Question of the Day

In the boat, when you’re calling a rower out to make a change, is it better to call them by their seat or name? A rower told me that by using a name it puts them on the spot – but isn’t that the point to make a change?

If I know specifically who needs to make the change, I always call them out by name. The only time I say their seat number is when I’m with a new crew and don’t know everyone’s names yet. I make a serious effort to learn everyone’s name as soon as possible though because I think the rowers listen to you more if you call them by name vs. by number. Plus, I think it’s the height of laziness to call rowers you’ve worked with for longer than like, a week, by their seat numbers.

Related: I have been told by my rowers that I need to call them out directly more, rather than general corrections to the boat as a whole. I cox collegiate men but I’m not afraid to push them around. My problem is that I am having trouble actually seeing what the problem is. I can tell that catches are off, someone is rushing, but I can’t always tell exactly who it is. Any suggestions for improving this skill?

Regardless of whether you use their individual seat or their name, they’re still being put on the spot … and yes, in order to get the change you want, you have to tell specific people what change to make. Some rowers get pissed when you call them out, to which I respond to with an eye roll and a “shut up”. How else do they expect you to tell them what you want? I think they’re more likely to make a change when they hear you specifically talking to them. Even though everyone should know their seat number, they don’t always associate themselves with that number, so if you say “5, lift your hands at the catch” they might not do it, whereas if that rower hears “Sarah, lift your hands at the catch” they’re more inclined to do it since they know exactly who you’re talking to.

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6 thoughts on “Question of the Day

  1. Stephen M. says:

    Sent here from Tumblr. Using names is a good way to get a person’s attention. However, using seat numbers is good so that the other rowers aren’t distracted by the being told that a specific person is doing poorly. Example: when someone hears that 3 seat is off time, they go about their business while if you hear that Drew is rushing one might think “oh my gosh he is always rushing!” Hope that makes sense.

    • beantownkmd says:

      Yea, I get what you’re saying. I think in that situation, the other rowers are going to notice regardless when you’re constantly saying a name or number. Saying someone’s name doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing poorly…everyone always thinks that and I’m not sure why. But yes, back to what you said…it does make sense. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  2. anon says:

    As a rower, I find this blog really useful – helps me get into the mind of our coxswains 🙂 But this is probably the first post you’ve written that I disagree with.

    Two points: First, there’s a balance between ‘calling someone out’ and helping them to improve. If your rower is telling you it bothers them to have you call them by name rather than seat number, then respect that. As long as they make whatever change you’re asking for, why does it matter to you? Respect their feedback, please, and use their seat number. Now, if they are not responding, that’s a whole different matter…at that point, do anything that works, regardless of previous conversations.

    Secondly, somewhere recently, I read (not sure if it was from here) a recommendation to coxswains to consistently use the same “units” — e.g. don’t switch between “250 to go” and “10 more strokes”, because when rowers are at the end of themselves, making them translate back and forth is unnecessary brain work. I think the same applies here — I know, it sounds surprising, maybe, but for me, when you are saying “bow pair”, “stern four” and then “susan” or “rob” (presumably names of rowers), it’s surprisingly jarring. I can’t really explain it, but even though you use my name, which should instantly pull me to your words, they don’t. I have to wait a second and ‘translate’ it to ‘2 seat’ (or whereever I happen to be) because your previous calls put me into the ‘seat’ mode.

    Now, all that said, once in a while, it’s really no big deal. But if this is the biggest issue you’re dealing with in the boat, then I’d say go with seat numbers. Or ask each rower. And then respect what they ask of you.

    • beantownkmd says:

      Ah, for clarification, I didn’t mean “calling them out” in a bad, negative, or rude way…I meant calling them out in just saying their name as a way to get their attention. I get what you’re saying regarding respecting the rower but I disagree only slightly…I don’t think it’s fair to the other people in your boat if you’re saying their names and talking directly to them and there’s that ONE person who doesn’t like their coxswain to use their name. I’ve seen that happen before and the rowers become more annoyed with that rower than with the coxswain because it always comes off as the rower wanting preferential treatment. Of course, that isn’t always the case, but in my experience (this was in college) that’s how I’ve seen it happen.

      I don’t think I’ve talked about the “units” thing…that’s a whole other discussion! 😛 98% of the time, unless we’re doing drills or something, I talk in pairs, fours, sixes, or all eight. I find that it’s just easier to do that. Every so often I’ll say “Sarah and Emily, remember to ________” instead of saying “stern pair” but I only do that with pairs. The only time I use individual names is a) when I’ve heard the coach say something to that rower and I KNOW it’s something they need to adjust (or something they’re doing well that I want to commend them on) or b) during a race when I try and go through each individual rower and give them a brief reminder on something I know they’ve been working on during practice…”Sarah, handle heights. Emily, chin up. Jane, breathe. Annie, keep your length. Etc, etc.”

      Trust me, I absolutely understand what you’re saying about respecting the rowers but I think what happens in this situation is 100% up to the coxswains. I don’t think coxswains should give in to every single whim and request that the rowers make and for me, this is one of them. It’s a personal boat thing though. That’s what has always worked for me and my boat, but what works for me might not work for somebody else.

      Thanks for the great comment and for reading! I’m glad it’s helped you get inside the heads of your coxswains. 🙂

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