Question of the Day

So my team has a regatta next weekend and we have only rowed at all 8s like 3 three times since winter training. When we do there is A LOT of check and the boat is really not set. As the coxswain, is there anything I can say to fix this and help get my boat ready for Sunday? Thanks!

There are tons of things you can say but with six days to go before your race, I’m not sure if much of it will have any noticeable impact, especially since you’ve only rowed by all eight three times. Practice, practice, practice is what you need more than anything else.

In this situation, with so little time before your race, I would focus on making sure they understand what ratio is (and making sure you understand it yourself), why it’s necessary, and how it impacts your rowing (both positively and negatively). Your coach will hopefully do some of the necessary drills with them to help the issue, so when you go through them pay attention to what he says to the rowers, the corrections he tells them to make, etc. Everything they say you can repeat to the rowers when you’re on your own with them.

Related: The “ratio” tag

As far as the set goes, for a novice boat I’d say it’s fairly natural for the boat to be unset the majority of the time. That’s just from lack of experience. Remind them how to set the boat when it’s leaning to either side and tell them specifically what adjustments to make. Don’t just tell starboard to raise their hands, also tell port to lower theirs. Don’t tell them to “set the boat” either with no further instructions on who needs to do what. Always tell them exactly what you want them to do. The set is affected by eight million and twelve different things but handle heights is probably the biggest, especially with novices. Remind them of where the handle should be coming into at the finish, that they need to lay back in order to finish properly, to tap down at the finish to get the blade out of the water, etc.

Related: As a novice coxswain I still really struggle with the technical aspect of practices. This summer I joined a boat club and spent two weeks out on the water learning to row, hoping that the first-hand experience would help me understand how to fix some common problems. Now that I’m coxing again, I still get really confused when something is wrong with the set. I don’t know what other advice to give other than handle height suggestions and counting for catch-timing, especially when it doesn’t seem to be up or down to one side consistently (like rocking back and forth with every stroke). I was wondering what advice you would give to your rowers in a situation like this, and how you can recognize and remedy some common technical problems.

When I’m talking to novices about this I like to tell them to imagine there’s a table sitting across the gunnels that they have to glide their hands across. Visualizing this helps them to not dip their hands and sky their blades coming into the catch. Focus on keeping the handle level, just like you try and do with the chain on the erg. With time and experience this problem will solve itself but for now you’ve just got to be diligent about staying on them about where their hands need to be. As you observe your rowers more and talk with your coach(es) about what you see, you’ll be able to pick out any of the eight million other things that they do that effect the set. From there you can get more specific about what they need to do besides just adjusting their hands.

This whole issue is something that I struggle with explaining to people. As coxswains, we can sit there and tell the rowers everything they need to hear about what’s going on, how to fix things, etc. but there’s only so much we can do. The rowers have to have the ability to do three things: they need the ability (aka skill) to make the change, the ability to focus and implement what you’re asking, and the ability to understand why the change is necessary. Until you have all three of those things, it’s hard to make an impact.

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