Question of the Day

Hi, I’m a novice rower. During our erg workout the other day, I was trying to boost morale and get everyone pumped and keep them at the same rate by yelling and cheering, etc during the pieces. My coach said the only reason she let me do it is because I kept my split down where she wanted. Is it bad for rowers to cheer each other on? I know it’s the cox’s job but they weren’t doing anything. Thanks!

I hate to say I agree with your coach but I agree with her. Your intentions were good and you’re a novice so you probably don’t know any better but being that person who takes on the role of cheerleader tends to piss people off more than help them. It’s not bad, per se, for you to cheer on your teammates but personally, if I was on the erg and had another rower yelling and cheering behind me, I’d just be annoyed at how distracting you’re being.

Rowers tend to get less annoyed when coxswains do it because, like you said, it’s our job and they expect it from us. If you saw that the coxswains weren’t doing anything, in the future my suggestion would be to go up to them and say “hey, Alex looks like he’s struggling a bit, can you go help him out?” or “on this next piece, can you guys walk around and make some calls to keep people focused and pushing hard?” and then  let them take care of it.

Related: Hello! I’m a novice coxswain and I’m still learning so I often ask my rowers exactly what they want to hear. When we erg often the varsity team helps cox them. I honestly feel like coxing ergs is kind of awkward and I am not the best at it (but I’m still learning). After asking one of my rowers what I can do to improve she told me that she didn’t like my coxing style and she preferred one of the varsity members. I am not able to cox like that – it doesn’t come naturally … what should I do?

Boosting morale and pumping people up in rowing is a weird thing. Like, obviously you don’t want the erg room to feel like a prison camp but you also don’t want it to be Cheerleader-Barbie Central. How each rower derives motivation on the erg is different – some like that “prison camp” feel where you’re kind of deep in the depths of misery whereas others like a lighter atmosphere but each person gets into that zone a different way. Having someone yelling, cheering, and being all perky behind them can throw off their concentration.

The reasons why coxswains are able to get rowers to give more on the ergs is because, for me at least, I talk to them beforehand to figure out what they want and what kind of zone they’re in. How I motivate one person is usually vastly different from another. Sometimes I have to be really upbeat to get one person to keep going but for another I have to get right in their ear and be very quiet but insanely intense with my words.

Related: Advice for coxing a 5k on the erg? There are only so many times I can remind my boys to keep their back straight and drive with their legs.

Like your coach, if you hadn’t pulled a good time and were doing this I would have shut you down immediately, but the fact that you did a good job (slightly) makes up for the fact that you potentially were driving everyone else a little crazy. Don’t take it the wrong way or let this get you down – it’s just one of those things with rowing that, in time, you learn not to do. You’ll learn too as you get to know your teammates better what they like and don’t like. Some rowers HATE being coxed on the erg, regardless of whether it’s a coxswain or rower, and you have to respect that.

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