Purdue university men’s Lightweight 8+ 2012 Milwaukee River Challenge
There’s a lot going on here with the rowing that is pretty … bad … so I’m going to skip over talking about a lot of that and focus on just the coxing. This is also a long recording so I’m cherrypicking what I think is the most important parts rather than pointing out every single thing. Ultimately I think this audio was solidly average. There were a lot of missed opportunities but the stroke seemed happy with it so take what I say with a grain of salt. If your rowers like what you’re doing by all means, keep it up, but at the same time, recognize where improvements can/should be made too.
While they’re sitting there waiting to start, see how 7-seat is moving his oar back and forth a lot? This would have driven me nuts because it messes up your point, not to mention is really irritating (especially up in the stern) since it jerks the boat a little. That’s probably part of the reason why he has to tell 2-seat to tap it a couple times.
At 3:11 he says “we’re in the cute”, which is a good thing to let your crew know, especially in bigger head races like HOCR where the entire starting area is a humongous clusterfuck.
At 4:45, notice how he calls the 10 really sharp and concise (albeit a little forced) but returns to his normal voice in between counts? That’s a good way to maintain the intensity and keep the crew relaxed.
Between 4:56 and 5:07 is a good example of how to communicate with your stroke during a piece or race. They’re not having a conversation or anything, rather the stroke says what he’s feeling in one quick breath and the coxswain translates it to the rest of the crew. In that same vein though, as the race went on this started to annoy me because even though stroke-coxswain communication is important, I wanted this coxswain to be saying all the stuff the stroke was saying before the stroke said it. Everything he said, with the exception of a couple things at the beginning, the coxswain should have already seen and made a call for. The coxswain should not be coxed by the stroke, if that makes more sense.
When he says “we gotta pull something out” … *long pause* … “alright, we’re going for it” at 11:36, I was pretty convinced that he didn’t actually have a plan or know what he needed to do in the upcoming stretch. You can’t say in a semi-aggressive tone that they’ve gotta make a move and then stop talking. You also can’t say “alright we’re going for it” like you’re debating whether or not you should actually go for it. If now is when you need to make a move, get on their asses and tell them you’re taking a fucking move. When you’ve got contact on a crew like this and you’re trying to walk through them, this is where you take a 20 to get even or put your bow ball in front. A 10 might get you to them but it’s not going to get you through them, which is what you want. If you stop your ten and you’re only half a length through them, that’s going to give their coxswain an opportunity to counter whereas if you take a 20 and can get up to their 2-seat, you’ve essentially absorbed them and it will be harder to counter.
A pro-tip for going around turns like the one at 12:43 is to tell one side to power down to 1/2 or 3/4 pressure and the other to power up. It seems counterintuitive but it’s actually a lot more effective than having one side still at 100% and trying to get the other side to out-pull them. In most cases you should be able to get around in 5-6 strokes. This is something you should practice when possible though so the crew gets used to “powering down” for a few strokes and develops that muscle memory for what it feels like (because 1/2 pressure when you’re consciously thinking about it is a lot different than 1/2 pressure in the middle of a race when you’ve got a shitload of adrenaline pumping through you).
When he says “you’re missing a ton of water” at 15:06, my immediate reaction was “…no shit/OK? How do you want them to fix it??”. You should never assume they know what to do or that something is obvious, especially since it’s your job to tell them what to do and more importantly, when. They’re missing water, you want them to not miss water, but what about their technique needs to change? Just saying “get it in” isn’t going to do much, especially if you’ve already been saying that for 10+ minutes.
Last thing – unless you’re like, 5 strokes from the line, you’re not “almost there” … and even if you are, “almost there” is not a call you should make EVER.
Other calls I liked:
“Together, we move…”
“The boat felt alive…” He said this after the race but this is a great (motivational) call to make during the race when the boat’s running well and you’ve got a good rhythm going.
OARS Lightweight 8+ 2013 Youth Nationals Petite Final
Right off the bat I love that he reminds them to “look at the flag”. This is important and definitely something I recommend coxswains do. Remember, you go on the drop of the flag, not when the announcer says GO. If the flag comes down before he says GO, you go anyways. You can’t see that so it’s important that everyone else in the boat is watching for it.
