College Coxing High School Racing

Coxswain recordings, pt. 31

7k row to the basin

A high school coxswain emailed me this recording a couple weeks ago so below is the email I sent her with some feedback. In her initial email she also included her own comments on what she thought of her coxing (PS I love when you guys do that because it helps me narrow in on what you think you need to work on), which included things like “my coxing started very calm but in the middle it was similar to how I would have coxed a sprint race”, “I never mentioned the time and pointed out only some of the landmarks I should have”, “I have lots and lots of calls about the legs”, “Some of the focus 10s were not for anything in particular and were just moves”, “10 in 2 would be more effective than 10 here in some (most) cases”, etc.

Here’s what I said:

“I agree that your intensity level did rise throughout the piece but I think that’s fairly natural. I do the same thing when I’m coxing long pieces like this, as do other coxswains that I know. I think as long as you’re not super obnoxious about the changes in your tone or volume it’s not a big deal. I thought this was fine though.

I like the “reel ’em in” call too. It’s a good way to say “get after these guys” without actually saying that. Regarding the “10 in 2 vs. 10 here”, I agree that it’s more effective, especially in long pieces like this where it’s easier for them to zone out, to give them a bit of a warning and either say “on this one”, “in two”, or whatever so that at the very least they’ve got one stroke or so to get ready to execute whatever you’re calling for.

If you notice the intensity starting to fall off, at the very least make sure they’re still rowing well. Focus purely on their technique for 20-30 strokes if you have to but make sure that even if the pressure is falling a bit that they’re still rowing at a high level. Sometimes I notice that when I back off the typical power calls and just focus on technique, the power gradually starts to come up a bit on its own … not necessarily to where it was before but enough that I notice it and can then say “Yea, there we go! You see how we’re starting to push those puddles away again? That’s just from adjusting our posture and making sure our body prep is set early. Let’s take five now to really emphasize the swing and get the shoulders set. Ready … go!

I like doing 5s for each pair or 5s for each four during longer pieces like this. It’s something different and gives you a chance to focus on the individuals a little more than you otherwise would. Plus it gives them a little bit of personal responsibility for those five strokes. You executed this very though so good job. I liked your tone, the calls you made, etc. I’d do it exactly like that during a race if you decide to incorporate that as a move of some kind.

I also noticed that you made a lot of leg calls but I think as long as you’re diversifying them and not making the same leg call over and over then it’s OK. One thing I would practice the next time you’re out though is making calls for other parts of the stroke. To kinda force yourself into doing this, I would try something like this: for one entire practice, anytime you want to make a call for the legs, pause for a second and come up with a call for something else. The calls could be for puddles, sharp catches, smooth finishes, posture, body prep, long recoveries, bending the oars, blade height, getting max reach, etc. The goal is to not make ANY calls for the legs and instead make calls for everything else. The legs are a really easy thing to make calls for and are what a lot of coxswains default to (myself included) so every so often you’ve gotta take yourself out of that comfort zone and force yourself to do something different so that on race day you’ve got a wealth of calls built up that you can pull from. You actually already do a great job of calling for a variety of things so just consider this as a new challenge to continue building your skills in that area…

When you call for focus 10s, I would instead call for focus 5s. 10 strokes is too long to “focus”, especially during hard pieces like this, and 5 usually ends up being more effective anyways.

You do a great job of consistently giving the rowers information (and you already know what you need to give them more of – i.e. time, landmarks, etc.) and your overall tone is fantastic. Like I said earlier, don’t worry too much if there’s a gradual shift in intensity as the piece progresses. Something else that I really appreciate as a fellow coxswain is your self-awareness. I like that you listed out your own comments on your audio because that shows that you’re actually invested in what you’re doing and are keeping yourself accountable. Another thing I liked was how you clearly and concisely yelled at the other coxswains to tell them where you were as you got close to them. That’ll come in verrrrrrry handy if you’re racing at HOCR.”

University of Delaware 2015 Dad Vail Men’s Varsity 8+ Petite Finals

Jake, the coxswain of Delaware’s heavyweight 8+, sent me this recording after Dad Vails and it really blew me away. Easily one of the best recordings I heard all season – actually, I think this is the best I heard all season. Here’s what I said in my email to him with a few additional bullet points below that.

“This is really good – your intensity, tone, calls, etc. are on point. I feel like I’m nitpicking just trying to find stuff to critique. The one piece of advice I have is when you make a call like “walk away, walk away”, “it’s time to go”, “time to break off UNC” (great call btw), etc., immediately follow that up with a 5 or 10-stroke push just to carry over the momentum from your call. When I make a call like that I want the rowers to immediately think “yea, let’s go!” and since I know they tend to get a burst of energy from that I want to capitalize on it by immediately following up with a 5 or 10-stroke move to do whatever I just said to do, be that to walk away from the field, put away another crew, etc. If you say “it’s time to go” and then there’s crickets after that then it’s like “OK … I’m ready to go … tell me what to do …” and you kinda lose the opportunity to make something happen. You also run the risk of another coxswain hearing you say “walk away!” and them thinking you’re calling a 10 so they call their own 10 to counter the move they think you’re making. That can backfire on you if they end up getting a seat or two out of it. (The only reason why I say that is because I’ve done this to other coxswains before and if you’re down a seat or two and do it at just the right point in the race you can pretty much kill their momentum and take the race from them.)”

In addition to everything I said up above, I really like the simple “assault” calls he makes throughout the race. This is something I think a lot of younger coxswains have to learn/remember – every call you make doesn’t need to be a full sentence long and every call doesn’t have to be “a call”. More often times than not you can easily get away with saying something simple like “assault” and that will convey the same exact message as “OK guys, this is where we get after it and start taking back some seats”.

Another thing I really liked was the build up into the sprint starting with the “10 at base” at 4:55. I like how he calls the first five of that ten, says “assault”, then starts the next five with “next five, bow ball”. THAT is what I mean when I say to simplify your calls and cut out all the excess. You know exactly what he wants and how many strokes you have to do it and it only took four words to communicate that. Now, what I really liked about the sprint was how he transitioned into it. At 5:12 he says “shifting up to a 38 over two … shift one, shift two …” and then they hit it. I like the simplicity. If you’re trying to figure out how to get your crew to shift up at the end without doing a big build or anything (or alternatively, you’re only going up two beats and don’t need five to build into it) then I’d definitely suggest trying the shift over two and seeing how that works. (PS If you haven’t read this post on “in” vs. “over” vs. “on” check it out so you understand the difference between all three and make sure you explain it to your crew too. In, on, and over do not mean the same things!!)

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

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