Music to erg to, pt. 150

Sorry if you got notifications for this post twice … WordPress is, per usual, being finicky this morning. On that note, if anyone’s got experience with building websites (especially on WP platforms), transferring content, etc. hit me up because I’ve got questions and can’t find the answers I’m looking for online.

Last night I posted a couple questions on switching (back to) coxing, walking on in college, and dealing with a coaching transition so if you haven’t checked those out yet you can do so here and here. I also posted on Tuesday some tips for coxing a time trial since those seemed to be more prevalent this year than in seasons past.

I’ve got one question left to answer but I’m saving it for next week because I want to get some input from you guys. For those of you who have anxiety – either that you take medication for or that you manage on your own through other methods – how has/does it affect your coxing, have your coaches/teammates ever brought it up to you, have coaches ever said that it’s been a factor for keeping you out of a boat you were in contention for, and how have you dealt with all of that? Feel free to comment or shoot me an email.

Question of the Day

Hi! Over the last year I have become very close with my coach. He has helped me improve into the coxswain I am today. I coxed our V8 and V4 all year and my team just got back from nationals. The reasons I was in these boats is because he believed in me all year and helped to improve. Today however, at our end of season wrap up practice, he dropped the news that he would not be coaching next year. I still have two more years on the team and we don’t know who the new coach will be. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with losing a coach? And how to adapt to a new one? I’m afraid they won’t understand the fun loving environment my team is and it will be hard for me to create that good coach and coxswain relationship like I had with my previous coach. Any helpful tips would be great.

Why would you assume they wouldn’t understand the team culture/environment? That’s kind of an unfair judgement/assumption to put out there. Just because your current coach was dope and you had a good relationship with him doesn’t mean that the same can’t be true with whoever’s taking over for him.

I luckily only had to deal with one major coaching transition while I was in school and the best advice our team got came from our assistant coach – “accept that the change is happening and keep an open mind”. I’d say the same to you too. It’s happening so you kinda just have to deal with it but the important thing is to keep an open mind and not automatically resign yourself to being anti-whatever new things he/she brings to the team just because they’re different than what you’re used to.

Whatever you did to cultivate the relationship you have with your current coach … do that with the new one. The new coach isn’t going to be a carbon copy of your old one (nor should you expect that) so obviously you might have to tweak a few things here and there but it’s not like you’re starting back at square one. You already know what made your current coach-coxswain relationship great so make time to have a one-on-one with the new coach so you can communicate that stuff to them. This applies to pretty much everything you’ll ever do but the more up front you are about how you work/communicate best, the easier it’ll be for everyone in the long run.

That was actually one of the questions I was asked when I was interviewing for my current job and having worked with some incredible coaches at MIT the last three years, I had a pretty rock solid idea of what I needed to feel confident and empowered in executing whatever I was doing. I specifically used the example of how they gave me a pretty unprecedented amount of freedom to work with our coxswains and really integrate my philosophy on all that into the broader team culture. I could have stopped there (and if I was less experienced in the interview game I probably would have) but what “sold” it was following it up with specific examples of how that helped me grow as a coach (in terms of building my confidence, refining my communication skills, and developing relationships with everyone on the team) and why that kind of “management style” is what I respond best to. Out of all the back and forth we did, I think the conversation we had around that one question was one of the main things that eased some of the doubt I had about joining a new coaching staff.

I get where you’re coming from because I honestly felt the same exact way when I left MIT for Columbia. I’d grown (and thrived) so much in that environment with those specific people and I was worried that it wouldn’t be the same here and I’d be miserable but, like I said earlier, while that can be a valid concern, it’s also an unfair assumption to make. Keep an open mind, be (even more) flexible in your approach to whatever situations you encounter (new and old), and communicate early and honestly about what you need from them to help you continue developing as a coxswain (with, I assume, the goal of staying in the V8 and V4).

As for everything else … just go with the flow and trust that whoever the new person is has the team’s best interest in mind. Most coaches do.

Question of the Day

Hello, I am a junior in high school and I am a rower but I’m on the shorter side (5’4) and my erg scores aren’t anything to brag about. I actually started out as a coxswain in my freshman year but one day my coach had me sub in and I just never subbed out. The thing is that I don’t really enjoy rowing all that much (I still like it but it isn’t what I think I’m good at) but I was really passionate about coxing and I want to try and walk on as a coxswain at college. I don’t really know how to go about it though. Should I try to cox at my high school again? Also, should I reach out to college coaches and, if so, when should I consider doing that? Thanks.

