Tag: how to

Coxing How To Novice Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

Hi! I will be doing a 2000m race with my crew tomorrow. I’m my team’s coxswain. It will be my second race, but my first 2000m race. I understand steering and such, and I know what calls to make for technique, and I know our starts, but my coach hasn’t really gone over the race itself, I guess. What I’m trying to say is that I need some guidance on how the race should go. Also, stake boats terrify me. Any help you can give me would be amazing!

Stake boats aren’t as scary as they seem. Have you practiced them at all during your practices? The best way to figure out how to do it is to practice it with your coach. Have them (or a teammate) lie stomach down on the launch (which should be sitting stationary, obvs) and act as the stake boat-holder, while you row up and try and back it in. It’s not going to be EXACTLY the same because you’ll have the current of the river moving the launch as well as the boat, but it gives you a GREAT sense of how to do it. Plus, your coach can see exactly what you’re doing and give you pointers on how to correct it.

Here’s a pretty good video that explains a lot about how to get into the stake boats.

As for everything else … it’s pretty straightforward. You row up to the start, get locked on, and go. It’s a straight 2k (I’m assuming) so you won’t have to worry about steering around curves or anything. You want to steer as little as possible so pick a point in the distance and keep it right off your stroke’s ear or shoulder and shoot for that down the course.

Pay attention to what they tell you about the starting call in the coxswain meeting. They’ll either do a quick start (“Attention, GO!”), a countdown start (“5, 4, 3, 2, 1, attention, GO!”), or a polling start (“Harvard, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Cal, we have alignment, attention, GO!”). If it’s very windy or the weather isn’t great, they’ll most likely do a quick start, otherwise they’ll probably stick with a countdown start. That’s been my experience anyways.

Last minute tips:

As soon as you get locked onto the platform and start getting your point, raise YOUR hand and have your bow raise THEIR hand. Unless the marshal’s say they aren’t recognizing hands, they cannot start the race until everyone’s hand is down. If they’re standing on a platform above where you are, it’s easier for them to look down and see the bowman’s hand than it is to see yours, so make sure they’re both in the air.

Find out what the rule is about breakage. Typically if it’s in the first 100m, they’ll call all the boats back to the platform. Breakage has to be legitimate, like a wheel came off the seat or the oar broke. Oarlocks that aren’t closed, crabs, or popping a slide don’t count as breakage.

Also find out what the rule is about flags. Typically they use a white flag to signal the start. In my experience, we were told to go on the flag drop, NOT the call “GO”. If the flag drops before you hear “go”, you can start. Find out the rule for your specific regatta though.

Take a deep breath at the starting line and shake out your shoulders. RELAX!! 2ks are the best kinds of races in my opinion. I’d choose a sprint race over a head race 10 out of 10 times. There’s probably a million other things I could suggest but I don’t want to overwhelm you too much! Have a great time and good luck!!

How To Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Have you ever done a standing shove from the dock or seen it done in an 8+? I’m trying to find information about it online but can’t seem to find anything! Do you have any tips?

I’ve seen the shove done many times but have only done it myself maybe two or three times, all while I was in high school. To be able to execute it perfectly, everyone has to not be scared of falling or flipping. If any one person has doubts about whether or not you can pull it off, that person is going to be the Nervous Nellie that screws it up for everyone else and/or falls out.

When you start, everyone should be leaning over with one hand on the gunnel and the other on the oar. Make sure the oar handles are all the way down to the gunnels. This is probably the second most important thing besides having the confidence to do it in the first place. The push off is the same as call as normal. Start with one foot in the boat and one on the dock. Call “shove in two … one, two” and push off. Everyone needs to get a good shove but not so strong that they shove themselves right out of the boat or knock the boat over to the opposite side. Steady the bodies (tight cores help), steady the blades, and wait a second or two while you drift away from the dock. When you’re ready to sit down, call something simple like “and down” or “and sit”…everyone needs to sit down at the same time too. Make sure no one moves as slowly as humanly possible when sitting, otherwise they’re going to be the ones most susceptible to feeling the boat being unset as everyone starts to put their feet in their shoes. Sit at the same speed you would normally.

It’s definitely something you need to practice if you want to not look like tools when you do it on race day. Once you’ve got it down though it can look pretty cool.

