted to post this one because I think it was our varsity coxswain’s best recording of the season and I’m really damn proud of that for more reasons that I can count. I wish I could remember everything I pointed out to him when we initially watched this after the race but that was a month ago so below is a recap of what I assume I told him.
The whole starting sequence – start, high 20, transition to base – was really well executed. He started off the year/season drawing his calls out to really annoying and unnecessary lengths so to finish the season really crisp like this is a huge improvement. I also really like how we started doing the shifts down to base. I honestly don’t remember if this is something we talked about or if he just started doing it on his own but adding in that second shift really helped clean up that transition and make it a lot smoother.
It still annoys me (in the most minor of ways) that he calls a “ten to establish (the rhythm)” right after the start but if you’re going to take a ten for something at that spot, calling it for rhythm isn’t the worst thing to choose. (As long as it’s not for power – you have no idea how much this makes me rage.) One of the things we/I really harped on this season was not relying on 5s and 10s to get across whatever you wanted them to do. Instead of calling numerous 5s for catches, finishes, legs, etc. just make the call for a few strokes and then move on. You don’t need to take a burst just to get them to do something. My point there is that instead of calling a 10 to establish the rhythm I would have just gone straight into “legs long, legs loose” for a couple of strokes because just counting out the strokes doesn’t establish the rhythm, you’ve gotta actually back it up with legit calls.
Prepping the crew for an oncoming wind gust is always smart so I like that he saw the gust coming at 1:16 and said “wind gust on this one”. This is probably the best footage I’ll be able to get from a coxswain’s POV of what the wind looks like so if you’re still trying to figure out how to read the wind, look at the ripples in the water immediately before, during, and after he makes that call. The wind had been picking up throughout the reps (there were three total) but it stayed pretty much a cross-head the entire time. You can tell it’s a headwind because the boat is going into it (vs. a tailwind where you’re going with it) and the diagonal pattern of the ripples indicates that it’s a slight crosswind, meaning that the wind is going perpendicular-ish to the course instead of straight with the lanes (in which case it’d just be a direct head or tailwind).
A couple strokes later you can hear BU’s coxswain say “I’ve got bow ball”, which could easily have been disastrous for us (and if it was earlier in the season it probably would have been). I like how he handled it though. He’ll probably say that he didn’t hear her or wasn’t paying attention, thus what I’m about to say is totally irrelevant but I like that he just said where they were on BU, that they were walking, and to stay relaxed and poised. From there he makes the call to get the boat set (the crosswind wasn’t helping us there) and they immediately took a seat back on BU. The calmness in his voice throughout that segment is not something I would have thought was possible a few months ago, or at least not something that could be executed that well, so I’m really, really proud of how he handled that. (But like I said, he’ll probably say he had no idea what BU’s coxswain was doing so I’ll just pretend that what I said was his plan all along.)
As they come into 750m and he says “let’s walk up and pass, I’m on 2-seat, get me bow man…”, that’s a perfect way to call that and is another good example of what I mean by simplifying your calls. All you’ve gotta do is tell them where you are and where you wanna be and that’s it. The only thing I wish he would have done after that five was to tell them whether the move worked or not (by either saying “got the bow man” or “they held their margin” or something easy like that).
At 1000m I like the shift in his tone. I was getting a little worried initially when I listened to this that his usual fire during the body of the race wasn’t going to be there but it came out here and stuck for the rest of the race, which was good. All his calls through this section are great, especially the “now keep the attack” that he finished off with. I also, obviously, love the “that’s bow ballll” call. That 20 plus the small moves for each pair that he followed up with are, I’m convinced, what secured our position for the rest of the race. Couldn’t have asked for better execution here.
The “five for each pair” move is something we’d been working on throughout the season and it was getting to the point where I was so frustrated with it that I almost told him to just stop doing it because he could just not go from pair to pair without freaking monologuing between each one. It was driving me nuts. (You can hear this in the Sprints recording I think.) He did a great job calling it here though. I love the transition from stern pair into all four with the “establish dominance, 5 strokes for open” call. (400ish meters ago we were down two seats and now we’re going for open … can’t ask for much more than that.)
The ten for length at the 500 was kinda the only thing that I wasn’t super happy with, only because his calls didn’t match up with what he was asking for. Taking a ten for length there is a great idea and something we definitely needed but if you’re gonna call it for length your calls have to match that and his were a little all over the place. I liked his tone and everything, just not the words themselves.
When he made that “drop them” call at 5:31, this aggression was what I was waiting for and he brought it out at just the right time. The end of the race always makes me a little nervous because he’s not the most reliable at calling the finish – sometimes he nails it, other times he’s way off (ahem … Princeton) – but he did fine here. In any other situation casually calling the extra two like that probably wouldn’t have worked, especially if the race was close, but we were ahead by enough that it didn’t make a difference. We were in a position to advance by open water so whatever. Not something I’d recommend though – if you’re gonna call last five or last ten, make sure it’s actually the last five or last ten. Practice this whenever you do pieces so you can get used to gauging the distance between when you make the call and when you cross the line, that way there’s no question on race day that you’re calling the correct number of strokes to the line.
Kent School Boat Club Women’s Varsity 8+ at st. andrews
This coxswain sent me her audio a few weeks ago so below is part of my reply to her. This is one of the better recordings I’ve listened to from this past season so definitely check it out.
