Question of the Day

We have a coxswain and all she does in our races is call pieces and count the strokes. It is ridiculous. Like she will call a piece of 30 and then about halfway through that she will call a piece of 20 then count out the strokes and it isn’t helpful at all and just frustrates the rowers. How can we approach asking her to change what she’s saying without sounding bitchy and like we know what she’s doing better than her?

You should never feel like you can’t ask your coxswain to do something differently. Sometimes the way we call things just doesn’t work and you have to have enough respect for your crew to understand that you need to do something different, not only for the benefit of the boat but also so your rowers continue to respond to you. If you’re unapproachable about stuff like this all that’s going to do is bring the boat down.

The issue where it comes off like the rowers know more than the coxswain is when you start telling them how to steer, how to call drills, how to take the boat out, etc. Anything regarding calls relies on communication between both parties because the coxswain needs to make good calls that the rowers will respond to and if the rowers find that those calls aren’t working for them, they need to let the coxswain know so they can figure out a way to call it differently. As long as you’re not straight up attacking her and saying that her coxing sucks or something, there really shouldn’t be an issue.

Before your next practice I’d have your stroke and maybe one other person talk to her (privately to avoid the “ganging up” feeling) and ask if she’d mind calling a few things different during practice and your races. Tell her that the power pieces are helpful but you think the boat would respond better if they were spread out more and used strategically rather than sporadically.

Related: 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.

For now, just ask her to work on that. You don’t want to overwhelm her with a ton of requests and you also don’t want to piss her off. After practice, assuming she listened to your request and tried to do things differently, tell her thank you for making the effort and then give her any feedback you have. If she didn’t listen to your request and doesn’t want to do things differently, talk to your coach and explain the situation. Tell him/her that you asked her to try something different and that, for whatever reason, she didn’t do it. From there, hopefully your coach can have a talk with her and explain why communication back and forth is critical to having a cohesive boat.

If things went alright though, like I said, tell her thanks and then maybe in a few days or so talk to her about what you guys want to hear as far as additional calls for motivation, technique, etc. Maybe have each person in your boat write down one motivational and technical call each and then give her that list. I only say wait a few days because you don’t want to throw all of this on her too quickly because it is overwhelming having your rowers say they want to hear a million different things and trying to remember everything and figure out the best places to work those calls in is a little daunting at first. Give her a day to get used to calling the bursts differently and then talk to her again.

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