Question of the Day

I never want to be THAT coxswain whose rowers zone out and don’t listen. I feel like my rowers look out of the boat a lot and it affects the set and their technique. Do you have any posts/suggestions to make sure I’m on the right path?

I really believe that about 85% of the effort in staying focused in the boat HAS to come from the rowers – the coxswain has a job to do in that respect but they can only do so much. The best and most effective way to find out if you’re on the right track is to talk to your coach and your boat. Explain that you’ve noticed a lot of people looking out of the boat, etc. which causes all these different problems and you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help them keep their focus in the boat.

Get feedback on how you’re doing overall – can you be more aggressive at times or are you doing a good job wit that? How does your tone of voice resonate with the rowers – do you sound engaged, present, focused, etc. or are you pretty monotonous and flat with your calls? Do you sound like you’re in control and have a solid plan that you’re ready to execute or do you make your calls like you aren’t really sure of what you’re doing? The information you get from them will be way more valuable to you than anything else.

Related: My rowers told me after practice today that I should focus on the tone of my voice and not be so “intense” during our practices. I don’t really know how to fix that actually. Like I don’t think I am so “intense” but rather just firm and trying to be concise with the command I give out. They said that they really like how I cox during a race piece because my intensity level fits the circumstances. But they also said that if I cox in a similar tone to race pieces, they can’t take me seriously during the races. But my problem when I first started coxing was not being firm enough and getting complaints about how I should be more direct on my commands. Now when I am, my rowers say this. I don’t really know what is the happy medium. Like I listen to coxing recordings and I feel like I am doing fairly similar tones.

In my experience, rowers looking out of the boat and stuff tends to be more about them than it does you. Obviously you need to be doing your part to keep them engaged and focused but some people are just that ADD (literally and figuratively) and have a hard time staying “in the boat” when they’re just moving back and forth. It takes a lot of concentration to row which a lot of people, especially novices, don’t realize. If they’re looking out of the boat a lot, you’re right, it will definitely affect the set and technique. That’s something I constantly try and tell the kids I coach – even though it seems minimal, you turning your head shifts your body weight enough that it will offset the boat.

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Question of the Day

I still have trouble judging distances [m] any tips?

I used to have trouble with that too. Practice and racing have been what’s helped me the most in gauging how far I am from something. Nearly every race I did in high school was on a buoyed course and the last 250m were always red buoys so comparing where the start of the red buoys were and where the finish line buoys were helped me learn to gauge what 250m looked like on the river when we were practicing. A lot of it is just carefully calculated guesswork though.

I also try and study the river that I’m on to get an idea of how far apart the major landmarks are from each other and then I convert the distance in miles to meters. On the Charles there are a ton of things you can use for landmarks but on your home course it can vary. My coach in high school, who was also a coxswain, taught me that trick and while it’s time consuming, it helped a lot. As I got used to what 50m, 400m, 1000m, etc. felt like it almost became like muscle memory to me so it’s gotten a lot easier to judge distances the more experienced I’ve become.