My rowers told me after practice today that I should focus on the tone of my voice and not be so “intense” during our practices. I don’t really know how to fix that actually. Like I don’t think I am so “intense” but rather just firm and trying to be concise with the command I give out. They said that they really like how I cox during a race piece because my intensity level fits the circumstances. But they also said that if I cox in a similar tone to race pieces, they can’t take me seriously during the races. But my problem when I first started coxing was not being firm enough and getting complaints about how I should be more direct on my commands. Now when I am, my rowers say this. I don’t really know what is the happy medium. Like I listen to coxing recordings and I feel like I am doing fairly similar tones.
I understand exactly what your rowers are saying but I can also see where it can be confusing to you. Think about hearing someone say the same word over and over again … just incessantly repeating it until it doesn’t sound like a word anymore. That’s kind of what is happening with you right now. You’re keeping the intensity in your voice ALL the time and when it comes time for you to actually USE that intensity, the rowers don’t hear it because they’re so used to hearing it during practice. Does that make sense?
While you’re coxing communicating firmly and concisely is key but you can do that while talking in a conversational voice. How do you talk to the rowers (or anyone) when you’re not in a boat? Just … normally, right? When you’re calling drills or short pieces, use THAT voice. You can still make the calls short and staccato without raising your voice or making your voice deeper. Not only do you sound more natural but you also sound more confident. Sometimes intensity, especially if it’s an all-the-time thing can be mistaken by the rowers (and your coach) as being nervous or lacking confidence. It can also piss the rowers off and make them think you’re on some tiny tyrant rampage in which your goal is to assert your dominance over them. The speakers in the boat depersonalize your voice, so you’ve really got to work to let the rowers know you’re not a robot. If something awesome happens in the boat – it FINALLY sets up, they get a little more jump, whatever – get EXCITED for a stroke and then immediately bring your voice back down.That change from calm to intense will give them a little kick and keep them “awake”, so to speak.
As your crew starts to increase the intensity of the workout, you should start to increase the intensity of your voice. Build into it together. You want your voice to always be aggressive, but that aggressiveness doesn’t necessarily need to correlate to the volume of your voice. Think like when your parents get really angry at you … like the kind of angry where their voice is really stern but really quiet. That general idea is kinda what you’re going for.