Tag: novice

High School Novice Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

So I know you mostly get questions from coxswains but do ya think you could riddle me this? I’m a high school rower (started last winter) so technically I’m still a novice but since the beginning of summer I’ve been rowing varsity. I absolutely love the sport but I sometimes feel a bit intimidated by the fact that I’m constantly racing girls older than me! I’m only 15 and most of the girls I race & row with are getting ready to head off to college! Any advice on how to face the competition?

That’s great that you’re rowing varsity if you’ve only been rowing for less than a year. If anything, the girls that you’re racing should be intimidated by you since you’re most likely 2-3 years younger than them. You’ve clearly done the work and proven to your coaches that you can handle the responsibility of being a varsity rower so own it.

Be a leader in your boat. Don’t assume that just because you’re younger than everyone else that that is the persona you need to take on. Speak up, offer your opinion (when the time is appropriate), get everyone started on stretches if your coaches/coxswains aren’t around, and be coachable. Always offer to take oars down, wash the boat, etc. ACT like the varsity teammate you are instead of trying to hide in the background because you’re intimidated by the other girls. Whether or not they let it on, the girls that are graduating are going to worry just a little bit about what the state of the team will be when they leave. If you start proving yourself as a strong leader and good teammate now, not only will you gain so much respect from them, the other rowers on the team, and your coaches, but you will offer them reassurance that the team will THRIVE in your hands. This will result in them embracing you as a teammate rather than just acknowledging your existence in the boat.

When you’re racing, don’t worry about those other crews. If you’ve done everything you need to do to prepare, you’re going to be looking at their backs going down the course, not the other way around. You never know, there might be novice rowers in those varsity boats too. Hold your head high, keep your chin up, and maintain that look of determination in your eyes. If you do that, they will be just as intimidated by you as you are of them right now. It’s all about attitude. What have you observed about the girls on your team and the teams you race? What does their body language convey, both on and off the water? What’s their rowing like? Emulate that!! When you’re on the water, FOCUS. Concentrate on working to perfect everything you do during practice each day. Be able to pick out two to three things that got better by the end of practice. Push yourself. Don’t settle for anything. Always strive for MORE. The only thing you should be intimidated by is the expectations you have set for yourself. If you’re not intimidated by your goals and expectations, you haven’t set the bar high enough.

Ergs Novice Q&A Rowing Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I’m freaking out about novice tryouts. I’ve never done a 5k before and I heard we have to do one!! What should I do to prepare?

In the fall, you will do LOTS of steady state workouts – they’re part of the training for head race season but also a good way to test your overall endurance. It’s hard to prepare yourself to do well on a 5k if you only start prepping a week or two ahead of time so keep that in mind.

My suggestion is that once your coaches have taught you how to row with proper technique, just get on the erg. Start off doing a 5k piece as a baseline to see what your time is with NO preparation ahead of time. Use that number to work off of. Throughout the next 4-5 days, do some pieces that work on your endurance. Also do some core workouts and make sure you put in a rest day or two. Don’t burn yourself out before the season gets started.

Long pieces like 5ks are a totally different animal than your standard 2k. They require intense mental preparation and the ability to pace oneself. It’s easy to fly and die with any erg test but especially with 5ks. Once you hit about 4000m, you’re gonna start hitting that wall and think “I cannot physically do this anymore”. The body of long races and pieces like this are where rowers are made though – they show how mentally tough you are. Can you push yourself past that wall or are you going to let it beat you? That last 1500, start to slowly bring up the rate. Get ready to sprint. Push that split down a little bit more with each stroke. When you get to 500m left, let loose. Everything you got left goes into that 500. Find your rhythm and sustain it. Don’t back off. A 1:55 split hurts just as much as a 1:57 – the only difference is that you’re done sooner.

Novice Q&A Racing Rowing

Question of the Day

I’m a novice rower and I’m racing in my 1st head race this weekend, any tips? I’m freaking out!

Don’t freak out … that’s tip #1.

Get some sleep

It is CRUCIAL that you get an adequate amount of sleep the night before your race. You can’t expect to be prepared to row your hardest if you only get 3-4 hours of sleep. Aim for at least eight.

Eat a good breakfast

If your race is in the morning, this can be tricky because you want to give your body enough fuel but you also don’t want to eat too much too soon before your race. If you eat a big meal too close to race time, all the blood that should be going to your muscles will instead be going to your stomach to help digest all that food. 2-3 hours before race time eat a small meal, such as a bowl of oatmeal, a slice of toast, a handful of strawberries, and some OJ. If you can’t eat that far ahead, try to eat something like a bagel and cream cheese an hour or two beforehand. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water too.


