Marcus McElhenney USA Men’s 8+ vs. Oxford University Boat Club
The first thing you hear is Marcus getting the crew set before the start. I like that he says “stern pair, hands only” because the “hands only” part isn’t something a lot of coxswains do. When you’re trying to get aligned, unless you’re several seats back (and even then…), the rowers don’t always need to be taking full-slide strokes. Sometimes hands only, arms only, etc. will get the job done. Awareness of the distance you need to move and the amount of manpower it’ll take to get from Point A to Point B is a crucial skill that you’ve gotta learn so that when you’ve gotta make small adjustments like this, you can do so quickly and efficiently with no hesitation.
At 0:41 you also hear him say “my hand is up, do not go…”. Rule #1 of racing – if you’re not ready, don’t go. This would be a good habit to get into with your crews as you’re getting your points at the start so that if you find yourselves in a situation where you’re actually not ready, the crew won’t flinch when you say “don’t go”.
An important part of coxing when you first start out is learning the role motivation should play in your race plan (it’s literally one of the lowest priorities) and how to incorporate it without sounding like a cheerleader. A call that Marcus makes at 2:35 that I love is “use your 5:50s now!”, which is a great call for power but it also serves as a solid motivational call. (I can see it being used a lot with men’s crews.) Many of his “motivational” calls are team related too – use your 5:50s, show Mike Teti what you can do, you’re the USA Men’s 8+, etc., which should give you a good starting point if you’re trying to come up with some calls of your own.
At 6:47 he says “if you can hold them now, we can take that turn.” I like this because it shows he’s thinking a few steps ahead of where he’s at now. He’s taking the information he’s getting from what’s around him, looking at the distance between where they are and the turn, and assessing the situation … and he’s doing all that in the middle of the race without letting it impact any of the other stuff he’s doing. This is also a good call to make to your crew, especially for a head race when you’re jostling for positions.
“I’ve had enough of this sittin’ around shit!” – pretty sure Marcus has said that to coxswains who weren’t hustling fast enough at camp. I’ve made similar calls when we’re just sitting on a crew and the change in words helps, obviously, but it’s the change in tone that makes the biggest impact. You can just sense that there’s a different sense of urgency when he says this compared to what he was saying before this call. In this call you can hear that he’s demanding more of the crew even though he’s not specifically saying “give me more”.
Last thing – at 8:40 he says “you know these guys can sprint, you know they can sprint!”. This is smart because it reminds the crew that even though they’ve taken the lead now, it’s in no way secure yet and they can’t underestimate Oxford just because their (USA) bow ball is in front. This is why it’s always a good idea to have an idea of what the strengths/weaknesses are in the crews you’re racing against. I don’t think you need to get all stalker-ish and scout the hell out of them but if you hear things like Columbia has a strong sprint or Washington takes a move at 750m and leaves everyone in their dust … you’ll know that if you somehow get up on them, you can’t take that position for granted because these other crews might still have something in their back pocket that they’re waiting to break out and use against you.
I also like how at the end he keeps them focused on rowing well at the end of the race. I hear a lot of coaches really harp on not being dramatic after a piece and immediately getting them rowing inside arm only, maintaining some semblance of timing, etc. is a good way to avoid that.
USA Women’s 8+ 2010 World Cup III Final
Similar to Marcus, whenever her hand goes up or comes down, she tells her crew. The start of the race is typical Kaitlin, just like all the other recordings I’ve posted – she’s super chill but still being very direct, very focused, and very in her boat.
At 0:45 – 0:47 when she says “we’re gonna take our first lengthen in two … one, send it … two, now…”, you can hear that nothing changes with her volume, the only thing that is different is the inflection in her voice and that naturally lends to a more aggressive punch behind “two, now“. If you’re trying to work on maintaining your composure and being calm while also still being intense … that’s a perfect example.
There are a thousand and twelve things to take away from all the recordings I’ve posted of hers but if there’s one thing you get out of them, it should be how good she is at using her tone of voice to communicate with the crew. Her words are on point but it’s her tone that makes them effective. Another example is at 5:15 when she says “In two we lengthen and go with legs, ready? One … two, TONE CHANGE NOW. Boom, that’s it … Boom, Katie! YES, walking!”. Not only was there a tone change in her voice, there was an actual physical change in the tone of their race. This was their move and she did an incredible job of facilitating that by being relaxed and focused up to this point so that when she said “tone change!” not only did they hear it in her voice but they felt it too.
Other calls I liked:
“Trust the plan, trust your rhythm…”
You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.