As most of you know I got to coach at the coxswain camp that Sparks hosted in Tampa the week after Christmas. One of the other coaches was Katelin Snyder, current coxswain of the USA women’s eight, and she graciously offered to send me a bunch of her recordings to put on the blog. I’ve been obsessing over these things for the last week so I’m really excited to finally share some of them with you guys. The three I’m posting today are all in a playlist on my YouTube channel that I’ll keep updated as I share more of her audio in future posts.
University of Washington Opening Day 2008 vs. Navy and Poland
This is from Katelin’s junior year at UW, her second year in a row coxing the varsity eight.
Right off the bat you can hear how she calls the start isn’t like how a lot of coxswains call it. There’s some punch behind her words but for the most part she’s very calm and relaxed. One of the big concepts that we’ve talked about with coxswains at the Sparks camps is not losing your shit at the start of the race and instead remaining composed and keeping your focus on steering straight through the first five or so strokes. This is a perfect example of what that should sound like.
At 0:45, I really like how she called their stride – “we’re striding in three strokes, increasing boat speed in two…”. She says what she wants (stride) followed up with an objective (increasing boat speed), and says it all as succinctly as possible.
When calling something like a minute move like she did at 1:17, it’s easy to think that in 60 seconds you can take a handful of seats on the other boat(s) but I like that she kept it simple here by going after just one seat and calling out the guy in her boat whose seat they were targeting (and then told him when they’d got it).
In between her calling “inches” you can hear her stroke say “length!” at 4:13, which she immediately follows up with on the next call by calling for more length through the water. That’s a fairly common question that I get, how to communicate with your stroke during the race and this is a good example of how simple it really is.
University of Washington vs. California 2009 Duel
OK, so for some context watch this video of the race that was taken from the launch. Turn your volume up too and prepare yourself for the single greatest move that I think I’ve ever seen at 1:41. (TBH I’m kind of excited to hear from inside the boat how this move played out because we saw Washington do something similar several times at IRAs last year, including when they were in our race in the V4+, so … it’s nice having some insider knowledge now of how they do it.)
I really like the “lengthen and increase boat speed” call she makes out of the start at 0:40 as a reminder to not let the power fall off as the stroke rate starts to ease out into their base pace. Also saying “hold the knees” instead of something related to the slides is a good alternative; it’s a more active call than just “slow the slides” or whatever we normally say.
I like that they take their move at 650m in. Calling moves at the 500m, 1000m, etc. is fine but these moves taken at relatively unconventional spots are what gets your bow ball in front. Starting at 1:52, I’m obsessed with this chunk of calls, particularly the “get outta here!” one. I’ve looped it so many times because even without watching the video, I can feel California’s souls getting crushed and as a coxswain there are few better feelings than seeing that moment when the other crew realizes they’re about to get dropped. After you make a successful move on another crew, the next thing you have to do is watch them for the counter attack because it will happen and you don’t want to be caught off guard when it does. I like how she stays calm at 2:25 and reminds them to defend it by completing the strokes (nothing fancy, just relying on flawless execution of the basics) before calling that ten at the thousand to “end it”.
Lengthening out at 1250m is a really solid strategic move. It’s not necessarily a move to gain anything, rather it’s an internal move to get the bodies ready for the last 500m. By 1250m – the middle of the third 500 – this is probably the peak of pain before the rowers catch that second wind leading up to the sprint. Reminding them to breathe, stay long, etc. eliminates any tension that could otherwise shorten the strokes and decrease the boat speed.
At 3:55 you can hear the stroke say “They’re going!”, which is Reason #875 why stroke-coxswain communication is important. If you’re far enough ahead that you don’t have a clear view of the other boat in your peripheral vision, you’ll need to rely on your stroke seat to alert you to when the other boat starts to move on you.
Team USA Women’s 8+ 2010 World Cup III Heat
This is my favorite of these three recordings. Note how, similarly to the other two recordings, she has a very focused calm in her voice during the start. It isn’t until about 60 seconds into the race where her coxing voice really comes out.
At 4:48 when they’re approaching 750m she makes this call: “…5 more and we lengthen back out. I wanna do it by sending … now send through the back end.” Similarly to the “lengthen and increase boat speed” calls, I like this one because the objectives are clear and she’s calling for them to do it by calling on her knowledge of the stroke and by emphasizing their swing and acceleration (which if that’s something you know your crew does really well, you should incorporate that into calls like this and work the rhythm that comes from it). I also love how her voice is pretty chill at the start of this and then there’s that kick in her voice when she says “fuck yea” – the excitement there is motivating in itself but the contrast in her tone would for sure make me drop a split or two if I were rowing.
Similarly to the lengthen move at 1250m in the previous recording, I like this “breathe for 5” move that they take at 6:45 coming into the last 500m. This has always been one that I do too with my crews just as another way to get them to stay fluid and loose and refocus before we make the final push to the line. The thing to remember with calls like this (that Katelin does really well) is you have to match your tone to the intensity of your call – a call like this can’t be said in the same tone as the “we’re gonna send a fucking message to Canada” call.
Side note, one of the many amusing stories that the guys told me last year about our V8+ coxswain was how during a race he was trying to get the crew to relax and because he was getting progressively more frustrated with how the boat felt, eventually he yelled “JUST. FUCKING. RELAX!!!” which obviously accomplished absolutely nothing. Don’t do that. If you’re gonna make a call that falls under the “relax” umbrella, your tone has to be a little more subdued that it is during the more intense parts of the race.
One last thing I want to point out is the swearing, which I’ve talked about on here a few times (most recently in this post). These recordings are some more good examples of how to swear and how to make it work without sounding like a try-hard. If you’re a junior coxswain and even less so as a collegiate coxswain, very few people are ever going to actually care that you said “fuck” during a race if you use it to punctuate your calls like she does. It’s when it gets gratuitous that coaches get annoyed because it’s just unnecessary and can be borderline unsportsmanlike.
Other calls I liked:
“Hold your momentum…”
“Third 500 is crushing … base … speed!”
“We’re gonna send a fucking message to Canada!”
You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.