Question of the Day

Hi! Read your last post about rushing rowers. How can you tell which rowers are rushing? My view usually stops at 7 seat. Are you supposed to watch the oars to see if catches match? Thanks!

That’s about where my (and most coxswains) view stops too unless I tilt my head to look out of the boat. I normally do a few things to see if I can pinpoint who it is.

Tendencies. Does someone in the boat ALWAYS rush? Is your coach constantly telling one person to control their slides?

Talk with your stroke. In my experience, the stronger the rush, the closer to the stroke it’s happening. In talking to my stroke and having them tell me how rushed it is, I can usually narrow it down to a specific pair. If it’s really strong and they’re getting thrown up the slide, I look to 5 and 6 to see if they’re where the rush starts. If it’s not too strong I’ll look closer towards bow.

Lean out. I don’t recommend this unless you can do so without rocking the boat too much. Sometimes leaning your head out of the boat can help you see the bodies a little better, which can help you see who’s rushing up the slide.

Talk to your coach. If I can’t tell where it’s coming from (which, to be honest, for most of us is the majority of the time) I’ll yell out to my coach and ask him if he can see from the launch where the rush is coming from. Since he has a perfect side view, I rely on his input a lot.

Watching the oars doesn’t really help that much when it comes to rush because someone could fly up their slide and then sit at the catch until everyone else gets there then drop their oars in at the same time as them. Their catch timing in that case would be near perfect but their slide control would be horrific. “Timing” as a call gets generalized too much I think. I try and only talk about timing when I’m talking about the blades, but if I do make a call about timing with the slides I’ll specify “let’s watch the timing on the recovery” or “let’s get the timing on the slides together”. Otherwise I’ll stick to calls about ratio, slide control, etc.

Question of the Day

Today our novice boat was SO rushed! No matter what the stroke, they’d hit it for like 3 secs before flying 3 or more SR than was supposed to be. Stroke told me that she and 7 seat were trying to control it but middle 4 on back kept rushing. I tried to say “lengthen, ratio shift, control, etc.” while still saying their SRs. Nothing I said changed it, if anything SR went higher. I gave up by the end of it, since they weren’t listening. Coach didn’t help, just said follow stroke. Help?

Ugh, I’ve been in this situation before. I will try and correct it 99.9% of the time but then my impatience kicks in and I just say “screw it” and let them figure it out on their own. Sometimes that’s all you can do. I’ve also had that coach that is totally useless and says things like “follow the stroke”. You’re the coach, can’t you come up with something a little more helpful that that?

If you know that the middle four were the ones that were initiating the rush, don’t be afraid to directly call them out.  When I’ve had this happen in the past, I’ve directly called out the people that I know are causing the rush and I’ve asked them a) do they know what seat they’re in, b) do they know who the stroke is, c) do they know how to control their slides, and d) is anything that either the coach or I said unclear? Normally the answers go something like yes, yes, yes, and no, to which I reply “then what are you doing??” They don’t normally have an answer for that but by that point they either realize that they are the problem or that when I was telling people to slow down the slides I wasn’t just talking to test my brain’s ability to formulate sentences.

Related: 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?

After I’ve had that conversation with them, we usually take a break from whatever we’re doing for so everyone can refocus. Once we get started again I remind them that the slides need to be controlled, they need to follow the person in front of them, and they need to not assume that they’re not the one causing the problem. Incorporating in calls that focus on getting everyone’s body motions matched up right out of the finish usually helps too (i.e. matching the hands away, timing the swing of the shoulders, starting the slides together, etc.) but at some point you do have to just stop talking and let them row in silence for a bit so they can focus on implementing the changes.

Question of the Day

Our coach had the novice 8+ row with two varsity 8s today. Coach focused on the two varsity boats and paid no attention to our novice boat. My rowers were really frustrated because she told them they can’t mix with varsity rowing until they know how to row but they feel like if there’s no direction and if they can’t row with the varsity they won’t learn anything. My opinion is that the coach wants them to know what it feels like to do the varsity workouts 1st. From a coach’s point of view, what do you think?

Interesting situation. I get what your coach is saying but I don’t understand why she’d take you out with the varsity and then completely ignore you. That seems counter-productive. Based on their frustration, it sounds like a chat with your coach might be in order. As their coxswain, it’s your job to act as the go-to person between the boat and your coach, so I’d talk to her either before or after practice and explain that the rowers are frustrated/confused/whatever emotion best describes them because they felt like they were totally ignored when they went out with the varsity boats and they feel like when they’re not getting any instruction, their rowing isn’t improving. Hopefully she’ll be able to give you some insight into her thought process.

