Coxing Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Hey, so I am the 2V coxswain and we almost always practice with the 1V. Our coach usually starts us a length ahead (or something like that), but the 1V always comes back up. I was just wondering how I can keep the rowers calmer and still take great strokes as they walk on us (and if that happens in a race situation).

If you know that the 1V is going to come back up on you, a point should come where it doesn’t phase you (and/or the crew) anymore. Ideally you should also get to the point where instead of watching them walk on you, you start trying to hold them off and/or push them back. That’s the only way both crews are going to get better.

Related: My girls really like when I cox off of other boats, even if we’re just doing steady state. I’m in the 2V boat so they all want to beat the 1V at ALL times. I find it easy to cox when we’re next to another boat/in front of it. However, I never quite know what to say without being negative and annoying when we’re CLEARLY behind another boat. Yesterday afternoon we were practically three lengths behind the v1, and we STILL didn’t catch up even when they added a pause. What do I say at times like these? I always end up getting rather quiet since the overall attitude of my boat is pretty down. I feel like whenever I call a 10 or get into the piece at this point it does absolutely nothing, since my rowers have practically given up.

Something you can do is to tell them what the margin is like when you start, watch your time, and see how long it takes for the 1V to get bow to stern or even with you. Then, on the next piece say “it took them (whatever amount of time) for them to get even with us, I want you to hold them off for 10 more seconds on this one”. Give them something small like that to work towards and then when they hit the point where the “10 more seconds” kicks in tell them this is where they get tough, now push them back. Once the ten seconds are up, see how long they can maintain their pace and/or splits before it starts to fall off and the 1V walks up. Keep doing this each time you go out and keep increasing the time, strokes, whatever that you want to hold them off.

Point out things the other boat is doing too, like having sharp or sloppy strokes, and use that to help drive your crew. If their catches are sharp, say something like “they’re getting their blades in, let’s clean it up over the next five to match them”. If their catches are sloppy, tell them “they’re shortening up, this is where you make ’em work for it, show ’em how it’s done…”. Unless you are straight up doing a race piece where the goal is to see who crosses the line first, your goal here should be to get better (with a slight undertone of beating them obviously because … who doesn’t want to try and beat the 1V?). If your only goal is to beat the other boat, you’re not becoming better athletes.

Both of those calls are incredibly motivating but in completely different ways. Typically the top boat is one that everyone else strives to be in, as well as the boat that everyone looks up to, so you if you can point out what they’re doing well and help your rowers emulate that by pointing out what they can do better with their own technique, you’re not only helping them row better and stronger as a crew but you’re also helping them individually and preparing them a bit more for when they make that jump to the 1V. You’re also helping your coach by creating a deeper pool of athletes to choose from when he creates the 1V lineup.

Here’s a really random analogy that I just thought of  that I think conveys what I’m trying to say in maybe a slightly easier way to understand. You know how when you’re growing up, you reach a certain age (like, 10 or 11) where your parents start to give you more responsibility and trust you with things in the hopes that you’ll start to mature a little? If you rise to the occasion, that’s when people start thinking you’re older than you are because your level of maturity, responsibility, self-awareness, etc. is a bit higher than your peers. On the flip side, if your parents only ever treat you like the age you are, don’t push you or put you in situations where you need to maybe be more mature than you are, your development stays a little stagnant and you don’t really “grow” or mature at the same rate as your peers who are being put in those situations. With your boat, you want to be the parent that treats your kid like they’re a 1V rower even though they’re in the 2V. Don’t let them assume that just because they’re in the 2V that means that they have to accept being passed by the 1V all the time just because they’re the 1V. Push them and force them to mature so that when they are being challenged by the 1V, they can challenge them back and make everyone say “Wow … that’s the 2V?”.

To keep them calm, there’s only so much you can do. If they’re relying solely on you to prevent them from freaking out because omg there’s another boat, you’ve got bigger issues to address. They’ve got to be able to suck. it. up. and be mentally tough themselves instead of expecting you to be the mentally tough one and project that onto everyone else. Like I said in the post I linked to, the other boat is irrelevant. This also goes back to them maturing mostly on their own but with a bit of help from you. They have to figure out how to not let another crew walking on you flip the “panic” switch in their brains (as individuals) and then communicate that with you so that if/when you are in a situation like that, you know exactly what to say to them to keep them in the moment and focused on what your boat is doing.

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