How To Q&A Rowing Teammates & Coaches Technique

Question of the Day

What the hell do I, as a stroke seat, do to calm outrageous rush?

If you’re already setting a reasonable pace and they’re not following you, it’s unlikely that things will improve if you try to forcefully resist the rush because that’s just going to result in the timing getting way off, which will cause other problems (obviously).  I’ve occasionally had strokes that will try to hold their finishes a little longer but that’ll tend to only work for a few strokes before it gets out of control again (and their backs start to hurt).

If you haven’t already, talk to your coxswain and coach about it. When you’re on the water you should consistently be communicating with your coxswain whenever it feels like you’re getting pushed up the slide. During water breaks or on land, you should bring it up to your coach so they can observe the crew to try to determine what/who is causing it and/or so they can adjust their practice plan, if necessary, to focus on slide control for a bit. Fixing the rush tends to be a collaborative task, at least in my experience, and really requires you and your coxswain to be on the same page whenever you’re on the water. Off the water, you have to communicate what you’re feeling to the coach. The coxswain can explain how it feels to them but we don’t feel the rush the same way you do in stroke seat so it’s important that you tell the coach where you feel it the most during the stroke, if it only happens at specific rates or if it’s a regular and consistent problem, if you notice it more when a certain pair comes in (i.e. if you’re rowing by 6s and you only feel rushed when 3 + 4 are rotated in), etc.

One thing that I’ve consistently heard from my stroke seats over the years is that they’re not going to take the rate above what feels comfortable for them. If we’re doing pieces at a 28 but they feel like shit because of the rush, they’ll row at a 26. If it still feels like shit, they’ll go down to a 24. This obviously requires communication between you, your coxswain, and your coach so it’s something I’d definitely try to discuss before going out on the water but there are other times when you just need to make a game-time decision and tell your coxswain “this feels awful, we’re taking the rate down two beats”. You’re the one responsible for dictating the pace so … assert yourself and do that (without being an ass about it). One of the things that rowers need to understand in general is that there’s no point rowing at a certain rate if it feels terrible just to say you did your piece at a 28 or a 32 or whatever. Find a stroke rate that feels good (even if it’s really low), row at that rate for awhile, then bump the rate up and try to get that same feeling. Emphasizing slow recoveries and making sure your coxswain is calling out the people who are early at the catch are going to be two of the best things for your crew right now. It’s also going to be important for you to tell the coxswain when something changes, either positively or negatively, so they can assess it and make the appropriate call to either reinforce what the crew did well or to continue trying to elicit a change from them.

Related: Hi! My coxing has gotten to the point where I can see the technical problems in my rowers, but sometimes I’m not sure how to call a correction on them. For instance, I know if someone is skying at the catch I can call the boat to focus on direct catches and “hands up at the catch” and things like that for stability…but there are others I’m less sure about. Would you please touch on good ways (positive reinforcement, they hate the word “no” in the boat) to call for the following problems in a rower?

Another thing you can do is ask your coach/coxswain to do pause drills during the warmup. I’ve talked about this before in the post linked above (scroll down to #3 and check out the other links in that section too) but pause drills are great for getting everyone on the same page and really thinking about what they’re doing. I like to break it down into pairs and fours when I can, just because it puts a little more responsibility on the individuals, and because it helps me (as a coach or the coxswain) pinpoint the specifics of what that rower is doing that is contributing to the problem. Obviously that has nothing to really do with you but it’s something you can suggest if they aren’t already part of your warmup or the drills you do.

Also, make sure you talk to your 7-seat (off the water). Their main job is to back you up and maintain the pace you’re setting. That obviously puts a little more pressure on them to resist the rush but at the same time, they can’t be part of the problem by contributing to it. They probably feel it just as much as you do if it’s really that bad so just remind them that you need them to back you up and help set the rhythm.

Bottom line, what it comes down to as far as what you can do to calm the rush is to make sure you’re aggressively and consistently communicating what you’re feeling to the people around you. Effective communication will be your biggest asset here. Let your coxswain (first) and coach (second) be the one to communicate what you’re saying/feeling to the crew as a whole but make sure you’re also talking with your 7-seat off the water or quietly during breaks about how things are going.

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