I’d also ask her if there are days when she wants you to go out with the other boats but knows that her focus will be on the varsity, can she give you a workout to do on your own and then she can come check up on you intermittently throughout practice. That way the rowers can still feel like they’re accomplishing something without the coach being around. That would also make you look good too – every coach loves a coxswain who takes initiative.

Question of the Day

What is your opinion on crew relationships? I feel like if they work out that it’s great, but if they end it’s extremely awkward because you’re at crew EVERY SINGLE DAY. I ask this because I like a guy at my rowing club, who liked my best friend. Liked being the keyword: she never had feelings for him that way and friendzoned him. Yes, I know you aren’t a matchmaker or anything like that but you know a lot about crew!

As long as you’re mature about it and can separate your relationship from crew, then you’ll be fine. Problems arise when you bring your relationship into the boat with you or let it affect your performance. If you come to practice crying, fighting, or just in an overall shitty mood because of something that happened between the two of you, that’s when you need to start re-evaluating things. It can be awkward if/when it ends, especially if you went out for awhile or got friend-zoned like the guy you know did, but you really just have to be mature about it and move on.

Question of the Day

Are lightweight rowers expected to be taller? I always see a ton of heavies on the shorter side, but I’m 5’9″ and a lightweight so would I probably need to gain some weight?

Lightweights are actually shorter than most heavy/openweight rowers simply because it’s harder to be that tall and maintain a lightweight’s body weight (130lbs or 160lbs). If you aren’t struggling to maintain your weight, are healthy, and the weight you’re at now is fairly natural for you, I wouldn’t worry about it. The most important thing is that you aren’t taking any extraordinary measures to be at or below the lightweight max. When lightweights are borderline and finally decide that they don’t want to keep trying to maintain 130 or 160lbs, I equate it to their body exhaling a sigh of relief. They’ll gain some weight but it’ll mostly be without any extra effort on their part. Their body essentially does all the work in order to get them up to the weight that is natural for them.

Looking at the lightweights that were on this year’s Olympic team, on the men’s side in the LWT 4- their height ranged from 5’11” to 6’2″ (tall yes, but short in comparison to the heavies who were all 6’5″ and taller). The women only competed in the LWT 2x and both of them were 5’6″.

Question of the Day

How much would you say rowing kit, lifejacket, cox box weighs on top of your usual body weight?

I’ve never actually measured any of this so this is all guesstimating. Depending on how many layers I’m wearing, my clothes can probably add anywhere from 3-8ish lbs. A lifejacket probably weighs two pounds, and a cox box is probably another pound. So on a normal day where I’m not wearing every layer I own, I’d say all that probably adds maybe 6-7lbs to my weight. Like I said though, I’ve never actually weighed myself with all of that (and I’ve never had to wear a life jacket while on the water) so this is purely speculation.

Related: How does getting weighed in work during the spring season? I’m a coxswain for a collegiate men’s team where the weight minimum is 125. I’m naturally under 110, so what’s going to happen? Sand bags? Will it be a problem?

I feel compelled to throw this out there now … if you’re a coxswain and you’re weighing in at a regatta, you can’t use outside stuff to add to your weight if you’re under the limit. Usually you have to weigh in wearing what the rowers wear – i.e. your uni or whatever you wear when you race. When I was a novice we had to weigh in before a regatta and at the time I didn’t know I couldn’t wear all my layers when I did it, so I ended up taking everything but my long spandex pants and long sleeve spandex shirt off. Other than the obvious reason, they can also ask you to wear just your spandex so they can make sure you aren’t loading your pockets with wrenches, weight plates of your own, etc. to try and cheat the scale.

What to wear: Coxswains (Men)

Previously: What to wear: Coxswains (women)

In part one I talked a lot about the importance of wearing the proper clothes while out on the water, especially in the winter. For coxswains this is especially important since we are stationary for the majority of practice, which causes us to get colder much faster than everyone else. Like I mentioned in the last post, if you’ve got a survival suit that you can throw over these layers when it starts getting cold, definitely do it.

Women are usually pretty good about wearing the right clothes, it’s the guys that tend to learn the hard way. “Tough guy points” as they’re known around the boathouse are voided if/when you develop hypothermia. I can’t stress the importance of wind and waterproof/resistant layers enough. Coxing when you’re cold is hard and makes it tough to focus so do yourself a favor and make sure you’ve got the right gear on when you go out.