Coxswain Recordings, pt. 5

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4

This is a Purdue-heavy post, mainly because I found out a lot of their coxswains’ stuff on YouTube. I kind of like the idea of keeping recordings from the same team together instead of spreading them out across multiple posts so I think I might try to do that going forward.

Purdue L8 Milwaukee River Challenge 2012
I don’t know what I think is funnier – the coxswain’s speech or the stroke’s half-amused, half-WTF face.

  • 1:38, I can’t tell if he’s still in cheesy-speech mode but I like that he tells them “this is what we’re going to do”. If you’re ever at a loss for something to say when you’re at the starting line and waiting to get going, tell your crew what you’re going to accomplish during the race/piece. Base it off of what you consistently do well, what you’ve worked on in practice that week, etc. While they’re sitting there, this would have driven me nuts, but see how 7-seat is moving his oar back and forth a lot? That messes up your point, not to mention is really irritating, especially up in the stern, since it jerks the boat a little. That’s probably part of the reason why he tells 2 to tap it a couple times.
  • 2:45, I really like “together, we move”. It’s like a rallying cry almost, albeit a calm one.
  • 3:11, “we’re in the chute”, that’s a good thing to let your crew know, especially in bigger head races like HOCR where the entire starting area is a humongous clusterfuck. 6 seat’s blade work is making me twitch – I feel like he’s slightly behind stern pair with regards to timing and needs to square up earlier so that he’s ready for the catch instead of getting to the catch and being like “oh shit, there it is”, which is kind of what it looks like. That’s something you should be paying attention to and telling the rower(s) when you notice it. 4:45, notice how he calls the 10 really sharp and concise but returns to his normal voice in between counts? That’s a good way to maintain the intensity and keep the crew relaxed.
  • 4:56 and 5:07 – good communication between the stroke and coxswain. Strokes, take note. Notice how they’re not having a conversation or anything, but the stroke says what he’s feeling in one quick breath and the coxswain translates it to the rest of the crew?
  • 5:20, exactly.
  • 6:23, “we’re going to slowly make up ground”…my first thought was “when/where did you lose ground and how much did you lose?” Location is really important in head races because, unlike sprint races, the rowers can’t use their peripheral vision to see where the other crews are. I don’t think to this point the coxswain had said how far in they are (time or distance wise) or where they were in relation to the crews immediately in front of and behind them. If I’d heard him say “make up some ground” I’d probably be looking out of the boat to see where we are, which, obviously, you don’t want your rowers doing. Side note, notice how the boat appears to be unset a lot? In addition to washing out, which he’s reminding them of a lot, 7 seat is contributing to that by constantly moving his head around. He’s like a f-ing bobble head. It’s hard to see anyone doing this beyond stern pair but if you see them doing it, call them out.
  • 9:55, I talked about this the other day – mixing up the sides. Don’t do that. I really like that the stroke is communicating with the coxswain but at the same time, it’s starting to get on my nerves. Not because I want him to stop doing it, because I don’t, but because I want the coxswain to be saying all the stuff the stroke is saying before the stroke says it. Everything the stroke has said, with the exception of a couple things at the beginning, the coxswain should have already seen and made a call for. The coxswain should not be coxed by the stroke, if that makes more sense.
  • 10:26, “I want contact”, come on. Be realistic. You’re still at least a length and a half of open behind the crew in front of you. Don’t say you want contact unless you’re within half a length at least.
  • 10:46, I like this. Sometimes you’ve gotta tell your crew that if they don’t make some magic happen between now and whenever you aren’t going to be able to execute a turn. Ideally you would be prepping for the turn well before you actually have to make it so that you don’t have to make calls like this but sometimes you just get stuck behind another boat and you don’t have a choice. Regardless, it’s a good call but it should be used sparingly.
