Coxing Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

Interesting question: How often do you think a cox should talk during a race? I feel really awkward and useless if I stop talking for more than a few seconds, and when I rowed our cox would talk almost constantly during races. However, at a regatta briefing the other day the OU Captain of Coxes implied that coxes should only be talking every few strokes. I guess it depends on the standard and nature of the crew, but what do you think?

My personal opinion (and how I was taught) is that the coxswain should always be talking unless they’ve told their crew that they’re going to stop talking for a period of time. Maybe that’s just an American thing but I don’t feel like there’s ever any point when you shouldn’t be talking during a race. When I’ve talked about this in the past with some of my crews they say that even if they zone out on what the coxswain is specifically saying, they’re still listening … that voice is what keeps them IN the boat and not looking around at everything that’s going on or whatever else.

I’ve heard coaches tell their coxswains during head races that if everything is going fine there’s no reason for them to talk all the time. To me though, on the flip side of that, it seems like they’re saying that if everything is going to hell the coxswain should be talking constantly. If that’s how your team does things and your rowers learn that style of coxing, how are they supposed to differentiate between when things are going well and when things are going horribly wrong? I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s how I picture it in my head.

During practice pieces for Head of the Charles, right after the Weeks turn I’d have my crew take a silent five just to regroup, refocus, and get ready for the second half of the race. I wouldn’t count or talk … those five strokes were theirs to do what they needed to do. It always worked out well because after Anderson we were always much stronger when we did those silent five strokes. We did it enough during practice that we didn’t have to do it during a race and I kept talking right through the point where we normally do it. In race situations, I just feel like rowers need that constant bug in their ear reminding them of what they need to do. If they don’t or they don’t like coxswains that talk all the time, let me introduce you to the coxless 4, the 2x, the 2-, and the 1x. Take your picks and enjoy being stuck in your own head for 2-6k.

I agree with you in that I really think it depends on what kind of crew you have. I don’t think coaches should ever tell coxswains how to cox or what to say or how often to say it because the likelihood that they were a coxswain is slim. More than anything else, I think it’s a style of coxing that is specific to each individual. Some coxswains might be OK with not talking and others are chatterboxes. As long as those who talk all the time are saying useful things and not just blabbering away, I don’t see a problem with it. I’d talk to your crew too and see what their input is … after all, they’re the ones you’re talking to!

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