How to cox a boat in and out of the boathouse

Coxing How To Novice

How to cox a boat in and out of the boathouse

Walking the boat in and out of the house is something you’ll do every single day so it’s important that you understand the process, calls, and terminology that go along with it. Each team will have their own subtle variances but this should give you a general idea of what to say and do. If you’re a more experienced coxswain then how get your boat in and out will probably be a lot less regimented than what I’ve laid out below and that’s totally fine. This post is written with novice coxswains in mind though which is why the minutiae of the process is laid out a bit more systematically.

Remember that everything you say should be said assertively. You also need to speak loudly so that your crew can hear you – don’t assume that the echo or reverberation of your voice off the walls and boats will carry your voice. You can never be too loud, especially as a novice.

When giving instructions about where to go it’s important to know which way to tell the rowers to go too. “In the house” means to walk inside the boathouse/towards where the boats are stored and “out of the house” means to walk outside the boathouse/away from where the boats are stored. Vague directions such as “move that way” or “come towards me” aren’t helpful so avoid using ones like that and instead say things like “take two steps to your left” or “walk it towards bow”.

Coxing the boat out of the house

Before you begin, make sure there are four people on each end and each side of the boat. It is easiest to carry the boat if the rowers are bunched up at each end or spread out evenly throughout the length of the boat. Do not have the rowers all bunch up in the middle. This minimizes the support on the ends of the boat and makes it much heavier to carry.

Another thing to be aware of when the rowers line up is their height. You don’t want to have a tall person be on the direct opposite side of a short person because then it forces all the weight onto their shoulder. If you have a range of heights going from stroke to bow, you can have the rowers switch where they stand when they’re carrying the boat down so that it’s comfortable for everyone. (This also eliminates a lot of bitching and “get it on shoulders” from the taller rowers.)

If you’re in a boat that is fairly new to the sport or has varying levels of upper body strength, your best bet is to have two tall people on either end, that way each end will be able to push the boat up and over heads. If all the stronger people are on one end and the weaker are on the other, that spells disaster in the making. Long story short, know the individual strength of your rowers.

To get the boat out of the house, the italicized words are the calls you’ll make to tell your crew what to do.

“All eight, hands on.”

This is the call that lets people know you’re ready to go. When you get hands on everyone should be quiet so they can hear what you’re saying and then do it without wasting time. If people are talking or not paying attention, that’s when boats get damaged.

“Lift it up, slide it out.”

This is the command to get the boat off the racks. When you give the command to “lift it up”, make sure you’re watching the fin. Some people have very liberal ideas of what an inch is and will lift the boat too high, causing either the fin or the hull to hit the boat, riggers, or racks above them. This can do various sorts of damage to the boat (ranging from dents in the hull from the racks or riggers to knocking the fin loose) so make sure when you say an inch, your rowers know you only mean an inch.

Sliding it out is the second part of this command. Once the boat is lifted off the racks this is when the rowers side step it to the middle of the bay. I like to say “slide it out” instead of “walk it out” because it’s (apparently…) easy to confuse “walk it out” with walk it out of the house instead of just walking it to the middle of the bay. Keeping the calls separate just avoids confusion, boat damage, and/or injury.

“Shoulders, ready, UP.” or “split to shoulders, ready, split.”

This call is only necessary if you’re bringing the boat out of a rack that isn’t already at shoulder height. If  you’re bringing the boat up from rollers that are on the ground you’ll need to say “waists, ready, up” first before giving the command to go to shoulders. Don’t go from the boat being on the ground straight to shoulders. If you’re coming down to shoulders from over heads, you’ll want to give the call to “show sides”. This tells the rowers to indicate which side they’re splitting to by leaning their head in the direction they’re going to move. Ideally they should be splitting to the side opposite their rigger.

“Watch the riggers, walk it out.”

Once you’re at shoulders, tell the rowers to watch the rigger in front of them to make sure it’s not going to hit anything and then walk it out. When walking it out, you should always be standing at the BACK of the boat. You should be able to see the entire length of the boat in front of you, regardless of whether you’re standing at the stern or the bow. The “back” of the boat will be dependent on how you store it.

The reason you should be at the back is so you can see if your boat is going to hit anything, which includes but isn’t limited to riggers on other boats, bay doors, random people standing around, etc. By following the boat you can pull it to the side if you need to in order to avoid clipping a rigger or something. Don’t count on your rowers to pay attention to whether or not the riggers are going to hit something (even though you’ve told them to “watch the riggers”) – you have to assume responsibility for your boat.