Save your energy. Don’t be walking around a lot before your race. An hour or so before you’re supposed to meet at your boat, find a quiet spot near your trailer/tent and just chill. Throw in some headphones and relax.

Check your seat

Are your shoes tied in? Are the nuts and bolts on your rigger tightened? What about the seat tracks? Are they clean? (If not, the seat won’t slide smoothly and you can jump the tracks). Your coach or coxswain will go through and do a once over before the boat launches, but if you’ve already looked at your seat and know something needs adjusted, it will get done that much faster.

Remember your technique

The more tired you get, the better your technique needs to be. The more tired you get, the more focused you need to become. That’s when injuries happen, when rowers start rowing with poor technique. When you feel like slouching, sit up a little taller. When you feel like hunching over, push your shoulders back. One of my favorite things to tell my 8+ is to not let your brain defeat your body. Your body is capable of SO much more than we think it is and you are hardly ever as tired as you think you are.

Let your coxswain do her thing

Head races are for coxswains. It’s basically like Mario Kart come to life. It’s going to be hectic, crowded, frantic, confusing, and at times a total clusterfuck. If she knows the cardinal rule of coxing (don’t let ‘em see you sweat), you won’t know when she’s freaking because the eight in front of her isn’t yielding or because she’s totally confused by the warm-up area and the horde of boats clogging the traffic lane. Don’t try and tell her what to do or how to do her job. When you’re done racing, make sure you tell her she did a good job too and you appreciate her getting you from point A to point B.

Good luck!

Novice Q&A Rowing Technique

Question of the Day

I have practice tomorrow and I really have trouble squaring up on time. I always tell myself to gradually start squaring up at half slide but I’m always behind everybody else. I also try to follow the person in front of me but I’m always a millisecond behind everybody else. I’m a girl and this is my first season of rowing! I’m so embarrassed so please help me!!

I’d ask your coach when he/she wants you to start squaring up and when you should be squared by. This will give you a time frame to work with and eliminates the whole “when should I start squaring/when should I be squared by” problem that a lot of novices encounter. It’s going to take a lot of concentration before you start squaring up naturally at the right spot without having to think about it (but once you do it becomes second nature). As soon as you get on the water, make that your priority for the day. When you’re sitting at the finish, remind yourself “finish, release, arms away, bodies over, start to square, fully square, catch” on every stroke. If you have to say it to yourself or in your head every time you take a stroke, do it.

If you’re starting at half slide, that is probably what’s throwing you off. When I teach novices to square, I generally have them start squaring when they get to bodies over so that by half slide they’re fully squared and ready for the catch. It’s possible that you’re behind because you’re starting at half slide, while everyone else is starting somewhere between arms & bodies and half slide. They’re starting a millisecond ahead of you, which is why you feel a millisecond behind. Ask for clarification from your coach as to where they want to see you start squaring up and then focus really hard on doing it every stroke.

College Novice Q&A Rowing Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hi! I go to a D1 school and our rowing program is supposed to be really good and any woman can walk on. If you can stay with it, you’re on the roster. I spent this past summer learning to row, and stroked my first regatta (novice masters women’s 8) early September with my local boathouse. I’m upset right now though. My skill and athleticism level is at the bottom of the recruits and the walk-ons. And I’m having trouble making friends with either group. How do I assimilate and what do I do?

Why do you think you’re having trouble? Is it because there’s an age difference between you and them or is it something else? My advice would be to just strike up a conversation and see how it goes. Talk about practice – how’d their boat do today, what drills did they do, how’d it go, etc. Ask about classes – are they taking anything interesting, what are their professors like, etc. Talk about why they decided to do crew. What’s motivating them to stick with it? Discuss your annoying roommates or the weird people that live in your dorm. This is a great ice breaker because you’ll end up having some kind of weird pissing contest to see who has the roommate or hall-mates with the most annoying habits, weirdest quirks, etc. It’s a good way to get everyone talking because even if you’ve only been on campus for a week, you’ll already have at least one story to share.