  • 11:36, “we gotta pull something out”…*long pause*…”alright, we’re going for it”. NO!! What?! You can’t say in a semi-aggressive tone that they’ve gotta make a move and then STOP TALKING!!! You also can’t say “alright we’re going for it” like you’re debating on whether or not you should actually go for it. If now is when you need to make a move, get on their asses and tell them you’re taking a fucking move! When you’ve got contact on a crew like this and you’re trying to walk through them, this is where you take a 20 to break them. A 10 might get you to them but it’s not going to get you through them, which is what you want. If you stop your ten and you’re only half a length through them, that’s going to give their coxswain an opportunity to counter whereas if you take a 20 and can get up to their 2 seat, you’ve essentially absorbed them and it will be harder to counter.
  • 12:23, they come up to that other boat and their starboards clash or appear to clash with their ports and the coxswain has to tell them to back off so. A trick for dealing with situations like this is to add a pause at hands away for 2-3 strokes. I know you’re probably thinking “wtfff” but hear me out. This is something you need to discuss, practice, and ingrain in everyone’s heads before a race so they know to expect it if you have to call for it but it’s a great move to help you avoid the clashes (and “dealing with it the best you can”), potentially avoid a penalty, and cut around a corner if you have to. You’ve got enough speed going that turning the rudder on that second-long pause will bring you easily around a curve.
  • 12:43, “starboards on”, coming around a corner like that, trust me, just tell ports to power way down to like 50-60% and have the starboards power UP. You’ll be around in 5-6 strokes at most. This turn looks a lot like the Northeastern curve as you come upstream, although turning to the left instead of the right (for those familiar with the Charles). When we’re doing pieces and I have to make that turn at full pressure I tell one side to bring it down and the others to bring it up for five strokes, which brings me around while still staying relatively tight to shore. Coming out of the turn you need to immediately take a 20 (not. a. 10.) with the first five being used to refocus and regain composure. There should be nonstop talking happening telling them where they are on the other crew, what they need to do, and what you want.
  • 15:06, “you’re missing a ton of water” – ok, so how do they fix it? Never assume they know what to do or that something is obvious. Their brains are in oxygen deprivation (not literally but you know what I mean) so they’re not really thinking about every minute detail. That’s why you’re there. They’re missing water, you want them to not miss water, but what about their technique needs to change? Just saying “get it in” isn’t going to do much, especially if you’ve already been saying that for 10+ minutes.
  • Alright, side note again. I’m 17 minutes in and am so bored with the coxing. It’s like a lot of stuff is being repeated but nothing is changing or he’s trying to say something that he thinks will spark something but it comes off as trying too hard. I wonder if the stroke kinda feels the same way too, since a lot of the more purposeful calls are things he is telling the coxswain to say. Just an outside observation. What do you guys think?
  • 17:52, “almost there”. No. Unless you’re 100m away you are not “almost there”.
  • 20:08, “Jeremy does”…I honestly debated whether or not to actually comment on that because I understand what the coxswain is trying to do but I don’t know if this was the best way to go about it. Saying “who wants to follow him?”, it’s not like anyone is going to raise their hand and say “oh, me, me, I want to!” Don’t phrase a call like this in the form of a question that you should already know the answer too. Saying “Jeremy does” can also resonate in maybe not the best way with some people too because it can come off as saying Jeremy is working harder than everyone else and the rest of the boat needs to step up. Instead, especially if this is something you’re saying at the end of the race, say something like “I’m looking at Jeremy right now and I can in his eyes that he’s out for blood in this last 500m. I can see his intensity, now I want to feel yours. Coming to the line we’re driving together, power through the water, not letting up on that aggression we’ve had for the last 15 minutes. This is where we tap the reserves and give that last bit of energy. Bodies over brains. Let’s take five to sit up and build into the last 250. This is where go…sit up and go…chins up, go…support it and go, let’s take it home in two – that’s one…and two. Driving, now.” Etc. etc. This is where you stop the technique calls and hammer home the motivational ones.