About a minute in he says ““we’re ahead of everyone” … cool but by how much? If you’re going to tell your boat you’re ahead or behind, always tell them by how many seats. If you only say you’re up or down, inevitably someone is going to look out of the boat because they want to know by how much. Usually I’ll say something like “up on the field, three seats over Lane 3, two seats over Lane 5” and tell them where we are compared to the lanes on either side of us. When everyone is still clustered together it tends to be too difficult to say specifically where you are on five other lanes so a semi-specific overview is generally sufficient.
At 6:15 he says “come on, don’t let them take it…”, which can be a good or bad call depending on your tone. You’re in the midst of a very high-energy situation and you obviously don’t want to give anything up but you also don’t want to make it sound like you’re begging because that just comes off like there’s no hope. Instead of “come on” say “show me what ya got”, “right here, lemme see it”, “stomp on the feet, lemme feel it”, etc. Instead of “don’t let them take it” say “don’t give an inch”, “don’t yield to them”, “show ’em you’re not backing down”, etc. All of this requires a bit of “planning” ahead of time but if modifying how you say something results in a more positive psychological response by your rowers, it’s worth it.
SoCo Crew 2013 Youth Nationals men’s v8+ Heat
The very first thing I noticed – not even joking, the very first thing – is where the starboard buoys are at 0:27 (a foot or two off the blade) and where they’re at at 0:43 (nearly under the rigger). Come on guys. Gotta steer straight. It’s literally your primary/only job.
When you’re counting out strokes try not to just count out the strokes and say nothing in between. I’m definitely guilty of this sometimes, usually when I’m trying to concentrate on something else that’s going on (either where we are, something with the blades, etc.), but it’s something I’m always conscious of and working on. When you’re just counting strokes, especially during a 20, it’s so monotonous. Case in point, the beginning of this race was 50 seconds of straight counting. Go sit in front of someone and count continuously for 50 seconds and see how long it takes for them to get up and walk away. Personally I’m also really anti-counting up and then counting down when calling 20s. If you’re going to count up (1, 2, 3…) on the first ten, do the same with the second ten. Don’t start counting down (10, 9, 8…) because it makes it seem like you’ve hit a peak and you can start coming down now when in actuality you’re still building into the piece. Psychology, guys. Psychology.
At 1:23 he says “we need to get under 1:40 the whole time to win this…”, which might have been something they discussed beforehand but regardless, there are definitely better ways to make this call. Knowing your splits during a race can be both a blessing and a curse and as the coxswain it’s your responsibility to know how to work that information to your advantage. You should go in with a plan – are you going to negative split the whole time or try to hold a steady average? If you go into the race wanting be under a 1:40 you’ve got to communicate and remind your crew of that in an encouraging way. “We committed ourselves to holding a 1:38, let’s see that commitment right now. Sitting at a 1:40, let’s go, big press now … drive it, find that rhythm, 1:39, press swing … 1:38. Connect, press, sssend. YES! Let’s maintain this until we make our move at the 1000m. Commit, sssend. Commit, sssend.”
“I want it bad so we gotta have it…” is a bullshit call and not something you should ever say to your crew. Stop with the separation between you and the rest of the boat. Same goes for the “this is unacceptable” call at 3:17. Yea, maybe it is, but this still is not something you say to your crew in the middle of a race.
The counting between 6:06 and 6:46, randomly calling power 10s in the middle of another power 10 … dude, no.
The biggest thing I noticed in this piece was that the coxswain sounded so irritated the whole time, like he was just pissed to be there. Yea, you’ve gotta stay on them and pay attention to what’s happening around you but saying stuff like “this is unacceptable” or “I want it bad” during a prelim would make me seriously reconsider wanting you in the boat for semis and finals. I went and looked up the heats results from Youth Nats this year and in this race it was first place to semis, next two to the reps. Does going to the reps mean you’ve gotta row another race, yea, but sometimes you’ve gotta cut your losses and know that that’s the inevitable result instead of pushing your crew to beat a team that you’re (most likely) not going to catch. Anyways, I feel like this coxswain has a lot of potential that he’s just not taking advantage of. His voice is great and his intensity (when he’s channeling it properly) is solid but the calls and overall race strategy need work.
You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.