Is your skill level and athleticism REALLY below the recruits and walk-ons or do you just perceive it that way? What are you basing that off of? The recruits are going to be better than the walk-ons because they’ve been rowing for 3-4 years already – they were recruited for a reason. If you just learned to row this summer, you’ve only been rowing for … what … 4 months, max? It’s like comparing a major leaguer with a minor leaguer. The major league player has years of experience whereas the minor leaguer has a few years of high school, maybe college experience. The two are incomparable because their experiences are different. The minor leaguer is still learning, similar to you and the other walk-ons.

I know when I first started in college, the walk-ons were all terrible. I can’t believe that your skill level is lower than theirs if you spent all summer learning to row and have already stroked an 8+. Has your coach given you some kind of indication that you’re not up to par? If he/she has, I would talk to them and get some clarification. Tell them what’s bothering you and ask for advice. If they’re a good coach, you should feel comfortable talking to them and they should in turn be able to help you out with any questions you have.

As far as your athleticism, that’s something you can work on on your own without everyone else around. Go to the gym, hit the ergs, hit the bikes, lift weights, go swimming, etc. and work on your strength and endurance. It’s a fantastic way to get out your aggression and frustrations, trust me. If you don’t want to do something by yourself, see if your rec center offers group Pilates classes and then ask some of the other girls on the team if they’d like to go with you. Pilates is awesome for building a strong core, which is something you need in order to be a successful rower. Afterwards, go grab a coffee and just sit and chat. Two birds, one stone.

I’m sure you’re doing better than you think you are. Give yourself credit – most people wouldn’t do what you did over the summer. That shows commitment and an honest desire to be a part of the team. Talk to your coaches or some of the older varsity members and ask for some advice. They’ve ALL been in the position you’re in right now and might be able to share some of their experiences.

College Coxing Novice Q&A Rowing

Question of the Day

Hi! For the past month I have been in walk-on tryouts for the Syracuse Women’s Rowing team. I found out yesterday that she is keeping me as one of the walk-on coxswains, which I am so excited and happy about! I know that coxswains are supposed to be very confident and I am while I am on the water, but I truly don’t really know what I am doing. I have been watching hours of recordings to help but coxing a novice crew is difficult when nobody in the boat has every rowed before and I am not sure what kind of calls I should make, we have only just started getting on the water all together about 4-5 times. I’m not really sure what to say during drills beside the drill. Do I make calls as if they are racing? I am in love with rowing, it is a great sport, I just get frustrated when I feel like I’m not a good coxswain because I don’t feel anybody guiding me or training me like they do the rowers.

Congrats on making the team!! I agree with you that coxing a novice crew where no one has rowed before is extremely tough. I 100000% understand what you’re feeling.

When you feel yourself getting frustrated and can tell the crew isn’t responding to what your saying, take a few minutes and try some of the following things.

Ask them what’s going on

Is there something specific that they aren’t understanding and if so, what? If that’s not it, what is it? Talk to them and find things out from their perspective.

Tell them you’re frustrated

This seems counter intuitive, but explain that you’re frustrated because you can see they don’t understand or aren’t picking it up and you’re unsure of what to do to help them. If you project the idea that you GENUINELY want to help them, they’re much more likely to offer feedback and tell you what’s going on. If you just get frustrated and pissed because they’re not doing what you want them to do, they’re not going to make your job any easier because you’re giving the impression of being dictator-ish and that you don’t ACTUALLY care whether or not they do it right, so long as they do what you say.

Slow it down

Speed (and pressure) is of no consequence when you’re first learning the stroke. To me it’s a very simple motion because I’ve been doing this for so long but to most people who are new to rowing it’s very unnatural. You have to take it slowly and let them think about every. single. little. thing. Talk to whoever your coach is and ask if you can break it down a little more or slow it down so that they can focus on what you’re doing but at a slower pace. This might help them process what you’re saying a little easier.

Take a deep breath and don’t let ’em see you sweat

There have been plenty of times where I am just consistently saying “what the fuuuckkk” in my head but I try as hard as possible to not let that anger or frustration show in my face or body language. Maintain the idea that you are calm and collected. This will calm your crew down and calm their nerves. Be quiet for a few strokes and then say something like “OK guys, lets take the next few strokes, sit up a little taller, relax the shoulders, take a deep breath, and just row. We’re getting frustrated so let’s take some time to calm down and get back in the zone.”

