College Coxing Novice Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m a freshman coxswain on my college’s club crew team and I coxed for four years in high school. My team is going to our first race this weekend and it’s a head race. We only have about 1000 meters of water to use when we practice, so we haven’t actually rowed a 5k at practice and my boat has only really had one practice together. How do I go about coxing a head race when my boat hasn’t been together very long and some of the boys in my boat have never even rowed 5000 meters continuously?

There’s a first time for everything, right? Obviously things aren’t going to be perfect because as you said, you haven’t rowed together for very long and where you train doesn’t allow you to actually practice the distance you’ll be racing so one of the things that you could/should do is try to keep the focus on maybe two or three basic things (i.e. the set, the sequencing, and the timing). You know how you cox hard steady state pieces during practice where you’re not racing but there’s still that intensity about the piece and the focus is mainly on the technical aspects of the stroke, having enough power and ratio to get some good run on the recovery, etc.? That’s what I’m talking about. I’d approach it like that while including some hard 10s and 20s as you see fit.

Related: All about Power 10s

Having your expectations adjusted accordingly lets you (and your crew) shift your focus to things that can actually help you get better in the long run. Rowing 5,000 meters for the first time, both individually and as a crew, might not be easy but if you go into saying “here are our goals, this is what we’re going to focus on” then you can come off the water hopefully being able to say that you worked on them and felt them get better over the course of the race, in which case you could say that you had a successful race … vs. going into it with the sole goal of getting from Point A to Point B as fast as possible and only making calls about walking on other crews, “power 10!”, etc.,  all while knowing that none of those things are realistic for your crew to be trying to do right now. Hopefully that makes sense too.

The pressure of being in a race situation is obviously something they need to experience and learn to manage but your biggest responsibility will be to keep them focused on whatever goals you or your coach gives them (set, sequencing, timing, etc.) and not let everything fall apart once they start realizing how difficult it is to row full pressure at 30+ SPM over the course of 5,000 meters. Pacing will be important, especially at the beginning when they’re like “huh, this isn’t that bad… *tries to row full pressure at 38spm with no semblance of timing, set, or technique*”. As an experienced coxswain this is definitely something that you’re capable of doing so those would be my suggestions for how to cox them. Make sure you talk with the rowers and coach sometime in the next couple of days to figure out what they feel the current strengths and weaknesses are so you can start planning your calls accordingly. Good luck!

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Comments (2)

  1. I am only a high school rower but our lake also only has about 1000 meters of length. To prepare for head races we often do and around the lake pieces which double the distance we can row and give us practice taking tighter turns. On the weekends we go to a lake a little father away to practice getting used to the length of a head race. Maybe you could try that?