Question of the Day

“Fake it till you make it.” Do you believe in that for coxswains? Because of today’s terrible practice I wouldn’t have been able to fake anything for the life of me.

I do to an extent. If you’re at the point where you can’t even fake like you have an idea of what’s happening, speak up and say something. I really only say “fake it til you make it” (and I’m not even sure that’s the right term to use) as a way to get coxswains to act confident even when they’re not sure of something … like, they’re 85% sure but there’s that 15% of doubt. I don’t want to hear the 15% of doubt in your voice. Even if you’re only 85% sure, I want to hear 100% confidence when you talk. I’ll trust you a lot more if you at least sound like you know what you want vs. someone who is like “ummm, yea…I think that’s right”. If you genuinely do not understand how to do something or the coach says something that makes NO sense, just raise your hand and say “Coach, I don’t understand, can you go over that again?” After practice, if you still don’t understand, talk to them privately or ask one of the experienced coxswains. They might be able to explain whatever it is a little better than your coach can.

Faking it should never be a substitute for actually knowing how to do something. Safety is a huge issue when you’re on the water, so I would never want a coxswain to fake knowing a skill just to avoid asking for clarification or to avoid slowing down the speed of practice. $40,000 boat + 8 other people = your responsibility (no pressure). Not knowing how to do something and not inquiring as to how to do it puts you and your crew at risk for an accident. I think that you should approach every situation confidently and not let anyone question that what you’re saying is exactly what you want, but at the same time if you don’t know how to do something, don’t understand something, have a question, etc. you should always ask. I say this all the time and it holds true here…there are MANY stupid questions out there but a question for clarification is never stupid. Be confident but not cocky to the point that you don’t know when to ask for help.

Question of the Day

Any tips on how to properly dock an 8+?

Trying to explain docking without any kind of visual is tough. I just think it works better when you can see what’s happening. Docking, like most basic coxing skills though, revolves around common sense. It’s also very trial and error based – you mess up a few times to figure out how to do it right. Trial by fire could also be an accurate description.

Obviously how your dock is set up will dictate how you come in but this should give you an idea of how it’s done. (Also, if it’s not obvious, read the image from the bottom to the top.)

You should never come into the dock with any more than stern pair rowing and you should never come into the dock with bow pair rowing. I don’t know WHY some coaches teach this because it seems so completely illogical to me. If you think about what part of the boat is hitting the dock first, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the rowers who are hitting the dock last be the ones rowing?

Also, don’t try and point towards the dock from the middle of the river. The current will pull you downstream and by the time you actually get to the dock, you’ll be at a 90 degree angle. Set yourself up so that even when you’re two or three lengths away, you’re only two or three feet off the dock from the end of the starboard side’s oars. If you end up taking too sharp of an angle to the point when your bow is on the dock but you (the coxswain) are five feet off it, have your stroke or seven back row, depending on who is on the river side and who is on the dock side. Obviously if your stroke is on the dock side they can’t row so have your 7-seat do it.

Last tip – make sure that you account for the speed of the current and the wind as you make your approach and tell the rowers to be quiet so they can hear what you’re saying. Docking can be tough when the elements are working against you so they need to be listening at all times in order to hear when you tell them to do something.

If you’re a novice, freaking out about docking is only going to make the actual event that much more scary. There’s probably a 99% chance that you’re not going to get it right on your first try – most of us don’t. Your coaches know this and should be on the dock to catch you and prevent any avoidable damage to the boat but if they’re not there to help you, they’re more at fault than you are because you’re still learning. However, that does not exempt you from using your common sense. Be smart about docking and it will come much quicker and easier to you.

Question of the Day

What do you like to do to cheer yourself up after a lost race or tough practice?

During the summer and fall my practices were from 5-7:30am so if I wasn’t immediately working or coaching afterwards I’d just go home and sleep for a few hours. If I had a particularly shitty practice, I nearly always felt better once I slept it off. If it was a really shitty practice, I’d call my dad and talk to him. He and I are very similarly minded when it comes to sports and stuff like that, so most of the time he knows where I’m coming from when I get frustrated. Another thing that helped me get some aggression out was to just turn the radio up and listen to the music on the drive home. That’s my go to stress reliever for practically anything.

Later on in the day when I wasn’t as irritated I’d reflect on why practice was so tough that day. Were the rowers not responding to what I was saying or was I being unnecessarily hard on myself? Were my coach and I not communicating properly or was I not communicating well with the crew? After asking myself those questions I could usually figure out why practice didn’t go well and determine what I needed to do differently the next day to ensure that whatever happened that day doesn’t happen again. It doesn’t always work out that way – sometimes practice just sucks – but most of the time it did for me.

In the long run, wallowing over a bad practice or race isn’t worth it. Is that going to cheer you up? Probably not. What will cheer you up is figuring out how to make sure whatever happened doesn’t happen again and then going out the next day and busting your ass to ensure that you have a good practice or that your next race is your best one yet. It seems cliche (trust me, I know this) but using those experiences as a learning opportunity ultimately makes you a lot happier than just focusing on how shitty your day ended up being.