You also don’t want to stand beside the middle of the boat because if you have to make a turn coming out of the boathouse, you won’t be able to see what’s going on with the back end. If the crew swings too early, that end can hit the boats on the racks, a wall, etc. Additionally, your field of vision for what’s in front of you just decreased by about 50% because now you can’t see what obstructions might be in your way on the other side.

Coxing the boat in the house

For the most part, walking the boat in the house is the exact opposite of walking it out.

“Watch the riggers, walk it in.”

When the rowers are walking in, make sure they’re walking in in a straight line, not at an angle or anything. This is directed more towards crews who can’t walk directly into the boathouse from the dock. The back of the boat is going to follow the front, so if the front walks in at an angle the bow is going to follow, meaning that if/when the front swings around to straighten out, the bow of the boat won’t know what’s happening and will continue to try and walk forward. This typically results in the front of the boat getting pushed forward into another boat or into a wall. More experienced crews can get away with walking it in like that as long as they’re cautious but it’s not something novice or younger crews should do.

The easiest way to bring the boat in is to walk up parallel to the boathouse, weigh enough, and then side step the boat over so that it’s in a straight line in front of the bay. The key is to make sure everyone side steps it over together so the boat stays straight. Once you’re in front of where you want to be, you can walk it in.

“Weigh enough.”

Once your boat is in front of the racks you can tell the crew to weigh enough. A good way to know when/where to weigh enough is to put tape on your boat to mark the spots where it sits on the rack, that way whenever you walk in the house you always know exactly where to tell them to weigh enough. If you go in the house too far or not far enough, see where the tape is in relation to the racks and say “walk it in one step” or “walk it out three steps”. Always give the rowers specific directions so there’s nothing left open for interpretation. Don’t ever say “walk this way” because … which way is “this way”?

“Waist, ready, down.” or “up and over heads, ready, up.”

Be mindful of your position in the bay so that when you go over heads you don’t knock the riggers on other boats on the racks or the fin on any small boats you might have hanging from the ceiling.

“Side step it over, lift it up, and slide it in.”

Same as before, make sure when they lift the boat to get it on the racks, they’re not lifting it too high. Be aware of where the fin and hull are in relation to the boat above them. It’s important that everyone walks it over and puts the boat in together so that the rowers on one end aren’t already walking away from the boat while the other end is still trying to get it on the racks. Before you set it down double check that none of the riggers are sitting on the racks either because it can bend them or cause damage to the hull. If you’ve got tape on the hull to indicate where it should be on the racks, make sure it’s still lined up before everyone disperses.

The most important things to remember when bringing the boat in and out are:

Speak loudly, slowly, clearly, and concisely

Make sure your crew can hear you and clearly understand your instructions. They should never have to yell “what?!” or “we can’t hear you!”.

Pay attention to everything around you

Watch out for people standing in your path, boats that might be in slings in the boat bay, riggers on other boats, etc. It’s your responsibility to communicate to them that there’s a boat coming out/in and they’re in the way.

Don’t get frustrated

Coxing a boat on or off the racks can be nerve wracking, especially as a novice. Stay calm and be in control of the situation. Don’t let the rowers start telling other rowers what to do. Make sure everyone is quiet and listening to your instructions.

This whole process really is incredibly simple once you get the hang of it. Sometimes it requires being in a few different places at once but as you and your rowers become more experienced, both you and they will learn how to make it a smoother process and your instructions won’t need to be as nitpicky.

Image via // @rowingrelated

Coxing Ergs How To Q&A

Question of the Day

Advice for coxing a 5k on the erg? There are only so many times I can remind my boys to keep their back straight and drive with their legs.

Ugh, I feel your pain. Here’s some suggestions.

Talk to your rowers

Ask them individually what they want/need to hear and when. Does one of them start to forget his body positions as he gets more tired? Does another one just need you to ride his ass so he doesn’t quit in the last 300? Take notes and write it all down in your notebook.

Related: Do you recommend carrying a small pocket notebook or having a regular size notebook for notes? I currently have a pocket notebook during erg pieces to jot down splits and times. How do you organize all your thoughts and coxswain information?