Overall, I’d say this was average. I think there were a lot of missed opportunities, but then again, I wasn’t in the boat. If they were happy with it, which the stroke seemed to be, that’s all that matters. At 23:21 where he says “the boat felt alive”, that’s something you should have exuberantly said to the crew during the race.

Purdue Crew Women’s Varsity 8
(Race starts at 2:40) Right off the bat, stroke’s head is turned a solid 90 degrees the wrong way. I love the coxswain’s intensity on this first 20. It’s so powerful when you can time your calls with the noise of the oarlocks.

  • 3:50, notice how the port blades are dangerously close to the buoy line? Be careful about that. Even if the hull doesn’t cross the buoys you can still be penalized on some courses if your blades go over.
  • 4:03, good job pointing out where they are.
  • 4:41, finally something about heads in the boat. I like that she followed it up with “move this boat”. (Although if you notice, three or four strokes later the stroke is looking out of the boat again.)
  • 6:20, I really like how she started the second ten of that twenty with “10 to start off the third 500”. Phrasing it that way kind of gives you a little extra motivation to make those strokes good.
  • 6:45, if you’re going to say “send it” make sure you’re not calling it at the catch. That’s a call for the finish because it relates to the run on the recovery.
  • 7:13, “row like you own it”, good call.
  • 7:55, “10 for the boat”, I love bursts like this. Some coaches/rowers are so against them because they think it means that you only put power into the stroke associated with your name but they would be wrong. 10s through the boat are a great way to say without saying that each person contributes and every stroke you take, you’re taking for and with eight other people (plus your team).
  • 9:48, when she calls paddle I was really nervous because from way back here it doesn’t look like their bow ball would be through the line yet. Even if you hear the horn you should always, always, always row through the line, meaning you don’t call paddle until YOU, the coxswain, are through the line. It’s extra security for you, just in case.

Although the coxing was really good, I can’t get past the stroke looking to her left the entire race.  I had to watch this video twice because the first time through all I was thinking about was how much I wanted to reach through the screen and force the stroke’s head straight. I think it effected her rowing too because there were some strokes where she was rowing it in and wasn’t catching as sharply as the rest of the boat, which I think was probably caused by her body weight not being totally centered in the boat. You have to call them out on that. It’s something that’s got to be addressed in practice too.

Purdue Light 8 vs. Notre Dame JV 2013
This coxswain actually emailed me this video a couple months ago to listen to. Below is a copy of the email I sent her with my feedback.

“Overall, this was really good. Your aggression was good but I could see what you meant about it not being as intense had you been in a closer race. When I first started coxing and had leads like that with my boats, I let my intensity come down a little too. After a couple of races I shifted how I did things and instead of “cruising” the rest of the way I completely stopped paying attention to the other boats and focused solely on my crew. Even though you’re beating the other boats handedly doesn’t mean any of the intensity has to go away. If anything, you almost want to get more intense to keep the rowers in it. They can CLEARLY see they’re beating the other crews so it’s easy for them to start to power down but it’s up to you to make sure they stay at 100%. It’s not so much about “proving” you can win, it’s more about the psychological mindset that it puts the rowers (and us, to an extent) in. If they know that all they have to do is get ahead before you ease off of them, that is what they’ll start to look forward to each race. If you can keep the intensity and aggression in your voice for the whole 2000m they’ll continue to push for the whole 2000m. It’s all psychological. When it comes down to that one race where you have a crew that’s pushing you down the entire course, you’ll be better prepared to fight them off if you can mentally go 2000m instead of 750m or 1500m. Make sense? Obviously there are exceptions, like if you’re in a qualifying race and all you’ve got to do is place to advance. At that point  you want to conserve some energy so you can go all out during the final. If you’ve got a lead on a crew like you did during this race, it’s OK to back off a little as long as you don’t completely turn the gas off and let the other crew(s) come back on you. When that happens it turns into a frantic situation that results in the rowers expending more energy than they otherwise would have needed to.

I saw what you said about the Notre Dame coxswain too…she looked like she was two or three lanes away at one point.