Remind them of what they’re doing well

There are going to be times where you will have to dig REALLY deep to find something positive but you have to find SOMETHING. Once you’ve given them some positive feedback, provide some constructive criticism and talk a little about what needs improved on. “So, we’ve been working on our catch timing and those last five strokes looked ON. Everyone is thinking a little bit more about moving up the slide together and I can see it. Let’s keep doing that. On these next five strokes, let’s think a bit more about our handle heights. Catches looked better but our set suffered a little.”

What drills have you been doing? Do you write them down? My first suggestion would be to write EVERYTHING down in your notebook on the bus back to campus. Ignore the chatter and noise and reflect on your practice. Other suggestions for drill work:

Talk to your coach either at the beginning of the week or before practice. Ask them what drills they plan on working on that week or that practice. How is it executed and what is its purpose? What part of the stroke does it focus on? What should you be looking for and how should you correct what you see?

Drills are a bit of a grey area because on one hand, you need to talk in order to execute the drill but on the other, you need to be quiet in order to give the rowers the opportunity to figure out what they’re doing. Know when to talk and when to be quiet. This can be tricky to learn as a novice so talk to your coach. Ask what they want you to say and when you should just let them talk.

Don’t try and over talk your coach unless you’re calling a transition or something, but at the same time, don’t let them over talk you. If you find that you’re trying to tell the rowers what you’re seeing and your coach cuts you off and talks over you, that can not only piss you off but it can frustrate and confuse the rowers. Chances are they don’t realize they’re doing it. I had this problem recently and when I told my coach he apologized. Approach the subject gently and just say something like “I’ve noticed when we’re doing drills I’ll go to point something out to the rowers or make a transition within the drill and you’ll start coaching them on something different. How should I deal with that as a coxswain – should I hold off on the transition until you’re done coaching or just go through with it? How should I go about pointing out what I see while still having them think about what you just said?” Make them understand that you aren’t trying to overstep your boundaries but you recognize the fact that you have a different point of view in the boat than they do.

My suggestion for this would be to not only approach your coach about this, but when you’re on the water, for now, wait until you’ve stopped or taken a break and THEN point out what you see. With novices, it’s easy to overwhelm them with too much information. Once you’ve stopped, wait for your coach to come over and say “So, I noticed our catches were a little mistimed and we were leaning to port for most of the drill. Once you pointed out that they needed to think more about their body swing, it started to feel better though.” If you tell them what you saw and what you noticed, not only does that show them that you are REALLY paying attention, but it also lets the rowers hear what they did well and what needs worked on. You could also inadvertently point out something that your coach didn’t notice. Maybe she couldn’t tell that the boat was offset because she was so focused on the bodies. With this new information, she can give you things to look for and things for the rowers to think when you start rowing again. Listen to what she tells the rowers to work on and make sure you repeat it during the drill. Anything the coaches say is fair game to be used as a call.

Drills can get really boring for coxswains, especially if you’re doing something like pause drills where all you’re doing is saying “row … row … row …” for 5+ minutes. Keep your voice sharp and don’t let the rowers or your coach get the impression that you’re bored or just going through the motions. If you start to let your voice slip off, the rowers will let their technique slip. Keep your calls crisp and concise, your voice sharp, and your body aggressive. There’s a difference between tense and aggressive – know the difference. Don’t just sit in the boat like you’re lounging on your couch playing xbox.

You’re not a bad coxswain – you’re still learning! Don’t let a shitty practice crush your confidence. Recognize when you’ve made improvements and use that as motivation for tomorrow’s practice. Maybe you steered a straighter line going down the lake today than you did yesterday. Maybe your turns on the river are smoother than they were last week. Maybe you FINALLY understood what the point of that drill was and your calls were more confident because of that. Know when you’ve done a good job but also recognize when/where you can make adjustments too. Also, get a notebook and a recorder and use both regularly. Ask for feedback from the rowers too so you can figure out what’s working, what isn’t, what can you do better, etc.

It’s unlikely that anybody is going to coach you. It’s not fair but that’s the way it is. They’re going to put you in the boat and assume you’ll pick it up as you go. Don’t let this piss you off, even though it inevitably will. Find other resources. Talk to the varsity coxswains, listen to recordings from other coxswains, etc. 97% of what you learn, you will have to learn on your own. Accept and embrace that.

Be confident. They chose you for a reason. You gave them a reason to believe that you’re the best person for the job. They trust you with the safety of eight other women. Don’t let that scare you – let it motivate you. If you ever get to the point where stepping in the boat does nothing for you, take a step back and reevaluate. Don’t ever let it feel like a job.