Question of the Day

Today my coach posted the line ups for our race this weekend. I am racing in the 2V8+. It is a pretty good boat, but we have a novice coxswain. She has coxed for us before, but she often crashes into other boats and in the last race she called a power 10 for the muffins at the food tent! We have tried to give her suggestions for what we want to hear, but she just doesn’t listen. Is there any respectful way to ask my coach if we can have another coxswain?

When you’ve given her suggestions in the past on things to say, how have you done it? Have you just kind of thrown out a bunch of ideas all at once or did you write them down and give her the piece of paper? Speaking from personal experience, I know it’s hard to remember what eight different people want you to say when they just word-vomit the ideas out at you. When I realized I wasn’t going to remember anything they said, I went around to each person and had them write down one or two calls that they want/needed to hear and then I’d take the paper out with me and try to incorporate them into practice. If that’s the reason it seems like she’s not listening, I’d try writing stuff down and giving it to her, then seeing where it goes. If she’s not listening just because she doesn’t want to or doesn’t care, that is an issue that you should talk to your coach about.

Being that your race is in two days, I think that, unfortunately, it’s probably too late for your coach to put another coxswain in the boat. I’m not sure how big the regatta is that you’re going to but most require lineups to be submitted a few days ahead of time and to change the lineup the day of requires a lot of work that no one really wants to waste time on. It’s also possible that your coach is putting her in the boat with you so that she can get experience with a crew that actually knows how to row, if that makes sense. Sometimes novice coxswains pick things up faster when they don’t have to also worry about coxing eight people who have no idea what end of the oar goes in the water.

That’s not to say that you still shouldn’t talk to him/her though and explain that when you’ve had her in the past, this is what’s happened, and it makes the boat feel uncomfortable when she’s coxing. Ask if today and tomorrow he can spend some time on and off the water working with her on whatever you/the boat thinks she needs help with. She is a novice, remember, so there are still going to be kinks that need to be worked out but hopefully your coach can get through to her the importance of steering straight, making good and effective calls, etc. I would also grab one of the varsity coxswains and ask them to work with her and give her some pointers.

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9 thoughts on “Question of the Day

  1. Claire says:

    Thanks for the advice! This novice coxswain has already told our varsity coxswains that she is going to be top boat next year, so I don’t think she will listen to any tips they have. She thinks she already knows everything! We will just have to make the best of a bad situation. Hopefully it’s a good race!

    • beantownkmd says:

      What a cocky, shitty attitude that is. I hope you have a good race too…definitely let us know how it goes and if she makes any more “muffin” calls.

      • Claire says:

        The race went pretty well and we came in 2nd. I was very worried before the race because the coxswain had two races before ours and she crashed both boats. We were zig zagging all over the lane, but we didn’t crash. Overall she did a much better job than I thought she would. No 10s for muffins this time!

  2. Coxie Woxie says:

    I disagree with your opinion on the muffin comment but will concede that “silly” calls like that require a certain dynamic within the crew and a certain delivery.

    When the call sounds as if the cox is looking around for any motivation for the rowers to pull, then it is bad. It implies that there is not reason for the crew to be racing, that the cox doesn’t have a plan, and that their head is else where rather than in the boat with the rowers. On the other hand, a slightly ridiculous/silly and light-hearted call can get the boat to relax and often get a point across more effectively than a “traditional” call. Examples off the top of my head are “beach bodies, boys” as a call to get rowers to get their chests up and engage their core or “lookin’ good for the cameras, Ladies” as part of a call to get nice clean catches/good timing/sit up (assuming you are rowing past a large group of spectators).

    Whilst this is perhaps not always something that all coxes in all crews should be encouraged to do, sometimes it works. And isn’t that our job? To work out what to say to make the boat go faster? If your crew will push hard for Muffins, you make the call for Muffins.

    • beantownkmd says:

      I don’t have an issue with it really, I just wouldn’t do it. It’s such a “novice” thing to make calls like that and as the coxswain of the 2V8+, you’ve gotta get it together and make better calls than “10 for muffins”. Given the context of the question, I don’t think the rower or her boat appreciated it very much. But yes, I agree with you – sometimes calls like this do work but only when the dynamic of the crew allows it and the delivery is right. 99% of the time though it just screams “noob”.

      Just for the sake of argument I’ll say that the calls you suggested aren’t quite the same thing BUT I know what you’re trying to say. During HOCR when we came through Weeks I called a 5 to “sit up for the cameras” to get everyone to relax, sit up taller, and re-situate themselves after the turn. This is one time when the dynamic played into that call because our team name is “Style Driven” so sitting up for the cameras, looking stylish…it just worked.

      If you’re going to make a “silly” call like this, it’s got to be something that everyone is OK with. Most of the ones I’ve heard are long-standing inside jokes with my team or crew. This rower sounds slightly appalled that that was what she decided to call a power 10 for, so I don’t think it was something that made the boat pull harder or anything like that. If it works for you, it works, but it’s not something I would personally do or really recommend because I think it gives a bad impression of you and your crew.

  3. Kim Degutis says:

    I just cringed so hard I think I pulled a muscle in my back. Muffins? Oh dear. An intervention in your cox’s call style with only two days to a race (Dad Vails perhaps?) may do absolutely nothing. Novices lose their mind at big races – if your cox cannot keep their shit together to know what to say in calm tone when you’re at practice, I don’t have much hope that they’ll keep their head about them for a large regatta like Vails.

    I would recommend this – write a VERY short cheat sheet of calls. Or – put strips of athletic tape on their pants and use thick marker to use key words or phrases. Do them in order of when they should be called in the race – maybe start each piece with a distance, say every 300 or 500 meters.

    Sounds like your cox has steering issues – instruct them to get off the line in one piece and once you’ve settled, use the calls you’ve taped to their leg. It’s not a great fix but with the tape they can’t drop it, it’s on their legs and easier to read than a piece of paper.

    Good luck.

    • beantownkmd says:

      Haha, that made me laugh. I agree with the tape thing. I had a friend who did that after he took his cheat sheet of calls out on the boat one (windy) day and it flew out of his hands.

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