Bring it up with your coach before the start of next season (or now, if you’re still practicing or see them around). Just be honest and say that you feel like you were making a stronger contribution to the team when you were coxing vs. when you’re rowing. Don’t be afraid to say that rowing’s not where you feel your strengths lie either. It’s one thing to be like, “I’m short and my erg scores are lame so I’m just gonna switch to coxing”. I hate when people take that route because it just screams laziness. You can get stronger and fitter and improve your erg times if you just put the work in. On the flip side though, if someone says “I genuinely don’t enjoy rowing as much I do coxing”, that’s a different story because, in my experience, the people that say that are the ones that worked their asses off to be good rowers (and most of the time were) but just didn’t have the same passion for moving the boat as they did driving it … and that’s OK.

Related: What it means to be a “walk on”

If you’re planning to walk on, especially as someone who already has experience, it’s always worth reaching out to the coach just to let them know you’re interested. It helps them get a good idea of what their numbers will be and they can lump you in with the rest of the freshmen when they send out compliance paperwork for you to fill out over the summer. The sooner you get that done the better because you’ll be able to get on the water faster once practice begins in the fall.

As far as when to reach out to them, just wait until you know where you’re going and then shoot them an email in the spring saying you were accepted, are interested in walking on to the team, etc. and include a bit of info about yourself (i.e. height, weight, what boats you’ve coxed, your intended major, etc.) to wrap it up. Doesn’t need to be more than a paragraph or so at most.

Words.

These are the bodies Yale is exploiting. We have come here today to make clear how unprotected we are, to show graphically what we are being exposed to. On a day like today, the rain freezes on our skin. Then we sit on a bus for half an hour as the ice melts into our sweats to meet the sweat that has soaked our clothes underneath … No effective action has been taken and no matter what we hear, it doesn’t make these bodies warmer, or dryer, or less prone to sickness … We are not just healthy young things in blue and white uniforms who perform feats of strength for Yale in the nice spring weather; we are not just statistics on your win column. We’re human and being treated as less than such.

Tips for coxing a time trial

Between mid-May and this week I’ve gotten several questions from coxswains about time trials – it seems like there were more than a few regattas this year that did them in lieu of heats. Below are a couple excerpts from some email replies I sent that include tips I’ve picked up from fellow coxswains and coaches over the years. If you have any strategies that have worked for you, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Pacing into and off the line

The simple approach to a time trial is to just go off the line with your normal start (no need to do the 1/2, 1/2, 3/4, full stuff, just do 5 to build as you approach the line and go straight into your high strokes as you cross – much like a head race) before lengthening out to your base pace. If you’re confident that you’ll make the top 12 or however many it is to advance, you can sometimes pace a little lower than normal (i.e. 33-34 instead of 35-36) but that’s something to discuss with your coach (and crew) well in advance of your race. I wouldn’t plan on racing at anything lower than your normal rate though but if your coach is confident and thinks it’s OK to conserve a bit of energy for the final, feel free to talk about it with them.

use the puddles to gauge if you’re on pace

Another point to remember (and this is important for all head races, not just time trials) is to not go out too hard. It’s easy to think you’re moving really well when there aren’t any other boats around to gauge your speed off of but you run the risk of burning out around 750m in and then it’s just a slow, painful crawl to the finish.

Practicing your start + the first 500 head-race style during practice is a good way to see how the crew feels, how the boat’s moving, etc. and gives you a chance to practice racing the splits vs. racing another crew (or five). If you’ve got a speed coach then obviously that makes it super easy but if you don’t have any splits to go off of, watch the puddles. Based on what I saw leading up to IRAs, when our varsity 8+ was running at top speed our stroke’s blade was entering the water just behind our bow seat’s puddle from the previous stroke. If the margins started to get smaller – i.e. stroke’s blade going in before the puddle reaches him) then I knew we were shortening up a bit and starting to fall off pace. You’ll have to watch your crews to know what the puddle margin usually is but that’s a good way to gauge your pace if you haven’t got a speed coach on board.

Don’t forget to start your clock

Last thing is to make sure you start your clock when you cross the start line. This is another thing you should be doing during practice so that it becomes second nature and not something you have to remember to do on race day. My coaches were always very intent on making sure we were cognizant of these easily overlooked details and after getting my ass verbally kicked by them for about two months, I came to really appreciate their constant reminders to not let stuff like this slip through the cracks. To them, the more little things like this you do, the more free speed you’re racking up and as cliche as “free speed” is, it’s also so, so true.

If you know your average 2k time (or 1500m, depending on what you race), this will help you gauge your speed and where you’re at on the course if it’s not clearly marked or there aren’t any landmarks to go off of. For example, if your boat’s average 2k time this season has been 6:00, you should be crossing 1500m around 4:30 in. If you’re coming through 1500m at 4:32 you know you’re a little off pace and should probably take a 10 to dig in at the start of the last 500m and really hit it with the legs before you build into the sprint.