“Tone, volume, intensity, calls, etc. throughout the entire race were solid. I wouldn’t change a thing. You got a little repetitive with the “twist” call but I think you had a good enough variety otherwise that it doesn’t matter too much. In the future you might consider incorporating in some alternatives to “twist” (“rotate” is one that I use a lot), that way you’re still communicating the same thing just with a different word so as to not get too monotonous or repetitive.
Another thing is it seemed like you stuttered over the names of the crews a couple times when you were giving the girls your position – if you’re not 110% sure of who is in each lane then just say their lane number. When I race I only call the name of the top one or two crews that we consider our biggest competition and everyone else I just refer to by their lane #s, that way I don’t risk tripping myself up in the middle of a call if I can’t remember who is where. I feel like when you’re in a groove of coxing and then you stutter over something like a crew’s name it can throw off the momentum a bit (or at the very least knock you our of your zone) so that’s always something I try to avoid.”
At 2:56, I love how she called “No mercy one, no mercy two…“. The intensity is great (there’s nothing like a good “no mercy” call to really stick the knife in) but I like that she sandwiched them between counting out the ten. Making simple but occasionally deadly (for the other crews…) calls like this are a great way to get just a liiiiittle bit of extra punch on each stroke.
Other calls I liked:
“I just lit the fuse…”
“You don’t mess with us ’cause we’re the best…” (Cocky? Hell yes. A great call? Oh hell yes.)
Oxford Brookes vs. Brown University 2014 Henley Royal Regatta Temple Challenge Cup Final
I got an email about this recording a couple weeks ago asking my thoughts and it said: “Both my crew and coach love the coxing here, but the other cox at my club, who’s very experienced and has coxed the [redacted the very prominent team name] eight, doesn’t think the coxing is great – he reckoned they would have won regardless. I wondered what your take on it is?” This was my reply:
“Personally I do like this recording. I think the other one (the Abingdon – BH one) is better but this is still in the upper echelon of recordings that are out there. Something I’ve heard a lot of people say is that he was a little over the top and should’ve acted like he’d been there before, which I definitely see and agree with (to an extent). At this level I think having a coxswain like him can only add speed to your boat so regardless of whether they would have won or not, I don’t think that should really change how he’s coxing them. The only real thing that I didn’t like was he was a little repetitive for me, although I think that’s just a general difference in style between the UK and the US.”
Now, make no mistake, I love this recording. Our V8+ coxswain even borrowed some calls from it this season. The main thing I hear people have spirited discussions about is how over the top he gets and like I said, I get that and can see how it might annoy people but to me it’s not the kind of “over the top” that is offensive or asshole-ish. There are PLENTY of recordings I’ve posted on here where you can argue that the coxswain is being “over the top” during the race but sometimes that’s just part of coxing. As long as you’re not being unsportsmanlike, does it really matter how into it you are as long as you’re still steering straight and communicating clearly?
The takeaway for coxswains from this recording is the Beyonce levels of flawlessness in the execution of the race plan. They grab the lead right from the very beginning and just pile it on from there. The bladework at the start is excellent and the gradual build in volume he has as he’s calling “legs loose” really sets the tone early. You can tell they have a plan going into this because the moves and his calls just flow really well throughout the race. It doesn’t feel like anything he’s saying is being come up with on the spot, which is rare since you’re not usually in a position (at this level, let alone at this regatta) where you’re far enough ahead of the other crew(s) that you don’t have to worry about deviating from your race plan.
He makes a lot of rhythm calls (and announces them too…), in addition to encouraging the rhythm by the way he makes the calls so if that’s something you’re looking to work on definitely listen to this. There are lots of spots throughout the recording where he does this and they’re very easy to identify. (Plus, you should be able to pick this stuff out on your own anyways without someone else pointing it out to you.)
I like how he said “Take it all in, feed off of it…” as they’re coming through the spectator area at 6:56. This is a great call for those regattas where you can feel the energy from the spectators and you can hear them screaming as you approach them. Never underestimate the power of the crowd to give your crew an extra surge at the end. Bring that energy into the boat and make it work for you.
Last thing is that “end them now” call at 7:45. I love this but what really seals the deal is the finger point he does as he says it. I did this once and my coach told me it was the most demoralizing thing he’d ever seen a coxswain do to the rest of the field so I’ve always had an affinity for psychological fuckery like this. Wisco’s V8+ coxswain did this to our eight when we raced them back in May and when they came up to collect their shirts I told him in front of our coxswain how much I respect coxswains that have the balls to make moves like that. Luckily our cox knows me well enough to know that it wasn’t a dig against him so it was cool. Laughs were had later.
To me, stuff like this is the ultimate sign of confidence. Some people probably/definitely think it’s cocky and it absolutely is but it does waiver between being the good kind of cocky and “you look like a dick”. Being cocky is fine (and necessary) to an extent but at some point it crosses the line from being legit to being compensatory and it’s always obvious when you’re compensating for something (usually a lack of confidence more than anything else). No coxswain would ever do the “shut them the fuck down now” finger point if they weren’t 10000% sure that their crew was executing everything exactly the way it needed to be done and that their position in the race was unquestionably secure. This isn’t one of those things that you can do every race though. This is one of the ones that you do once, maybe twice in your career. The moment’s gotta be right otherwise you do just look like an asshole.
Other calls I liked:
“Legs loose…”, mainly the way he says it
“Stay relaxed as we hit the gust … stay loose … stay loose …”
“Keep moving in this rhythm, in your rhythm…”
“10 months, every erg, every session, together, for this one fucking moment…”
“Drop the knees…” Good alternative to most “legs” calls.
“200 remaining, ready … steady … go for the Temple win!“
You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.