Question of the Day

When do you call power 10s, both on the erg and the water? Would it be like when you see a girl’s split dropping and staying down on a 2k or during a race if you’re close and want to pass another boat? Or could it be any time just for a burst of energy? I don’t really know the strategy, I just know at some point I’ll have to sound like I know what I’m doing and call a few.

On the erg, I don’t call a power 10 unless the rower has asked me to beforehand. A lot of rowers don’t like to be bothered during 2ks so they can get/stay in their zone and randomly popping up behind them to give a power 10 can sometimes do more harm than good. When they’ve asked me to give them one, they usually say to do it whenever it looks like they need one or they’ll say “I want a 10 at 1500m, 20 at 1000, 10 at 750m, 10 at 500m, and 10 at 150m.” If they say to call it whenever I’ll try and do one at each of the major meter marks and/or within the last 100m. In between there if it looks like they’re falling off a little I’ll give them a quick 5 instead of a 10 to get them to refocus.

On the water, I always have a strategy ahead of time that I try and stick to. Nearly every burst I call is called with a purpose – I very rarely call a burst just for power but if I do it’s usually because I’m not feeling the power or because I want to get up with or past another crew. During sprint races in high school I was always trying to listen to the other coxswains and when I’d hear them take a 10 or 20, I’d wait for them to get about halfway through it before I’d start my own burst. Not only would that counteract their move nearly every time but it’d also put us a little bit more ahead at the end of it. Sometimes those spontaneous calls would interfere with my planned calls so I’d either go straight into the planned call or I’d skip it if we were far enough ahead that I could afford to do that. For head races, using the course map to find the landmarks, mile markers, etc. will help you a lot in figuring out where to make calls.

Related: HOCR: Landmarks along the course

In sprint races, I don’t deviate too much from “the plan” each week since 1500m or 2000m courses are the same everywhere. They’ve all got 1500m, 1000m, 500m, and 100m to go marked along the course and since those are major points where I tend to call strategic bursts, I don’t change it up very much.

Normally my crew would also have a “special move” thrown in outside of my usual spots, usually to counteract another team’s move or to just open some water on the other crews. This was typically a 20 where we’d build for three, bump the rate up a beat or two for 15-18, then settle back into our regular pace over the remaining couple of strokes. These moves always had code words associated with them so that the other crews wouldn’t know we were making a move. “POWER 10” is really, really obvious (and easy to exploit by other coxswains), especially when you’re yelling it into your mic, so we’d talk during practice the week before and figure out what they wanted me to say. Usually it was something simple like “fire ’em up” and they would just know, without me saying it, that the move starts on the next stroke. They’d make the move and I’d cox them as normal. Even though I wasn’t calling it I could see it happening because we’d either be walking on or away from a crew and I could see the stroke rate change on my cox box. (We practiced this a lot to ensure everyone knew when to bring the rate up and when to bring it down too. Doing it on the fly I think would have been a mess.)

Related: How to survive winter training, pt. 4: 2k strategy

At bigger regattas where sprints were a bigger deal we’d take 5 to build into the last 250 but before that burst we’d take a build into the build that was purely for power. My senior year when I used the build-into-the-build nearly every race, I’m convinced that it’s what put our bow ball ahead in the few races we didn’t win by open water. I don’t remember what I’d say to start that build but it was always something synonymous with “power”. I think one of the things I said most often was “bend ’em”, meaning to hang on the oars so hard that you’re bending them as they go through the water. Going into the 5 to build into the sprint, the call was always “light ’em up” and then the start of the sprint was “afterburners”.

The best thing you can do is to sit down with your coach, your crew, and a course map. Figure strategic spots along the course to make a call then figure out what that call is going to be for. If you’re going to use a code word, discuss that with your crew. Make sure everyone knows what the word is and what means. Once you’ve got the strategy down, figure out your “special” move, what it’s going to be, where you’d ideally like to call it, and then make sure you practice it throughout the week so the crew gets used to hearing and feeling it.

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