How to prepare your crew to row

One of the best ways to keep practice moving and avoid wasting time is to give clear instructions before you start rowing. Telling the rowers exactly what you want avoids  having to listen to them say “well, I didn’t know where we were starting from” or “oh sorry, didn’t know it was just stern 4 rowing”.

Before you start a drill or a piece, here’s what you should be saying to your crew.

Who is rowing – all eight, stern four, bow four, outside pair, etc.

Where to start from – the catch, finish, 1/2 slide, etc.

What sort of rowing – a) slide position, either arms only, bodies over, quarter slide, etc, b) feather or square blades, and c) continuous paddling or paused (don’t bother saying unless it’s paused)

How hard to row – light, quarter pressure, half pressure, three-quarters, firm, full, etc. Make sure that when you ask for a pressure, the crew respond appropriately. Don’t be afraid to tell them to bring it up if it seems inadequate to you.

When to start – “Ready all, row.” Remember, you’re not really asking them if they’re ready…you’re more so telling them. If someone isn’t ready, more often times than not you’ll know before you make this call.

“Ready all, row” is a significant call that means many things. When I first started writing this blog, this was what I said about this particular call.

“The title of the blog comes from the command that coxswains make before the rowers begin rowing. It signifies that everyone knows what’s going on and they’re ready to row. For coxswains, it signifies an understanding of the instructions given by the coach.”

When you’re transitioning between exercises, pairs, etc. it’s always “in two”. Make sure you say “one … two” with the stroke’s catch, since that is what everyone is following. One of my biggest pet peeves is when coxswains say “one, two” like they’re counting seconds … the rowers probably aren’t even at the catch yet when they say “two”, which causes them to rush up the slide to match what you’re saying and it just turns into a clusterfuck because people don’t know what’s going on. Yes, the transition is on your call but your call has to match up with when the stroke is rowing. With more experienced crews you can say “on this one” denoting the transition on the NEXT stroke instead of in two. This is what I frequently use with my eight. If you have strokes 1, 2, and 3 and you want to make a transition on stroke 4, you would call “on this one” at the finish of stroke 3.

The specific calls themselves tend to differ between countries (in the UK, “easy there” vs. “weigh enough”, “from backstops” vs. “at the finish”), but the instructions themselves are relatively similar. The end goal, however, is the same – everyone doing exactly what you want. (That sentence is probably the main reason why coxswains get egos too big for our tiny bodies.) Giving clear and concise instructions when you’re on the water maximizes the time you’re able to spend rowing and minimizes the amount of wasted time, so be sure that you are giving them the information they need to be ready to row.

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