Be aware of the rowers who don’t want you to say ANYTHING to them

Erging is a different beast than the boat and everyone has their own way of tackling it. If a rower yells at you to go away while he’s erging or tells you beforehand that he doesn’t like being coxed while he’s on the erg, respect it. Don’t take offense or ignore their request. They get themselves in that zone and you coming up behind them and reminding them about leg drive and such can throw them off.

Don’t try and correct their technique in the middle of the piece

If they haven’t figured it out by now, their times will reflect it and their bodies will feel it. Only tell them what you would tell them in the boat.

Drive: connect with the feet, press, feel it in the lats, etc.
Recovery: control, light on the seat, steady speed into the catch, sequencing, etc.
Body prep: body set early, get the hands and legs to speed, etc.
Bodies: chins up, cores tight, relax the upper bodies, stay light (especially important as they get towards the end and the bodies become sluggish), BREATHE, etc.

Motivate them without being a cheerleader

There are few things in rowing I hate more than perky, peppy, cheerleader coxswains. Get under their skin. Push them. Remind them what they’re doing this for. Are they trying to get one of the top eight times to be in the first varsity boat? Remind them of that when they’re starting to give in at the end. Tell them this is what they’ve been working for over the last few months, do NOT let the last 500m keep them out of this boat. Are they setting out to PR? Tell them to pace themselves, let the time come to them, not them going to the time. Are they trying to lower their times so they can submit them to colleges? Figure out what their top school is and use that to motivate them. When they’re looking particularly strong, get behind them and say “YEA!! That’s what a Dartmouth man looks like!” or “That’s how a Cal Bear attacks it!”.

Know the “science” behind erg strategy

When should they sprint, when should they “make a move”, etc. so you can make the appropriate calls when you cox them. This is also something they should know. Each rower might have their own strategy or your coach can give them a strategy, but it’s up to you to know whatever that strategy is. One rower might say he wants you to come over at 1000m to go to give him a 20…he’s relying on you for that, so you’ve gotta know WHY he wants it and be prepared to give it.

The first 500m, they should go ham just like they do at the start of a race. Get a good start, take a high, hard 20, and then another 20 to settle into their pace. If the pace is capped, make sure no one goes higher than that. 32-34 is probably all the higher they need to be going, although it varies by person.

By the middle 2000 (4000m – 2000m) they should have found a pace and settled into it. Make sure no one is flying and dying. They’re going to start getting really, REALLY tired as this middle 2k progresses because of the lactic acid building up in their systems. This is where you’re going to have to start pushing them and motivating them to not hit the wall – they’ve got to knock it the fuck DOWN.

Watch their splits and make sure they are sustainable, but not 30 seconds over where they should be. If they need to be pulling 1:45 splits, make sure they’re not pulling 1:49. If they back off a few splits during this middle part, the chances they’ll be able to get back down to the original split is going to be nearly impossible (from a physical standpoint but more so from a mental standpoint).

Around 1500m to go they should start pushing the splits down little by little every few hundred meters. Don’t “save” anything for the sprint. If they’ve “saved” their energy, they’re going to have too much to make up in order to get manage a decent time. Remind them of that. Don’t let them fall behind.

Start pushing that split down and then once they’re around 350m to go, drive up the stroke rate and fucking DROP THE HAMMER on the splits. EVERYTHING they have left should be going into this last 350m and it’s up to you to pull that out of them because at this point, if they’re pushing themselves the way they should be, they’re going to want to die.

Pay attention to your tone of voice

If you sound bored when you’re coxing them, they’re not going to listen to you and it can actually drag them down. You’ve got to stay upbeat, concise, direct, and have a good inflection in your voice. When you’re coxing individuals, you don’t have to yell at them 100% of the time. Get right by their ear when they’re at the finish and talk quietly but intensely to them. The person on the erg beside them shouldn’t be able to hear them. Talk quietly for a few strokes then say something like “Now GET IT” or something similar that causes you to raise your voice. You only really need to raise your voice if you’re walking behind them and see they’re going strong (YEA whatever their name is) and when they’re about to sprint (NOW’S THE TIME TO GO!). The rest of the time should be about 75% intensely quiet and 25% intensely loud.

I usually spend more time walking around just quietly observing during erg tests than I do talking to the guys. I’m gonna get more out of doing that than they are from me saying something in their ear (most of the time) so I only try to say something if it really needs to be said.