  • 0:13 – “Square in two”…any particular reason why you do “in two” instead of just saying “squared and buried”?
  • 0:29 – 1:10 – Throughout the whole start (and at a couple other points during the race) it looked like stern pair, particularly your stroke was missing water at the catch. It might just be the angle that I’m looking at it from but it’s worth making note of just so you can remind them that their catches have to be the longest and sharpest since they’re setting and translating the rhythm to the rest of the boat. Your voice was great during this part too. THIS is what I try and tell other coxswains they should sound like – short, concise, and intense. Good job.
  • 1:11 – I love how you called the shift. “Shiiiiift, BOOM.” That was excellent.
  • 1:23 – Why take a 10 right after the start? If you notice you’re even with another crew and you want to make a move, use the settle to walk. After the start (high stroke rate and settle) you want to give the rowers a chance to get into their rhythm. If you go straight from the start into a power 10, especially one that doesn’t have a direct end goal, it makes things slightly frantic again and doesn’t give them a chance to actually settle into the rhythm they just tried to establish.
  • 1:43 – Nice job pointing out for the starboards to keep the blades buried. I noticed a few times, especially with 5 seat that they were washing out at the end. Remind them to get that layback, hold on to the entire stroke, squeeze, etc.  and then use that outside hand to pop the blade out at the finish. At the catch, all they need to do is unweight the hands. Unweighting the hands vs. lifting them makes a big difference because it eliminates a lot of the tension and rigidity that goes along with literally lifting the hands and handle into the catch.
  • 1:58 – Nice job telling them that ND moved over a lane. That would have been a good point to take a 10 or 20 to capitalize on their error and start breaking them. Coxing is the ultimate form of psychological warfare – when another coxswain gives you the opportunity to take advantage of their mistakes, TAKE IT.
  • 2:21 – “Just passed the first 500m…” That’s another good spot to take a 20 to walk, push them back three seats, etc.
  • 2:30 – You can probably see this MUCH easier than I can, but part of the reason why I think it looks like your stroke is missing water is because he doesn’t lift his hands at the catch. If he does, it’s very minimal.
  • 2:32 – “Focus on the legs” for how many strokes? You counted out two and then waited another two strokes before you said “legs” again. If you do a “focus” burst, make sure you DRILL them on whatever you’re focusing on. That should be the only thing you say in between strokes. If it’s legs, it should be something like “1, legs, 2, legs, 3, legs, etc.” that way they have no choice but to focus on it for those few strokes.
  • 3:08 – “10 at the 1000m…” 10 strokes typically isn’t enough to counter any moves. Usually you need 15 or 20 at least. If the other coxswain had been closer to you and heard you say “10 strokes”, she could have taken advantage of that, waited until you were a few strokes into it, and then started her move midway through yours. That would have counteracted your counter move and left you either behind or in the same spot you started in. Always try to listen for the other coxswain’s to call their moves, wait a stroke or two if you can afford to, and then attack them, but make sure your move has an adequate enough amount of strokes to actually make a difference.
  • 3:30 – You stroke looks like he’s fading. Don’t be afraid to talk to individuals if you need to to keep them in it.
  • 4:24 – When you take power bursts or tell them to get aggressive, watch their puddles. Bow pairs puddles should be clearing you and about midway through the 10 you took here, your stroke was catching in 2’s puddle, which means they weren’t even getting up to you. Remind them of that. Tell them you want to clear the puddles, you want to see the aggression in the water. Deep dark puddles are what you want to see.
  • 4:50 – “They’re getting frantic.” Another great opportunity to take a 10 or 20.
  • 5:16 – When you tell them to lengthen out here, give them specifics. Layback, pull all the way in, control up the slide, don’t let the rate fall, get long at the catch, hold on to the whole stroke at the finish, etc. Tell them exactly what you want them to do.
  • 5:34 – 5:45 – You went “up two in two” and then a few strokes later went up two again. Why not just take three to build straight into your sprint? At the end here you really only want to build once. It all goes back to the psychological thing. The end of the race is where they’re supposed to give everything they’ve got left. If they have to build twice (regardless of whether or not they know they’re going to build twice) they’ve got to somehow conserve their energy to be able to actually get to that second build. You can help them out by staying on your stroke about being at race pace (better done during practice than the actual race) for the whole race so that when it comes time to build into your spring, you only have to go up 2-3 beats instead of 5.
  • 6:17 – “Up one”…remind them to get it on the drive, not by speeding up the recovery.
  • 6:24 – “How far can we push them back…” Give them a goal. “Last 20, let’s push them back three more seats.” This gives them an incentive to really empty the tanks at the end.
  • 6:26 – “Last few strokes” was actually 17 strokes. If you say “last few” they’re most likely going to assume that means 5 or less. Try and be specific. If you don’t know how many strokes are left, guess, but don’t say something general like “last few”.
  • 6:32 – A few strokes ago you were at a 35, then you went up to a 36, now you’re down to a 34. Get on your stroke about being consistent!