This works as a great motivator too because if you’re on or ahead of your usual pace, that’s just gonna motivate the crew to keep pushing. Even if you’re off pace a little, hearing the time worked into a call can be the thing that helps them refocus and get back on track – i.e. “through 1000m we’re 3:03 in, that’s a 1.5 seconds off our time from last week; let’s commit to holding the finishes on this 10 and try to hit 1500m by 4:31 … ready … now.”

internal motivation is key (and not as hard as you think)

You do have to rely a lot on internal motivation to keep the crew going during time trials but you’ve likely got a lot more material to pull from than you think you do. Make sure you’ve got a good understanding of your crew’s technical strengths and weaknesses so you can make calls for that as necessary, and don’t underestimate the power of calling a move just for yourselves. I’ve done that before where I’ve called a ten for us … for the seniors, for the juniors … for [whatever team I’m coxing] … etc. and sometimes those are the most powerful tens in the whole piece. I usually save those for the 3rd 500 when I know they’re hurting and really wishing we had some crews around us for that visual confirmation of where we’re at on the field. 98% of the rest of my calls are almost exactly what I’d say during a normal race though.

Video of the Week: Disqualifying Sydney Rowing Club

Everybody got so pissed that Sydney got DQ’ed but what the ump said to the stroke is exactly right – “You are the stroke, you can see me waving the flag, I waved you over. It’s your responsibility if she (the coxswain) can’t hear…” and then he trails off but to continue that thought, if you’re the stroke and  you can see the umpire waving a flag behind you, it’s your job to communicate that to the coxswain. You bear just as much responsibility for any negative outcome for not communicating what the ump is saying as the coxswain does for making poor steering decisions in the first place.

Flashback Friday: June 4th – 17th

ONE YEAR AGO
Tracking progress in your notebook

Words.

Reviewing the CoxOrb If your team’s in the market for new (better) cox boxes, definitely check out the Orb.

TWO YEARS AGO
QOTD: Hello! I finished my last race of the season yesterday and my coach and I were talking about what I can do to benefit the rowers more next season. She said that I need to have a couple of calls that come from my deep belly of coxing abilities, that the crews recognize as “shit gets done” calls. She gave the example of “hit the last nail into their coffin” and said that that was too extreme for my team, but that I needed something equivalent to that to finish out close races with. Do you have any favorites? or any good recordings I should listen to? thanks so much!!!

QOTD: Hi, your blog is really helpful! I have a kind of strange question, but should female rowers wear anything under their uni/trou? Thank you so much!

Words.

VOTW: Recounting the coxed 4+ at the 1984 Olympics

THREE YEARS AGO
“In” vs. “Over” vs. “On” They don’t mean the same thing and aren’t really interchangeable.

QOTD: Hi there!! So I am a junior school (Under 14′s) cox and we have moved into using bow loader quads, instead of the usual stern loaders we used to use. We have been racing in an oct for awhile so I am a bit out of practice with the quads. Anyways, in the bow loader, I obviously have a very restricted field of vision, so I was wondering if you had any tips on “reading” or “feeling” the boat, to pick up on faults e.t.c ? Also I sometimes feel like I stay quiet for too long, during steady state if there are no obvious technical calls, rate calls, or rhythm calls. Is there anything that I can say to make it a bit less silent and awkward for the rowers?

QOTD: Hi! I’m finishing my junior year in high school and I know it’s quite late for me, but after my past spring season I’ve decided that I want to cox in college. I’m uncertain about a couple things in the process though. First off, I emailed the head coach for my top choice college, and he emailed back that he would share the email with his recruitment coordinator, his assistant coach, to answer all my questions. So when I email coaches from now on, should I just always email the assistant coach? For another college, they don’t have an assistant coach listed, but they have a novice coach. Should I email them over the head coach? And lastly, what are some good things for a coxswain to include in those emails?

What to Wear: Official Visits, pt. 2

FOUR YEARS AGO
Books on rowing, pt. 1 If you’re looking for some books to read this summer, here are a few options.

QOTD: Hello! I’m not great at estimating distances but I’m learning and getting better – but my coach told me and the other coxswains on the team that it is better to call the sprint early and then ask for 10 more strokes than to call it a little late and wonder what could have been (strokes used in the race). However, I always feel bad if I tell the rowers we have twenty strokes left when we actually have thirty. What do you think? Is my coach wrong or do I just need to suck it up? Thanks!!

Words.

QOTD: Any words of advice for making the transition from coxing at the high school level to coxing in university? I had my first practice this week (the uni has a club program in the summer) and it’s safe to say that the practice was a little … rocky. Is this normal for the first practice? My coach was really great about it all, saying I have the whole summer to get up to speed and I made sure to take full responsibility for any errors or spotty bits in my communication so as not to start off poorly with the rowers (I’m a girl coxing the men’s team, by the way). But I guess I’m just worried about all the usual things … gaining respect, executing the workout and drills properly, meeting the rowers’ and coach’s expectations, etc. I could rant all day to you about this but I suppose it just comes down to: do I have too high expectations of myself in wanting things to go smoothly right off the bat? How long do you think it will take to get in the swing of things? Sorry if this question isn’t quite coherent