Question of the Day

Today in the boat we were having issues getting the blades in the water immediately and rushing the top quarter a lot so I called a ratio shift to relax the top quarter but then people were actually hesitating a lot at the catch and missing water even more, what else can I do in that situation?

When it comes to working on getting the blades in, catch placement drills are a good drill to do to address that. You can do them as part of your warmup but when I tend to do them the most when we’re just sitting stationary waiting for our coach or another boat. It’s a good way to make use of time that would otherwise be spent not doing anything.

Also remind them to keep the bodies, particularly the upper bodies, controlled but relaxed. People have a tendency to tense up, especially when things are going poorly, and that causes them to be late with the catch because the tension in their arms limits their ability to move. Also keep in mind that the catch shouldn’t be achieved by lifting up with the hands, it should be  done by unweighting the handle.

With the rush issues, I probably wouldn’t have called a ratio shift just because they’re only rushing part of the recovery, not the entire recovery. It depends. I think if you work on the catch issues first, get that sorted out, and then focus on controlled recoveries, things will fare a little better. Try rowing at a low rate (14-16spm) and having your stroke really concentrate on maintaining the pace throughout the entire recovery. Sometimes that’s all it takes. I have a tendency to over think the issue sometimes and I try and make it more complicated in my head than it actually is, but more often times than not what ends up fixing the problem is just going back to the basics. Just rowing and forgetting about the drills can do a lot of good.

There’s no point in trying to get to the catch faster than everyone else because a) that’s not the point and b) all you’re doing is slowing the boat down, so make sure your crew understands that, even if you have to repeat it a few times. It’s a difficult concept for some rowers to get because they think that if fast is good, faster must be even better, so if I just speed up this part of the stroke where I’m (seemingly) not doing anything, I’ll have more energy for the drive and we’ll move faster. Yes, you want a solid stroke rate but you don’t want to be burning your wheels, which is what you’re doing when you rush and there’s no ratio.

Related: There’s a lot of like, I don’t know how to describe this really, lurching in the boat? Because I think the girls slide forward to fast and that makes us go back instead of forward if that makes sense. how would you correct this? Thanks!

Check out the women’s 8+ heats from London (below) – the US was understroking and outpowering everyone, which is what you want. You want to be exerting yourself but in the most efficient way possible. Rushing the slide, whether it’s the whole slide or just part of it, is. not. efficient. Plain and simple.

Another thing you might have to do is just explain that to your crew. They are wasting their energy and working harder than they have to try and achieve the same results as the boat who is rowing correctly. It sucks when you have to make “wake-up calls” like this because when they happen the coxswain is usually pissed because everything he/she is trying isn’t working, so normally these are a last ditch effort to get the rowers to understand what you’re trying to communicate. They are effective though. Knowing the “why” behind something, even if it seems like the most common sense thing to you, can sometimes make all the difference.

Your stroke also has to be diligent in setting the pace and your 7-seat needs to make sure they’re doing a good job of maintaining the pace and translating it back to the rest of the boat properly. One thing you could try doing too is adjusting when they square up the blades. I’ve noticed this both when I’m coxing and coaching that whenever the top part of the slide is rushed, everyone always squares up late – they do the “quick catch” when they’re about two inches from the catch instead of gradually squaring up somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 slide and the catch. When they square up earlier, that rush at the top of slide tends to go away, or at the very least is diminished.

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