Purdue JV Men Final SIRA 2013
The beginning of this video is a good example of getting into the starting blocks. Get lined up, back it gently, and then when you’re a few feet away stop rowing and coast in. Right after that at 0:15 you can see 2-seat take bow’s oar and start sculling it around to get a point. Fast forward to 2:04 when the race actually starts.

  • 2:14, on the very first stroke you can see the stroke tense his upper body a lot and lift his shoulders as he takes the stroke. Relax. Don’t use the shoulder muscles – they’re small and weak by comparison. Instead, use the legs (!!!), your core, and your lats (latissimus dorsi) to pry the boat on that first stroke. Nice job calling the start, good intensity, calls were sharp and to the point.
  • 3:00, when I was taking notes on this I literally wrote “???”. What is that voice? Is it a guy thing or…? It was hard for me to focus when he switched to that tone and just made me want to fast forward to the “normal” sounding voice. The aggressive voice at the start commanded much more attention than this one.
  • 3:58, I think he’s saying swing but because of his tone, I really can’t tell. You’ve got to be cognizant of that when you’re changing the tone of your voice and making sure that you can still be understood.
  • 4:43, if you’re going to tell them that another crew is struggling, at least use that to your advantage and do something with that info. Every time you notice another crew falling apart you’re granting yourself a little bit of power. Use it, don’t waste it.
  • 4:55, I decided that if his chosen career path doesn’t work out at least he can always fall back on being a Christian Bale-as-Batman voice impersonator.
  • 5:22, geez Louise, I don’t think the people in Brazil heard you say that you took the lead. That is not something you scream out because not only are you making it really easy for the coxswains on either side of you to hear what you’re doing but you’re also begging for them to make a move to counter yours. The enthusiasm is good, the volume not so much.
  • 5:41, if you tell a crew you want more of something, tell them when you want it – “on this one“. Don’t leave the “when” open to interpretation.
  • 6:26, the call was to bring it up 2 in 2 but it only went from a 34 to a 35. I know that from my handy dandy stroke rate app, not because he said what the stroke rate was or what he wanted it at, which he should have. If you tell the boat you want it up two beats, don’t settle for one.
  • 6:38, when he says they’ve got the momentum on them, that would have been a great spot to elaborate and say something like “the momentum is shifting towards us, let’s keep shifting their momentum towards us, and get ready to nail the last 500.”
  • 7:03, he says they’re at a 36 stroke rate but if they’d gone up two each time he’d made the call for that (twice) they should be at a 38, which realistically at the top of the last 500 is probably a little too high.
  • 7:21, stop shouting when you’re making a move!!! Of all the great, successful military operations that have been carried out of the last two thousand years, how many of them began by the general yelling “READY OR NOT, HERE WE COME!”? My guess is…none of them, because why would you want to give the people you’re fighting a chance to prepare? You are the general of your boat. The other coxswains are also generals. You’re all trying to direct your crews without giving away your strategies to the enemies (aka the other coxswains). By shouting like this you’re giving up your location and making it really easy for them to aim the missile in your direction. Stop doing that. You want to be a torpedo – silent, swift, unexpected, and deadly.
  • 7:50, another “up 2” but it only goes from 36 to 36.5spm. If you’re going to call for a change in the stroke rate, do it for a reason and make sure they actually respond to it, otherwise don’t call it.
  • 8:20, he’s looking around at the other crews, which means he should tell his crew what the other ones are doing. Hearing that info, especially at the end, can be just the motivating call the rowers need to really put the oomph in those last few strokes.
  • 8:30, try to avoid saying anything about you, i.e. “push me across the finish line”. Instead say something like “last 10, let’s get our bow ball in front and over the line.” I’d be interested to know where they placed since 2nd through 5th or however many crews were in this race looked pretty tight all the way across.

Purdue Lightweight Women SIRA 2013
This one felt a little like a roller coaster ride because of the coxswain’s voice. I think it’s more effective to maintain, not a monotone voice, but at the very least a steady one with regards to tonal changes. It’s OK to draw out a word and raise your voice slightly towards the end of it but not on every single call you make. It dilutes the purpose, which is typically to get some relaxation, composure, and control on the slides. Another thing I noticed was that the stroke looked bored and also that she was looking off to the side the entire time. That is such a pet peeve of mine so I get really twitchy when I see a rower doing that, especially the stroke who you’re looking at the entire race, and nothing is said about it.

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